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Commuter Rail for Las Vegas?


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#1 Superliner Diner

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Posted 15 February 2003 - 12:04 AM

The Regional Transportation Commission voted Thursday to initiate environmental studies on a proposed commuter rail line linking downtown Henderson and the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard.

Details are here.

#2 Guest_Steve Relei_*

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Posted 15 February 2003 - 06:50 PM

Sounds interesting.

Anybody heard or read yet about a new Los Angeles-Las Vegas train, probably financed by the State of California, using Talgo equipment, anybody know how the new financial package from Congress (and its details) might affect this service?

#3 battalion51

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Posted 17 February 2003 - 02:32 PM

At this time Amtrak cannot add service because of an agreement for the $200 million "bailout" last summer. I suspect the Mr. Gunn will focus on reapirs to equipment and making current routes better before expanding service. If the State of California wants to add the train I'm sure that Amtrak California would add and staff the service if it is fully paid for.

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#4 AlanB

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Posted 17 February 2003 - 04:21 PM

Anybody heard or read yet about a new Los Angeles-Las Vegas train, probably financed by the State of California, using Talgo equipment, anybody know how the new financial package from Congress (and its details) might affect this service?

The new budget/financial package that Congress approved continues the moratorium on no new services being started. So unless either California and/or Nevada are going to fully pick up the tab for a Vegas train, then there is no hope.

Even if the states were to guarantee all funding for the train, Amtrak would still have to go to Congress for a waiver on the moratorium. So I don't think that we are going to see any trains running in the Vegas corridor till next year at the earliest.
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#5 Guest_Steve Relei_*

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Posted 17 February 2003 - 08:03 PM

I am concerned about this "no new trains" condition put forth by the Administration. I know it was in place in order for Amtrak to receive the $200 million loan. I agree that it is proper for Amtrak to get its "affairs" in order for the system it already has before attempting to provide new services, but if a state or other entity comes up with a plan--and assuming Gunn is able to get the railroad in good shape, shouldn't Amtrak be able to take advantage of it and provide such service?

Anyone know more about why Bush and Mineta feel this way? Mineta, as Transportation Secretary, acknowledges the importance of Amtrak train service. Does anyone have any further clues as to his opinions on Amtrak? Neither newspapers nor train magazines seem to have much information on it. Neither does the Department of Transportation Web Site.

Wasn't Bush governor at the time he signed the loan for the Texas Eagle in 1997? In so doing, he seemed to recognize Amtrak's importance to his state and its residents. Has he changed his mind?

With these conditions, do Bush and Mineta think they are actually helping Amtrak, or are they "trying" to set it up for failure?

If Amtrak were to be desolved or any part of it, do they have specific alternatives in mind and in place for such a possibility?

#6 AlanB

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Posted 18 February 2003 - 10:17 PM

If Amtrak were to be desolved or any part of it, do they have specific alternatives in mind and in place for such a possibility?

Well their dream is that there will be dozens of companies willing to step forward and run train service, while accepting that they will loose money on the operation. Notice that I said dream, because it really is a fantasy. Sadly our President’s motives in this area seem largely motivated by the Oil industry lobby and the Airlines’ lobby.

Anyone know more about why Bush and Mineta feel this way? Mineta, as Transportation Secretary, acknowledges the importance of Amtrak train service. Does anyone have any further clues as to his opinions on Amtrak? Neither newspapers nor train magazines seem to have much information on it. Neither does the Department of Transportation Web Site.


Actually, I’m somewhat surprised by Mineta’s views on Amtrak since he took the job with the Bush administration. Mineta used to be far more enamored of Amtrak. I can only surmise, that just like HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, that the rest of the Bush cabinet has largely suppressed his views on Amtrak.

Tommy used to bang the drum quite loudly for Amtrak for years, yet shortly after taking the job of HHS Secretary he fell silent. There can only be two reasons for this, one he doesn’t want to embarrass the White House. Or two, the White House has ordered him to keep a low profile on Amtrak.

Since Mineta however is a Democrat, I’m somewhat surprised that he hasn’t just resigned over this matter. I suppose however, that he feels that he’s still helping transportation overall even if he’s hurting Amtrak. Only Norm can know his real reasons for staying and/or not fighting harder for Amtrak.

I am concerned about this "no new trains" condition put forth by the Administration. I know it was in place in order for Amtrak to receive the $200 million loan. I agree that it is proper for Amtrak to get its "affairs" in order for the system it already has before attempting to provide new services, but if a state or other entity comes up with a plan--and assuming Gunn is able to get the railroad in good shape, shouldn't Amtrak be able to take advantage of it and provide such service?


Well as I mentioned earlier in this topic; I’m sure that if someone came forward (States, Casinos, whoever) to guarantee that Amtrak would not loose any money on a startup service, then I would expect that a waiver would be granted.

I do think that startup operations should be allowed; even without a guarantee if Amtrak can prove by and large that two conditions exist. One, there is a good chance that Amtrak can still make money. Condition two, would be that there is an overwhelming public need for the service. Example the FEC train corridor in Florida, this would not add considerable expense and would probably increase ridership.

Wasn't Bush governor at the time he signed the loan for the Texas Eagle in 1997? In so doing, he seemed to recognize Amtrak's importance to his state and its residents. Has he changed his mind?


I’m not really sure what Bush did as Governor with regard to the Eagle. However as we see time and time again, the states all think that Amtrak is very important. It’s only at the federal level, that Amtrak’s importance seems to fade. Unfortunately it is the Feds who must fund Amtrak and not the states. I can see some state assisted funding for trains that really only service one state, example NY’s Empire Service.

However overall Amtrak is the Fed’s responsibility and they must deal with it properly.

With these conditions, do Bush and Mineta think they are actually helping Amtrak, or are they "trying" to set it up for failure?


I’m not sure what Mineta’s trying to do. I personally don’t think that Bush knows what he’s doing, especially with regard to Amtrak. He’s just listening to some advisor who apparently doesn’t like Amtrak. So this is a quiet way of trying to kill Amtrak while washing his hands of the affair and saying well it’s not my fault. I tried to give them every chance.

Well that my opinion on this matter at least. Please note that the fact that I’m a moderator on this BB, should not lend any weight to my opinion. Nor should anyone assume that my views necessarily reflect the views of the owner of the Amtrak Unlimited site, simply because I’m a moderator on this BB.
Alan,

Take care and take trains!

#7 jccollins

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Posted 04 March 2003 - 01:29 AM

Nevada and the Las Vegas casinos really need to step up to the plate here and finance the L.A. to Vegas train service. Nevada has gotten off cheap (as most states have) for too long, especially since it benefits from daily (yet still inadequate) California Zephyr service to Reno and Sparks. Wouldn't it be nice if the federal government required every state to adopt and subsidize at least one intercity rail line in their state? I know it's and unrealistic idea, but it is a nice thought...
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#8 Guest_Steve Relei_*

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 07:42 PM

Thanks for your response. I must admit, it still doesn't answer the questions properly. Perhaps we will never get full answers to such questions.
Oil companies: don't Amtrak diesel locomotives consumer significant amounts of fuel, fuel which needs to be supplied and paid for, which could represent significant income for the oil comanies?

Other corporations: what about all the supplies Amtrak uses--food, drinks, linens, toiletries, repair parts, uniforms, etc.? These must also represent significant bills that Amtrak must pay and income that corporations receive for supplying these goods. Services: hotels, taxis, restaurants, rental cars, theme parks, tour companies--all these represent some of the services that benefit from Amtrak and its passengers and crewmembers. Doesn't Amtak still put up its crewmembers in hotels/motels at points away from home? How much money changes hands on that?

I have always wondered why Amtrak can't make some kind of profit from its dining car and cafe services. Amtrak pretty much has a captive audience. Dining cars are well used during meal times, and prices are a bit high. Cafe prices are also a little high. People are always buying snacks and drinks and such; cafes are always busy.

Another question: When lounge attendants have to take a meal break, why are there not other people who can cover for him while he's on break? I have worked similar service jobs, and I always had to have someone available to cover me while I was on break. Union rules? Honesty? I think it is a bit of an inconvenience for passengers (customers) to have to wait for the attendant to come back before getting service. Surely, there must be other people on the train who can step in for an hour or so.

#9 AlanB

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Posted 06 March 2003 - 12:06 PM

Oil companies: don't Amtrak diesel locomotives consumer significant amounts of fuel, fuel which needs to be supplied and paid for, which could represent significant  income for the oil comanies?

Amtrak's diesels do indeed consume a decent amount of fuel. However what one engine consumes, by comparison to what an airplane uses to go from say NY to Chicago, its far less. Compare that to how much fuel would be used if every person on that train were to have driven their cars to Chicago, and the disparity gets even greater.

So oil companies would prefer to see more trucks and cars first, followed by more airplanes, long before they would want to see more Amtrak trains. Frankly I suspect that most oil companies would love to see all freight service on rails stopped too. The resulting increase in trucks on the roads would benefit them greatly.

Please don't quote me, but I seem to recall reading somewhere that one freight train can move the equivalent of 100 trucks worth of freight coast to coast, for the same amount of fuel as 10 to 12 of those trucks would use driving coast to coast. So if you're running an oil company, you don't want to see freight trains.

I have always wondered why Amtrak can't make some kind of profit from its dining car and cafe services. Amtrak pretty much has a captive audience. Dining cars are well used during meal times, and prices are a bit high. Cafe prices are also a little high. People are always buying snacks and drinks and such; cafes are always busy.


While I have no facts and figures to bring to this post, I believe that Amtrak does indeed make some money off of the cafe cars. Is it enough to balance the budget? No, but it does help.

Moving to the dining car, here the game is a little different. I think that a lack of profit on the dining car is due to Amtrak's accounting methods. The reason the car is well patronized is due to the fact that all passengers traveling in a sleeper get their meals for free. Yes I always do see coach passengers in the diner, but the number of sleeper passengers always outnumbers the coach passengers.

Amtrak I believe however doesn't allocate the fares paid for the sleeper to the dining car's overhead. It's just considered a necessary evil to have the diner there for the convenience of the sleeper passengers.

Another question: When lounge attendants have to take a meal break, why are there not other people who can cover for him while he's on break? I have worked similar service jobs, and I always had to have someone available to cover me while I was on break. Union rules? Honesty?  I think it is a bit of an inconvenience for passengers (customers) to have to wait for the attendant to come back before getting service. Surely, there must be other people on the train who can step in for an hour or so.


Here I fully expect that it's a union rules thing. Although I have heard of a few stories here and there where either a conductor or the Chief have stepped in to help an attendant out. It usually only happens if a train was very late or the cafe was extremely busy.

There also could be an accountability factor in play here too. Having only one attendant makes him accountable for the money and the food.

Other corporations: what about all the supplies Amtrak uses--food, drinks, linens, toiletries, repair parts, uniforms, etc.? These must also represent significant bills that Amtrak must pay and income  that corporations receive for supplying these goods. Services: hotels, taxis, restaurants, rental cars, theme parks, tour companies--all these represent some of the services that benefit from Amtrak and its passengers and crewmembers. Doesn't Amtrak still put up its crewmembers in hotels/motels at points away from home?  How much money changes hands on that?


I'm not 100% sure what you're asking here. Are you trying to suggest that they should fight for Amtrak? That seems unlikely, as I don't think that Amtrak going under would make that significant of an impact on them.

Yes Amtrak does still put up its crewmembers in hotels. I don't think that it's a huge amount of money though; they probably have a deal much like the airlines do.
Alan,

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#10 Guest_Steve Relei_*

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Posted 06 March 2003 - 05:57 PM

I have often heard that the country is ruled by the corporations--money. Amtrak is a major company that requires significant goods and services in order to operate. The companies that supply Amtrak with these goods and services stand to make pretty good money. I am not saying it is a lot, but it should be significant. I am not sure I would expect corporations to fight for Amtrak, but I should think they would be supportive. Airlines are important, but they don't serve every community. There are places where Amtrak is the only game in town. If Amtrak were discontinued, what will the airlines do for those communities? I have been on trains in which I have met people going to a bigger city where they can catch a plane (such as to Alaska). In Europe, many major airports have train stations not only to the city centers but sometimes to other parts of the country. Buses, also, don't serve everywhere. Amtrak has many interline agreements with bus companies.
I just think there must be significant amounts of money changing hands in this instances. Of course, if Amtrak can't pay its bills, that is something else. But, there is the potential for corporations to line their pockets nicely.



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