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Is a coast to coast train feasible?


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#81 Eric S

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Posted 16 April 2017 - 05:20 PM

 

I'm sure Amtrak would benefit a lot from a second east west "hub".

 

 

For another "hub" to function, we'd need a much higher level of service. Simply shifting a train or two from Chicago to, for instance, St. Louis would not really improve things much and would, at least in some ways, lessen the functionality by breaking currently-existing connections.

 

Imagine a scenario where there are tons more LD trains and then another "hub" in New Orleans or St. Louis or somewhere else starts to work. Until then, not so much.



#82 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 16 April 2017 - 05:40 PM

 

 

I'm sure Amtrak would benefit a lot from a second east west "hub".

 

 

For another "hub" to function, we'd need a much higher level of service. Simply shifting a train or two from Chicago to, for instance, St. Louis would not really improve things much and would, at least in some ways, lessen the functionality by breaking currently-existing connections.

 

Imagine a scenario where there are tons more LD trains and then another "hub" in New Orleans or St. Louis or somewhere else starts to work. Until then, not so much.

 

 

And you wonder why I whine about a good train to Chicago???


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

Bring back the Broadway Limited (or Three Rivers or any Chicago-Pittsburgh-Philly train)!
 

https://www.facebook...roadwayLimited/

 


#83 jebr

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Posted 16 April 2017 - 07:03 PM

I don't think most people on here wonder why you whine about a PHL - CHI train; the main contention (at least for me) is when a PHL - CHI train is pitted against a train that has unique markets and eliminating a train would result in removing some people's only access to the passenger rail network.

 

Back on topic...

 

I'm not opposed to the idea of maybe having a through coach and through sleeper from, say, the SWC or EB to the Cap. However, Amtrak would need to have spare Superliners available and the trains would have to be reliable enough to make that connection most of the time. It's not worth delaying the Cap because you have a few people on a through car that are still two hours out. In which case you really don't save any connections, although people might be more willing to stay in their sleeper overnight if they know that'll be their room out to WAS (or whatever their destination is.)

 

That being said, would there be enough people who would pay more than what they currently pay for a CHI connection for it to be worth dealing with the equipment moves? I'd be tough-pressed to say that, and if we say "well, they won't pay more, but it'll still be a better customer service experience" I would argue that spending that money on IT systems that would allow easy rebooking on a missed connection, maybe even an automatic hotel voucher (to save the "having to wait in line for a new ticket/a hotel room/a food voucher" when just getting off a very delayed train) would lead to a much higher return on investment. If Amtrak suddenly gets enough money to be adding trains to add one-seat rides to more markets, they should be also finding money (or dedicating money) to improving the missed connection experience and making it much more seamless than it is today.



#84 Chessie

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 08:50 AM

If a through car was to go as far as Denver, might as go through all the pain and get it to the west coast. :D

[warning, warning, fantasy detected]
In my dream world we would run a through sleeper using the national limited route to Kansas to connect to SWC and and then another through sleeper using the old UP Wabash route to connect from Kansas, Topeka, Junction City Ellis, Hugo to Denver to connect to CZ. Heck, while we are at it might as well dream for a third sleeper that goes to Portland and Seattle on a revived Pioneer.
[/end fantasy]

#85 maxbuskirk

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 04:55 PM

Hey, that'd be great.

"Make Amtrak great again!"

Edited by maxbuskirk, 25 April 2017 - 04:56 PM.

I have ridden Cascades #516 (SEA-STW), Coast Starlight #14 (LAX-SLO), Southwest Chief #4 (LAX-CHI), Cardinal #50 (CHI-NYP), Northeast Regional #85 (NYP-WAS), Capitol Limited #30 (HFY-WAS), Coast Starlight #14 (LAX-PDX), and many Pacific Surfliners with Amtrak. I have seen, including the previous, California Zephyr #5 at SAC (with luck), what I guess to be Crescent #19 (at WAS) and Silver Meteor #97 (at WAS), and Empire Builder #28 at PDX. I have also ridden the Hokutosei in Japan, Ueno - Sapporo (now discontinued).


#86 dlagrua

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Posted 01 May 2017 - 09:10 AM

I think I prefer doing connections/layovers to break up the trip.  

Agree. We love the 4 or 5 hour layover so we can go out and explore Chicago.  Its a very relaxing and fun break.  Back in the day with "through car service" I believe that there was always a layover time in Chicago. There is a benefit to through car service in that you can leave your carry on stuff in your room rather than to carry it back on the next train but I can't see this happening. What might happen is through car service  NYP/PHL to CHI via PGH and that's a long shot.. .



#87 jis

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Posted 01 May 2017 - 09:44 AM

While there is a case to be made about through Chicago single seat ride, most likely a regional train say from Toledo to Galesburg or some such will capture most the through Chicago local traffic. I suspect the coast to coast folks in general like the idea of a bit of a pause in Chicago in most cases anyway, what with showers in lounges and such.

 

This discussion is somewhat similar to the discussion that ensues regarding the airline ULH flights. Yes there is a premium market for it and those flights save significant time as a proportion of the total journey time, typically 16 hours vs. 22-24 hours from US to India for example. The time saved as a proportion of the total journey time by running through Chicago is relatively minuscule, and there is very little premium demand or willingness to pay for such. That is why such coast to coast service is a non-starter IMHO.

 

Even the Sunset East had very very few traveling through NOL from west of Texas. The local through NOL demand is better served by an appropriate regional train that trying to go through the hassle of running a four day long service. That is the reason that the new proposed Gulf Coast Service will have nothing to do with the Sunset limited. Indeed, the major stakeholders of it explicitly rejected such a through running because of the unpredictability and unreliability that it introduces.



#88 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 01 May 2017 - 06:41 PM

The "solution" on paper is easy, fewer delays and better OTP. The #1 problem with transfers is obviously connections and if you have better OTP missed connections are less of an issue. I'm guessing east to west is more reliable than the other way around. I remember connecting from the LSL to the CZ a couple years ago. The LSL was late getting into CHI and the CZ departure time was moved up and while I felt rushed I still made it. On the other hand, I've taken the SWC back to CHI and I don't remember any significant delays getting into CHI. On the other hand if you have better OTP and fewer delays the idea of coast to coast travel becomes more feasible. Right now you hate to see the passenger from the SWC miss the LSL and get stranded overnight in CHI but if you delay the LSL the passengers getting on in CHI are delayed as well. As long as more people get on in CHI than transfer, the lesser of two evils is the current situation.  

 

In terms of west to east, ideally the western trains would arrive a lot earlier than they do. But you'd like to keep the SWC leaving LAX after the rush hour and it would be hard to leave EMY any earlier, especially considering the Thruway connections from San Fran. It's hard to push the LSL any later. Maybe the CL could be moved back an hour or two although that could mess with the CL-SM or CL-Crescent connections (I think the CL-SS is tight now as is and isn't guaranteed north to west anyway).

 

Another "solution" is increased service. Missed connections on planes are more tolerable because of missed connections. But most areas have just one train to/from CHI. If you miss the CL and were booked to WAS, you could transfer in NYP to WAS but 48-187 doesn't get to WAS until after midnight and that assumes the LSL isn't delayed and if you were going CHI-PGH you might as well stay in CHI until the next CL. Imagine if there are two LSL's or a LSL and a BL. Ideally one would leave in the morning and one in the evening. So if you miss the connection from the west you're still stranded overnight but you'd leave CHI a lot earlier.

 

I would say the transfer in CHI isn't bad assuming a reasonable connection time and no missed connection (a big assumption). It's at a good time, the station is pretty nice with a lot of food options in the food court as well as some other food places outside the station. I believe I once went to and went up the Willis Tower in the between the SWC and TR. Of course the transfer in PGH is horribly timed and the station is an Amshack. In an ideal world, the connection window should be 2 hours going west and 4 hours east rather than the reverse as is the case today. There is talk about a second Pennsylvanian. If it were timed well it would give passengers another option if they miss the current CL-Pennsylvanian transfer (which did happen the day I was on the CL).

 

In theory the CL-NER (for CHI to BAL, WIL, PHL, and NJ) is the one where the missed connection would cause the least inconvenience because there are multiple trains. The problem there is rebooking and as jebr suggested fixing the IT system should help there. In reality, once Amtrak realizes the CL or similar trains will be delayed they should be working with passengers they know will miss their connections while they are still on the train rather than force them to wait in a long line in WAS Union Station (since I was working on a RailPass I wasn't able to change my connection online). I know they did set up a bus to carry missed Pennsylvanian passengers. This also applies to other major transfer points. If the SWC/CZ miss the CL connection, you know the line in CHI will be even longer. I can't the only one here that went through hell waiting in line after they miss a connection.

 

The solutions are easy in theory but difficult in practice.

 

Did I tell you how much I hate transfers? If I had a one seat ride from Bucks County to the Phillies stadium, I might take it. I'm not aware of one. Those of you in Philly might have heard of Fern Rock Transportation Center. It's a way to transfer between regional lines to the suburbs and the Broad Street Line to the stadium. But it's outdoors which is great during the day when it's warm. One time I came back from a 76ers game using the BSL to Regional Rails. It was January and at night. Since Regional Rails have roughly hourly service you can wait up to an hour if you time it badly. An hour may not mean much in an Amtrak trip but this is outdoors in January in the dark with no security present and I don't believe it's that safe a neighborhood. Well I remember the wait was long enough that in order to stay warm, I spent time in an elevator at Fern Rock. Now I just drive down. That's a one seat ride.


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

Bring back the Broadway Limited (or Three Rivers or any Chicago-Pittsburgh-Philly train)!
 

https://www.facebook...roadwayLimited/

 


#89 west point

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Posted 02 May 2017 - 11:53 AM

These proposals in our opinion have several drawbacks.

Take CHI for instances. We expect to take the few desiring a one train to west coast / east coast to the detriment of many. If I am boarding a train in CHI or transferring from another I expect a clean looking and smelling car not one that has already been occupied from 20 - 50 hours with no deep cleaning. There are many more persons doing that than the few going thru.

#90 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 06:35 AM

As much as this group is against a coast to coast train, how many of you have taken the TE between CHI and LAX without a stopover?

 

Current TE from CHI-LAX: 2728 miles

Old SL from ORL-LAX (2001 Timetable, http://www.timetable...28n&item=0050):2764 miles

 

Yeah, we can't have a coast to coast train! It's 36 miles (and roughly an extra five hours) too long! 

 

If CHI-LAX via the TE is reasonable (I don't think it is but Amtrak does) then ORL-LAX should be as well. Or if ORL-LAX is too long, then so is CHI-LAX via the TE. LAX-NEC would already be pushing over 3000 miles (if you use SWC-CL) so maybe that could be going too far. Is AU's psychological line as to what is too long at X number of miles, X number of days, or X number of time zones? 


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

Bring back the Broadway Limited (or Three Rivers or any Chicago-Pittsburgh-Philly train)!
 

https://www.facebook...roadwayLimited/

 


#91 Bob Dylan

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 09:30 AM

If the TE and the old SL are too long a trip, what does that make The Candian, Chopped Liver?
 
"There's Something About a Train! It's Magic!"-- 1970s Amtrak Ad
 
".. I ride on a Mail Train Baby, can't buy a thrill.."--I said that!
 
"..My heart is warm with the friends I make,and better friends I'll not be knowing,
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,No matter where its going!.." -Edna St. Vincent Millay

#92 ainamkartma

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 10:02 AM


If CHI-LAX via the TE is reasonable (I don't think it is but Amtrak does) then ORL-LAX should be as well. Or if ORL-LAX is too long, then so is CHI-LAX via the TE. LAX-NEC would already be pushing over 3000 miles (if you use SWC-CL) so maybe that could be going too far. Is AU's psychological line as to what is too long at X number of miles, X number of days, or X number of time zones? 

 

I think there is a fairly clear consensus on this board that there are three scenarios (beyond tourism or politics plain and simple) where it makes sense to run a long distance train:

 

1) A day train that serves many intermediate stops with many passengers boarding and detraining at each stop: Empire Service, e.g.

 

2) A night train that departs a major market "after business" hours on day one and arrives at another major market "before business" on day two: SWC LAX-ABQ, CZ CHI-DEN, e.g.   (Or at least has timing that allows a businessperson to perform _some_ business on the travel day at each end, even if it is not a full day.)

 

3) A train that serves remote markets that have no other decent public transport options: EB, e.g.  (An even better example is the VIA train to Churchill.)

 

Note that first two scenarios only work if the train can stick to a reasonable schedule.

 

So I think the distaste for the coast to coast SL on this board comes not directly from the fact that it was a three night ride, but the historical fact that it was chronically very very late (which was linked to the three night ride) and failed to satisfy any of the three scenarios above.

 

And, yes, I also suspect that many here would agree that the TE as currently scheduled and routed doesn't make much sense either.

 

Ainamkartma



#93 jis

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 10:09 AM

The reason that SL is not being considered as a candidate for extension to Florida is because the folks thata re funding the NOL - ORL train do not want to (a) be tied to a thrice week service (b) which is relatively unreliable. Truth be told, their real preference is to have a dedicated train for NOL - ORL, but they are willing to see it happen as an extension of the CONO to keep costs in control.

 

Of course the big elephant in the room at present is whether a deal can be struck with CSX or not, but that is a separate issue that has to be tackled irrespective of whether it is a Regional train, a CONO extension or an SL extension.

 

I generally agree with Ainamkartma's analysis above, but will point out, it is more than just folks on AU that have a bit of antipathy about extending already long journey trains because it just propagates delays and reduces reliability, by unnecessarily coupling service segments that do not need to be coupled together considering the needs of majority of riders. The sponsors of adding new service do not want to throw in such unpredictability and proneness to delays from the getgo.


Edited by jis, 19 June 2017 - 11:58 AM.


#94 west point

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 11:48 AM

You cannot run the wheels off equipment without major consequences ! And Amtrak does not !. The Builder, Zephyrs, SW Chief all have their equipment scheduled for 22 - 24 hours layover in CHI. CHI is able to keep a full complement of various types of cars to substitute on those trains. The Capitol equipment is protected by reassignment from CHI spares when necessary. The Eagle / City NO equipment takes a 22 hour layover in New Orleans + can also swap out with the spare equipment in CHI.

West coast at Lax, Oakland, SEA have a few spare cars each but turns are much tighter. Those spares also protect the Starlight. So with ages of western equipment Amtrak is trying to keep up its equipment.

Remember that car are interchangeable constantly between trains. Exception is the Pacific parlor car.

Now running a single level car(s) to west coast causes many more spare equipment to not be in revenue service. Then if serious problem the single level has to D/H to Beech or MIA. Amtrak would need more equipment that is not in any 5 - 7 year future .

Edited by west point, 19 June 2017 - 12:00 PM.


#95 Anderson

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 11:18 PM

You cannot run the wheels off equipment without major consequences ! And Amtrak does not !. The Builder, Zephyrs, SW Chief all have their equipment scheduled for 22 - 24 hours layover in CHI. CHI is able to keep a full complement of various types of cars to substitute on those trains. The Capitol equipment is protected by reassignment from CHI spares when necessary. The Eagle / City NO equipment takes a 22 hour layover in New Orleans + can also swap out with the spare equipment in CHI.

West coast at Lax, Oakland, SEA have a few spare cars each but turns are much tighter. Those spares also protect the Starlight. So with ages of western equipment Amtrak is trying to keep up its equipment.

Remember that car are interchangeable constantly between trains. Exception is the Pacific parlor car.

Now running a single level car(s) to west coast causes many more spare equipment to not be in revenue service. Then if serious problem the single level has to D/H to Beech or MIA. Amtrak would need more equipment that is not in any 5 - 7 year future .

Occasionally equipment will get "sent through" onto the Cap from one of the other trains on the same day (I remember one night the Cap was late because they had to pull a sleeper from that day's inbound Builder), but even in those cases the equipment gets to spend 27 hours in the DC area instead.

I think that part of the problem with a transcontinental train is that nobody "owns" it.  Setting aside the actors involved, it always seems that when you add another freight railroad to the mix it increases the chance of buck-passing.  For example, I was told that Virginia once got on NS' case about the OTP of one of their trains and NS was able to say "Look, we're doing our best, but the train isn't being delivered on time".  CSX has actually said the same thing (usually pointing to good old MNRR as the culprit for trains originating in Boston/Springfield).  With a transcon, you have two sets of railroads that don't seem to do a whole lot of talking involved and that causes issues.

Edit: Also, with the Canadian...that is basically a CN train.  Moreover, using that as a counterexample isn't so great...even with major pads at Jasper, Edmonton, and Winnipeg it isn't exactly unheard of to have it running 6-12 hours behind.  Imagine if Amtrak ran an SWC-Capitol Limited but had a notice on their website advising against same-day connections in Washington or Los Angeles...


Edited by Anderson, 19 June 2017 - 11:22 PM.

Capitol Limited (7), CA Zephyr (4) Lake Shore Limited (1), Acela (2), NE Regional (2), Sliver Meteor (4)

Upcoming: Silver Meteor (1), Lake Shore Limited (1), SW Chief (2), MO River Runner (1), Texas Eagle (1)

Possibly Upcoming: Either Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (2) or Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (1)

#96 railiner

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Posted 20 June 2017 - 03:08 PM

If the TE and the old SL are too long a trip, what does that make The Candian, Chopped Liver?

Tell that to the Russian's....Moscow to Vladivostok....  :P

 

But hey...even that is not 'coast-to-coast'... :)


Edited by railiner, 20 June 2017 - 03:11 PM.

metroblue?

okay on the blue!

#97 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 20 June 2017 - 07:07 PM

I see the points you make about more delays and having two or more host railroads in a single route but these issues exist in general on the current LD routes (how many LD routes have just one host railroad or one host railroad not counting Amtrak?). It is interesting to note that on the last MPR the LD routes with the highest end point to end point OTP in FY 2017 are the SL (72.5%), TE (71.5%) and the SWC (69.8%) which are some of the longer LD routes while the OTP of the shorter CL's and LSL's were in the 50's. The records do vary a lot (both the LSL and CL dropped a lot between Oct. 15-Apr. 16 and Oct.16-Apr. 17) but to me there is no evidence that longer routes have lower OTP than shorter ones (otherwise the SWC and CZ would perennially have the worst OTP). I am not convinced in general a 3 day train would have a lower OTP than a 2 day train.

 

I often think the AU rule is whatever runs now "works" or is a success and whatever doesn't run or use to run "doesn't work" or was a failure and my opinion is that isn't always the case. 


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

Bring back the Broadway Limited (or Three Rivers or any Chicago-Pittsburgh-Philly train)!
 

https://www.facebook...roadwayLimited/

 


#98 MARC Rider

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Posted 26 June 2017 - 10:55 AM

 

 

Did I tell you how much I hate transfers? If I had a one seat ride from Bucks County to the Phillies stadium, I might take it. I'm not aware of one. Those of you in Philly might have heard of Fern Rock Transportation Center. It's a way to transfer between regional lines to the suburbs and the Broad Street Line to the stadium. But it's outdoors which is great during the day when it's warm. One time I came back from a 76ers game using the BSL to Regional Rails. It was January and at night. Since Regional Rails have roughly hourly service you can wait up to an hour if you time it badly. An hour may not mean much in an Amtrak trip but this is outdoors in January in the dark with no security present and I don't believe it's that safe a neighborhood. Well I remember the wait was long enough that in order to stay warm, I spent time in an elevator at Fern Rock. Now I just drive down. That's a one seat ride.

 

This if a bit off topic, but, after the game you could get off the Broad st. subway at City Hall and walk via sheltered underground concourse to either Suburban station or Jefferson Station to wait for your regional train in a sheltered indoor location.






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