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Viability of Long Distance Trains Without Corridor Infrastructure


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#1 seat38a

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 01:42 AM

Passing by the Los Angeles yard and Oakland yard got me thinking. If there were no corridor service on the west coast, the California / Oregon / Washington trains, would any of the LD trains of the west be viable? Do you think the maintenance yards would have been closed due to lack of work and high cost and then also the LD trains themselves cut? Just from visual inspection, nothing scientific, the amount of work keeping the yards busy are corridor equipment and in my opinion, without the infrastructure of the Surfliner, San Joaquin, Capitol Corridor and The Cascades and The Sounder in Seattle, Amtrak would probably not keep any of the infrastructure open for 1 or 2 daily trains.

 

But then again, there is also New Orleans with only 3 trains a day if the Sunset is running with all the cost associated with the upkeep.


Edited by seat38a, 18 May 2016 - 01:46 AM.


#2 the_traveler

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 06:19 AM

You could say the same about Miami with only 2 trains a day. (And the Sounder is not Amtrak but a Seattle area commuter operation.)
Take it easy .......

Take the train instead and enjoy the ride!

#3 seat38a

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 11:07 AM

You could say the same about Miami with only 2 trains a day. (And the Sounder is not Amtrak but a Seattle area commuter operation.)

Sounder is not, but I read Amtrak handles the maintenance and storage in their yard.



#4 jis

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 11:15 AM

But Amtrak did keep the infrastructure open through many decades when there were none of these increased state funded services in place. Seatlle maintenance facility existed when there were two Cascades per day plus the Empire Builder and Coast Starlight, and during some periods one or the other of the LDs into Seattle running only three days a week too. For a period there was also the Pioneer, and the North Coast Hiawatha. Oakland existed with just the San Francisco Zephyr and a couple of San Joaquins and Sacramento trains. Coast Starlight has always been a Oakland pass through with the maintenance facility playing no role in that service.



#5 cirdan

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 12:50 PM

This is much the same discussion as the get concerning NEC vs LD trains and how much synergy there is and how hidden cross-subsidy there is.

 

People defending a particular service will typically claim the associated costs are not represenative and inflated.

 

At the end it all boils down to definitions and how you chose to spread / allocate the costs of joint facilities / assets.

 

But definitely, the more service you have from a given location or maintenance base, the lower the cost per unit.



#6 seat38a

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 02:19 PM

But Amtrak did keep the infrastructure open through many decades when there were none of these increased state funded services in place. Seatlle maintenance facility existed when there were two Cascades per day plus the Empire Builder and Coast Starlight, and during some periods one or the other of the LDs into Seattle running only three days a week too. For a period there was also the Pioneer, and the North Coast Hiawatha. Oakland existed with just the San Francisco Zephyr and a couple of San Joaquins and Sacramento trains. Coast Starlight has always been a Oakland pass through with the maintenance facility playing no role in that service.

So you think Amtrak would still be funding all those routes and Infrastructure now, without the corridors? I'm sure their losses would be much bigger and more routes if not all would have probably caved under pressure. I read yesterday in Train magazine that Amtrak is proud of their 90% cost recovery at the moment, but I highly doubt those numbers could be achieved nor the routes survived without the infrastructure share with the corridors.



#7 seat38a

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 02:21 PM

This is much the same discussion as the get concerning NEC vs LD trains and how much synergy there is and how hidden cross-subsidy there is.

 

People defending a particular service will typically claim the associated costs are not represenative and inflated.

 

At the end it all boils down to definitions and how you chose to spread / allocate the costs of joint facilities / assets.

 

But definitely, the more service you have from a given location or maintenance base, the lower the cost per unit.

Absolutely, for example, Oakland only handles the CZ, and the rest are all corridor equipment. I can just imagine the cost for this train if Oakland had no outside work and had only CZ to deal with.



#8 erierail

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 03:50 PM

This was an issue that eventually helped end privately operated passenger trains as well. As passenger service began to decline so did the connecting trains for those that remained. Fewer and fewer passengers were funneled onto long distance trains and vice versa. Passenger trains began to become isolated with fewer and fewer connections. Both the long distance trains and corridor or connecting trains suffered passenger loss.
Union terminals and union stations began to be home to only one or two railroads, with fewer and fewer trains. Union stations in Erie pa and Cleveland lost most of thier connection by the mid 60's, with cut backs by the b&o, prr and nkp.
Amtrak as a system would become strong with a healthier long distance service supported by better connections and corridor service.

#9 west point

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 08:24 PM

Speaking of New Orleans you will find much equipment lays over there and does not return on the mirror train Have seen as many as 8 spare locos there.  Every January major work is done on the Crescent equipment during each weeks cancellation of that train.



#10 seat38a

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 08:28 PM

Speaking of New Orleans you will find much equipment lays over there and does not return on the mirror train Have seen as many as 8 spare locos there.  Every January major work is done on the Crescent equipment during each weeks cancellation of that train.

Which is being performed all with Amtrak money in terms of keeping the shop running and employees paid. Now if they had to do this in Los Angeles, OAK, SEA, PDX without extra work, not sure how long the system would last.



#11 WoodyinNYC

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 11:26 PM



... Amtrak would probably not keep any of the [maintenance] infrastructure open for 1 or 2 daily trains.

 

But then again, there is also New Orleans with only 3 trains a day if the Sunset is running with all the cost associated with the upkeep.

New Orleans is going to be  a busier place in a few years. The City of New Orleans will likely be extended along the Gulf Coast to Orlando, creating the equivalent of a new LD train. In the other direction, when the Texas Eagle/Sunset Ltd combine into one long daily train, the residual segment New Orleans-Lafayette-Beaumont-Houston-San Antonio will be come a daily, Sunset Shuttle until someone gets a better name. (Look for a flock of Snow Bird Horizons enjoying the warm winters. LOL.)

 

I'm sure it will be more efficient, or bluntly cheaper, per unit handled, when the New Orleans facility gets the new work.

 

Neroden likes to remind us that railroads thrive on economies of scale. And I like to say, the cure for what ails Amtrak is more Amtrak. Getting more work out of the fixed assets at the maintenance bases is another good example.


Edited by WoodyinNYC, 18 May 2016 - 11:27 PM.


#12 seat38a

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Posted 19 May 2016 - 03:02 AM

 



... Amtrak would probably not keep any of the [maintenance] infrastructure open for 1 or 2 daily trains.

 

But then again, there is also New Orleans with only 3 trains a day if the Sunset is running with all the cost associated with the upkeep.

New Orleans is going to be  a busier place in a few years. The City of New Orleans will likely be extended along the Gulf Coast to Orlando, creating the equivalent of a new LD train. In the other direction, when the Texas Eagle/Sunset Ltd combine into one long daily train, the residual segment New Orleans-Lafayette-Beaumont-Houston-San Antonio will be come a daily, Sunset Shuttle until someone gets a better name. (Look for a flock of Snow Bird Horizons enjoying the warm winters. LOL.)

 

I'm sure it will be more efficient, or bluntly cheaper, per unit handled, when the New Orleans facility gets the new work.

 

Neroden likes to remind us that railroads thrive on economies of scale. And I like to say, the cure for what ails Amtrak is more Amtrak. Getting more work out of the fixed assets at the maintenance bases is another good example.

 

Not only railroads but pretty much any business. The more you can get out of the same resource drives down your cost and makes profit. Now in the case of New Orleans, correct me if I'm wrong, all of the new services will be funded from the LD budget and no state money? If that is the case, the more train they run, except maybe the Sunset which originates in Los Angeles and half of its cost is absorbed via State money(Nothing scientific) funded resources, more money would be burned.

 

One example of total ineffiecinecy, without resource sharing that I read about while back and can't find the post, is that due to guaranteed hours, the crews working the switching for the Sunset / TE sometimes do unnecessary turns just to kill time. If this was systemwide, for the LD's I don't think Congress would stand for it.



#13 jis

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Posted 19 May 2016 - 07:30 AM

 

But Amtrak did keep the infrastructure open through many decades when there were none of these increased state funded services in place. Seatlle maintenance facility existed when there were two Cascades per day plus the Empire Builder and Coast Starlight, and during some periods one or the other of the LDs into Seattle running only three days a week too. For a period there was also the Pioneer, and the North Coast Hiawatha. Oakland existed with just the San Francisco Zephyr and a couple of San Joaquins and Sacramento trains. Coast Starlight has always been a Oakland pass through with the maintenance facility playing no role in that service.

So you think Amtrak would still be funding all those routes and Infrastructure now, without the corridors? I'm sure their losses would be much bigger and more routes if not all would have probably caved under pressure. I read yesterday in Train magazine that Amtrak is proud of their 90% cost recovery at the moment, but I highly doubt those numbers could be achieved nor the routes survived without the infrastructure share with the corridors.

 

Yes, I think it will, for running the skeletal network, because without that there will be no Amtrak. And yes, if that happens the bottom line of those trains served will look worse. The point I was making is that Amtrak has always been a creature of what is available to it to keep skeletal service going. They had considered canning the Zephyr several times but it was always politically expedient to keep it around for the sake of the survival of the company, and they spent the necessary money to make it happen. The fact that there are corridor trains which Amtrak can contract to serve and thus better utilize the facilities is of course good, and PRIIA 209 was designed to force such and dump costs on states. If the states for some reason decide to do their own maintenance without getting Amtrak involved, Amtrak will still be stuck doing maintenance for the LD trains, unless they can make the reverse move and contract the maintenance out to a state run shop. But it is highly unlikely that such reshuffling of maintenance contract would be the sole reason for the discontinuance of an LD train, specially one of the skeletal western ones.


Edited by jis, 19 May 2016 - 07:31 AM.


#14 cirdan

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Posted 19 May 2016 - 07:43 AM

 



... Amtrak would probably not keep any of the [maintenance] infrastructure open for 1 or 2 daily trains.

 

But then again, there is also New Orleans with only 3 trains a day if the Sunset is running with all the cost associated with the upkeep.

New Orleans is going to be  a busier place in a few years. The City of New Orleans will likely be extended along the Gulf Coast to Orlando, creating the equivalent of a new LD train. In the other direction, when the Texas Eagle/Sunset Ltd combine into one long daily train, the residual segment New Orleans-Lafayette-Beaumont-Houston-San Antonio will be come a daily, Sunset Shuttle until someone gets a better name. (Look for a flock of Snow Bird Horizons enjoying the warm winters. LOL.)

 

I'm sure it will be more efficient, or bluntly cheaper, per unit handled, when the New Orleans facility gets the new work.

 

Neroden likes to remind us that railroads thrive on economies of scale. And I like to say, the cure for what ails Amtrak is more Amtrak. Getting more work out of the fixed assets at the maintenance bases is another good example.

 

 

In the case of New Orleans, a commuter service to Baton Rouge is a discussion that keeps coming up. Now if Amtrak were to be contracted as operator they could create some synergy by using the existing maintenance base, and also sharing costs of operating NOL station etc.I wonder if any of the studies and proposals done so far have taken that into account? Maybe Amtrak needs to get more proactive when schemes of this type get discussed and underline the broader savings.



#15 cirdan

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Posted 19 May 2016 - 07:47 AM

. If the states for some reason decide to do their own maintenance without getting Amtrak involved, Amtrak will still be stuck doing maintenance for the LD trains, unless they can make the reverse move and contract the maintenance out to a state run shop. But it is highly unlikely that such reshuffling of maintenance contract would be the sole reason for the discontinuance of an LD train, specially one of the skeletal western ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another problem here would be that possibly the unions might object to maintenance work being outsourced to state run and possibly non unionized outfits.

 

If it were that simple, I guess Amtrak would have privatized off its maintenance shops years ago.



#16 neroden

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Posted 19 May 2016 - 08:07 PM

Neroden likes to remind us that railroads thrive on economies of scale. And I like to say, the cure for what ails Amtrak is more Amtrak. Getting more work out of the fixed assets at the maintenance bases is another good example.


Not only railroads but pretty much any business.


Yeah, but economies of scale are more important in some businesses than others. And there are even some lines of business with diseconomies of scale; construction work is famous for geographical diseconomies of scale, where increasing geographic coverage increases costs faster than revenues.

Economies of scale are most valuable in a business with high capital costs, high fixed costs, and very low variable costs. Notice anything familiar about railroading here? :-) The cost of serving an extra customer is essentially zero once the train is running (unless the train is 100% full); the cost of adding an extra car to a train is very low unless it requires adding an extra locomotive or lengthening platforms; running two trains a day on a line doesn't require much more track maintenance than running one train a day; et cetera.

In a business with very low capital costs, very low fixed costs, and very high variable costs, economies of scale are unimportant.

Edited by neroden, 19 May 2016 - 08:10 PM.

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#17 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 19 May 2016 - 08:42 PM

running two trains a day on a line doesn't require much more track maintenance than running one train a day

 

 

Don't tell Norfolk Southern that.

 

http://www.post-gaze...es/201605190039


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)!
 
 


#18 WoodyinNYC

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Posted 19 May 2016 - 11:40 PM


running two trains a day on a line doesn't require much more track maintenance than running one train a day

Don't tell Norfolk Southern that.

 

http://www.post-gaze...es/201605190039

Once upon a time hereabouts, someone put up a post to explain that the freights figure that an Amtrak train messes up their own schedules for about 2 hours on either side of the scheduled Amtrak slot. And so you see, for example, compromises like the Lake Shore Ltd and the Capitol Ltd chasing each others' tails in the dark between Cleveland and Chicago. The Silver Meteor and Silver Star chase each other from near Orlando to Miami, both arriving late afternoon/early evening.

 

Think about it. Of course it would be better for Amtrak to have a morning train and a late-day train in both cases. So why not? Because the freights scream if they lose two 4-hour slots (8 hours total) because of running two Amtrak trains. Running them about 2 hours apart means the freights lose only one overlapping 6-hour slot.

 

That problem is likely the BIGGEST reason why there's not another frequency East Coast-Chicago that gives good, daylight times in Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Toledo.

 

So it's not track maintenance costs that makes Norfolk Southern oppose having another two or three trains Harrisburg-Pittsburgh. It's their fear of having their schedules fouled up for 8 or 12 hours out of a day.

 

A few years back it was reported that when NS was asked what it would take to get another passenger train on that segment, the answer was, "Another track." That might have been a slight exaggeration. But I expect NS will demand quite a lot from Penn DOT before letting Amtrak add more service.

 

That's not necessarily a bad thing. If we have to pay for "another track" we might as well ask for plenty slots and run trains to Pittsburgh with about the same frequency they now run to Harrisburg. :)


Edited by WoodyinNYC, 19 May 2016 - 11:44 PM.


#19 cirdan

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Posted 20 May 2016 - 04:58 AM

Once upon a time hereabouts, someone put up a post to explain that the freights figure that an Amtrak train messes up their own schedules for about 2 hours on either side of the scheduled Amtrak slot. And so you see, for example, compromises like the Lake Shore Ltd and the Capitol Ltd chasing each others' tails in the dark between Cleveland and Chicago. The Silver Meteor and Silver Star chase each other from near Orlando to Miami, both arriving late afternoon/early evening.

 

 

 

 

Maybe that is true if your staple freight is coal or other slow-moving flows that are relatively tolerant of poor scheduling.

 

But I would guess a fast intermodal would similarly mess with the slow trains and require them to be safely parked in sidings well ahead of the intermodal whizzing past.

 

And if the railroads are serious about growing intermodals, they are going to have to work at making fast and slow coexist in harmony.

 

And passenger trains can then benefit from the slicker scheduling.


Edited by cirdan, 20 May 2016 - 06:37 AM.


#20 Just-Thinking-51

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Posted 20 May 2016 - 04:27 PM

BNSF found out that slow coal is not the best for the system. A few years ago they bought new engines for the coal fleet, and discover pulling power cuts down on transit times, and cost. High horse power, with pushers, mid train units by remote control. The trains moved faster and made more money.

The horse power race has level off, but Multi-units remotely control is a standard today.


And back to Amtrak; two hour window needed per passenger train is false claim. Sorry that number is BS. It goes right with the claim that UP makes more money moving one trailer of LTL goods for United Parcel Service than a full Amtrak train.

Got to call it out when you see it.🤔




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