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Amtrak Express LD Trains?


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#1 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 05:14 PM

There was a proposal way back in February 2000 for a New York to Los Angeles train making just eight stops in under 60 hours.

 

http://www.washingto...022800-idx.html

 

Of course the train never got off the ground. But it did have me wondering if "express" type LD trains were a good idea. Imagine a LD train going from Point A to Point B making fewer stops and arriving faster. Wouldn't this increase business? 

 

Also the Auto Train doesn't make any passenger stops between Virginia and Florida and according to the last Monthly Performance Report it is the only LD train to still be running a profit this fiscal year. 

 

I think New York to Los Angeles was too ambitious but I think there are two routes that I would consider if Amtrak had enough extra money to make them work:

 

Gold Star Express (As opposed to "Silver" service to Florida): New York to Florida

 

New York - Philadelphia - Baltimore - Washington - Richmond - Raleigh - Columbia SC - Savannah - Jacksonville - Orlando - Miami

 

Liberty Express (after the Statue of Liberty and the Liberty Bell): New York to Chicago

 

New York - Philadelphia - Harrisburg - Pittsburgh - Cleveland - Toledo - Chicago or

New York - Philadelphia - Baltimore - Washington - Pittsburgh - Cleveland - Toledo - Chicago

 

There certainly is a place for trains that make more stops to serve local communities and allow for more city pairs. But I think these "express" trains will make traveling between the city pairs more attractive and certainly help passengers using these city pairs.

 

I am wondering if possibly replacing the Palmetto with the Gold Star Express and adding all of the stops along the Palmetto not currently covered by the Silver Meteor onto the Silver Meteor would work. It would cut service to most of the stops along the route but at least they would still be served by the SM. You could also run the Gold Star Express along the SM route and stop in Charleston, SC between Richmond and Savannah but you would miss Raleigh and the route would be further away from Charlotte and Greensboro and having the stop in Raleigh may allow a connection at Raleigh to the Piedmont.

 

How much time would be saved between New York and Florida and New York and Chicago if we only stopped at the locations suggested? Should certain stops be added or skipped? 

 

 

 


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/

 


#2 Eric S

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 08:53 PM

I can't imagine an "express" LD train working out better than "local" LD trains. Typically routes don't add express/limited-stop trains until there is a relatively frequent local service already operating. Perhaps if there is a 2-a-day service, some stops might be skipped on the overnight portion where the day train makes them, but I'm not sure even that would necessarily make sense as it would probably result in many city combinations no longer being served.



#3 Ryan

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 08:54 PM

Amtrak tried this on the NEC and it was a dismal failure. Can't see where LD would be any different.
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#4 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 08:58 PM

I can't imagine an "express" LD train working out better than "local" LD trains. Typically routes don't add express/limited-stop trains until there is a relatively frequent local service already operating. Perhaps if there is a 2-a-day service, some stops might be skipped on the overnight portion where the day train makes them, but I'm not sure even that would necessarily make sense as it would probably result in many city combinations no longer being served.

 

That's why I suggested the two routes because there are currently two NYP to Florida trains and three trains from CHI to the East Coast. I think the demand is there and adding a PHL to CHI direct train whether it makes 10 stops or 30 stops is an improvement as long as it takes under 24 hours.


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/

 


#5 jebr

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 09:05 PM

If it didn't work on the very frequently served NEC, why would it work on the much less frequent LD trains?

#6 Eric S

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 09:11 PM

If you consider the Acela to be the express and Northeast Regional to be the local, then the NEC is pretty much the only place where it currently works. And that's with dozens of trains a day. It's failed when tried on the Pacific Surfliners/San Diegans, with about a dozen trains a day.

 

Obviously there is some appeal of fewer stops if you happen to be traveling between two stops that are still served. But frequency is still more important. If we are in a position to add a 2nd or 3rd LD train, I just can't imagine that only serving the major stops is really going to save enough time to increase ridership from those major stops enough to offset what is lost from the dropped stops.

 

If we want to look at an express/local situation, work on getting the major corridors running frequently enough that operating some limited-stop trains starts to make sense.



#7 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 09:16 PM

If it didn't work on the very frequently served NEC, why would it work on the much less frequent LD trains?

 

The Auto Train works. Sure, they have a unique service but I'll bet the fact that it goes straight through doesn't hurt.


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/

 


#8 MikefromCrete

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 10:24 PM

How much time would be saved by skipping local stops. I doubt if would make that much difference on a long distance schedule. An hour? 90 minutes? Such a change wouldn't attract any new riders and would reduce services to those smaller stations, with lesser ridership from those stations. An hour-90 minute faster trip wouldn't make any difference for LD riders who are obviously in no great hurry to begin with.

Edited by MikefromCrete, 16 October 2015 - 10:24 PM.


#9 Thirdrail7

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 10:26 PM

 

If it didn't work on the very frequently served NEC, why would it work on the much less frequent LD trains?

 

The Auto Train works. Sure, they have a unique service but I'll bet the fact that it goes straight through doesn't hurt.

 

 

The auto train works because it yields high revenue as it carries passengers and their cars. It is a special operation. The question you'd have to ask in regards to any express service is will the stops support the train. In other words, will the stops the Liberty Express make be enough to help support the train? Will it generate the political clout that will certainly be needed to get funding for the train?

 

The answer is probably not. This of course assumes that the host railroads all of a sudden become cooperative and agree to run the train. Just because it makes less stops does not necessarily mean the train will yield a great deal of  time savings. Congestion is still congestion and the hosts still may not expedite the train.


They say laughter is the best medicine. Obviously they never posted on AU.


#10 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 11:10 PM

 

 

If it didn't work on the very frequently served NEC, why would it work on the much less frequent LD trains?

 

The Auto Train works. Sure, they have a unique service but I'll bet the fact that it goes straight through doesn't hurt.

 

 

The auto train works because it yields high revenue as it carries passengers and their cars. It is a special operation. The question you'd have to ask in regards to any express service is will the stops support the train. In other words, will the stops the Liberty Express make be enough to help support the train? Will it generate the political clout that will certainly be needed to get funding for the train?

 

The answer is probably not. This of course assumes that the host railroads all of a sudden become cooperative and agree to run the train. Just because it makes less stops does not necessarily mean the train will yield a great deal of  time savings. Congestion is still congestion and the hosts still may not expedite the train.

 

 

Well in the case of the Gold Star Express, just replace the Palmetto which is basically the Silver Meteor without the Florida portion. So you'll have a third train going to Florida. No new trains.


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/

 


#11 Thirdrail7

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 11:17 PM

 

 

 

If it didn't work on the very frequently served NEC, why would it work on the much less frequent LD trains?

 

The Auto Train works. Sure, they have a unique service but I'll bet the fact that it goes straight through doesn't hurt.

 

 

The auto train works because it yields high revenue as it carries passengers and their cars. It is a special operation. The question you'd have to ask in regards to any express service is will the stops support the train. In other words, will the stops the Liberty Express make be enough to help support the train? Will it generate the political clout that will certainly be needed to get funding for the train?

 

The answer is probably not. This of course assumes that the host railroads all of a sudden become cooperative and agree to run the train. Just because it makes less stops does not necessarily mean the train will yield a great deal of  time savings. Congestion is still congestion and the hosts still may not expedite the train.

 

 

Well in the case of the Gold Star Express, just replace the Palmetto which is basically the Silver Meteor without the Florida portion. So you'll have a third train going to Florida. No new trains.

 

 

 

So, basically you want to bring back the failed Silver Palm? Additionally, if you leave out the Auto Train, the Silver Star and Silver Meteor service Florida. That is two trains to Florida. If you extend the Palmetto, that is indeed a third train to Florida.

 

That is an additional train past Savannah. CSX would likely call this a new train and what makes you think they will run it? What makes you think Congress will authorize it?


They say laughter is the best medicine. Obviously they never posted on AU.


#12 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 11:19 PM

If it didn't work on the very frequently served NEC, why would it work on the much less frequent LD trains?

 

I've never understood why the forum always resorts to taking LD cues from the NEC.  The NEC is nothing like the LD network.  They use the same gauge, are run by the same corporation, and you can ticket between them.  Other than that the hardware, the services, the scheduling, and the customer base are vastly different.  They're basically two completely unrelated services that just happen to be connected by history and happenstance.  What works for one has virtually no bearing on the other.  Personally I agree that express services will continue to fail on both networks, but for entirely different reasons.


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#13 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 17 October 2015 - 05:01 AM

 

 

 

 

If it didn't work on the very frequently served NEC, why would it work on the much less frequent LD trains?

 

The Auto Train works. Sure, they have a unique service but I'll bet the fact that it goes straight through doesn't hurt.

 

 

The auto train works because it yields high revenue as it carries passengers and their cars. It is a special operation. The question you'd have to ask in regards to any express service is will the stops support the train. In other words, will the stops the Liberty Express make be enough to help support the train? Will it generate the political clout that will certainly be needed to get funding for the train?

 

The answer is probably not. This of course assumes that the host railroads all of a sudden become cooperative and agree to run the train. Just because it makes less stops does not necessarily mean the train will yield a great deal of  time savings. Congestion is still congestion and the hosts still may not expedite the train.

 

 

Well in the case of the Gold Star Express, just replace the Palmetto which is basically the Silver Meteor without the Florida portion. So you'll have a third train going to Florida. No new trains.

 

 

 

So, basically you want to bring back the failed Silver Palm? Additionally, if you leave out the Auto Train, the Silver Star and Silver Meteor service Florida. That is two trains to Florida. If you extend the Palmetto, that is indeed a third train to Florida.

 

That is an additional train past Savannah. CSX would likely call this a new train and what makes you think they will run it? What makes you think Congress will authorize it?

 

 

So if you can't run a third train to Florida, get rid of the Palmetto and use those cars and labor elsewhere where they are needed. Why have an LD train terminate in an area without a MLB, NFL, or NBA team?


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/

 


#14 jphjaxfl

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Posted 17 October 2015 - 06:40 AM

In the pre-Amtrak days, the winter only Florida Special operated non stop at times from Richmond to West Palm Beach with an operating stop in Baldwin, Fl. It was still 24 hours from New York to Miami.  That was before Auto Train and I think Auto Train has taken a lot of the Florida Special market.



#15 Eric S

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Posted 17 October 2015 - 06:53 AM

 

So if you can't run a third train to Florida, get rid of the Palmetto and use those cars and labor elsewhere where they are needed. Why have an LD train terminate in an area without a MLB, NFL, or NBA team?

 

 

What do 3 of 4 major sports leagues have to do with intercity passenger rail?



#16 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 17 October 2015 - 07:29 AM

 

 

So if you can't run a third train to Florida, get rid of the Palmetto and use those cars and labor elsewhere where they are needed. Why have an LD train terminate in an area without a MLB, NFL, or NBA team?

 

 

What do 3 of 4 major sports leagues have to do with intercity passenger rail?

 

 

In other words a major market. Under what criteria is Savannah a major market?


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/

 


#17 Eric S

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Posted 17 October 2015 - 07:43 AM

We can certainly debate the merits of Savannah versus, say, Jacksonville. But the Palmetto is essentially a day train, anything beyond about Savannah or Jacksonville would change the nature to an overnight train.

 

As far as a major market, I'd say, depending on the context, something like 1 million or 0.5 million population in the metro area. (And, yes, I realize Savannah falls short.) But major market, mid-size market, or minor market - the choice of endpoint for an intercity passenger train might be driven by other factors than simply population, such as being a significant tourist market, required railroad facilities, reasonable operating endpoint, etc. Again, maybe Jacksonville makes more sense (or maybe not), if someone has cost and revenue estimates for that change let's look at them - but simply extending it because we don't like the idea of a train ending/starting at Savannah?

 

EDIT: I'd also point out that there are quite a few major cities without a team in the 3-4 major sports leagues. Now, they may not be logical endpoint cities for geographic or other reasons, but I don't think the lack of sports teams makes a difference.


Edited by Eric S, 17 October 2015 - 07:46 AM.


#18 jis

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Posted 17 October 2015 - 08:06 AM

Palmetto is also the best financial performer among the three Atlantic Coast trains. IMHO it does not need to be "fixed".

#19 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 17 October 2015 - 08:12 AM

Palmetto is also the best financial performer among the three Atlantic Coast trains. IMHO it does not need to be "fixed".

 

Oct. 14-Aug. 15 via Monthly Performance Report

 

http://www.amtrak.co...August-2015.pdf

 

Ridership and Revenue:

Silver Star:      356,822    $31,092,782

Silver Meteor: 321,058    $35,946,702

Palmetto:        193,145    $15,702,225

 

How is the Palmetto the best financial performer?


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/

 


#20 jis

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Posted 17 October 2015 - 08:43 AM

Add in the cost and P&L and it will become obvious. Revenue is not everything in financial performance.

 

Interestingly, historically, barring a few exceptions overnight trains have always been worse performers than daytime trains on the same route. The cost of running a daytime train is dramatically lower, even more so with the relative rise in labor cost. Unless one is able to allocate financial value to goodwill and prestige and such, the overnight trains with few stops have never performed well once the automobiles and interstates came about, and even worse with the jet age. OTOH, daytime trains with relatively frequent stops like the Palmetto have always had a role and have performed better. The exceptional situations primarily would be (a) Extremely high unit cost tourist operations for a special niche market and (b) truly overnight train connecting two major population centers, e.g. New York to Chicago in 15-16 hours. So I believe that the hypothetical "Liberty Limited" from NY to CHI could thrive if it could depart NY at around 6pm and arrive into CHI between 8 and 9 am. The CHI - DEN market also has potential, though in reality that might be unrealizable today. Realization of the overnight potential between CHI and DEN is what would strongly justify neroden's idea of using DEN as a connecting hub. The reason you would not want to run through such an overnight service is that it would destroy its reliability eastbound thus undermining its raison d'etre.

 

What should be done with the Palmetto for improvement is to somehow chop off an hour in its running time, not by reducing stops but by running it more tightly and taking advantage of track and time keeping improvements that can happen with improvement of the infrastructure, and then extend it to JAX again.

 

When the discussion started about cutting it back the last time I was involved in a to and fro with Amtrak, and it became pretty obvious that given the operating conditions then, running it to JAX had ceased to be viable operationally. Hence the cut back. Hopefully in the next several years it will again become feasible. We never thought that from a passenger service perspective it was good to cut it back, but then sometimes one has to deal with realities on the ground and swallow a bitter pill.


Edited by jis, 17 October 2015 - 09:04 AM.





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