Jump to content




Photo

What if Amtrak could set the schedules and not the host railroads?


  • Please log in to reply
19 replies to this topic

#1 Philly Amtrak Fan

Philly Amtrak Fan

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,499 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Philadelphia Area

Posted 30 January 2017 - 06:44 PM

OK, fantasy world time. Rather than have the host railroads set the schedules for trains, what if Amtrak were in charge. Assume that Amtrak can't add trains, increase frequency, reroute, or cut trains. What would be their "ideal" schedule to maximize R & R (or R & P(Profit) as some changes may require an extra train set but if they make enough money on top of it they still come out ahead)? My main objective would be to minimize the number of major markets stuck in the graveyard shift. The more passengers you can get out of CIN, IND, Greensboro, Charlotte, and SAS, among others, the better.

 

I will try to keep it to LD and trains that feed LD. I probably posted some of these previously but this can summarize them all.

 

Auto Train: Probably as close to perfect as you can get.

 

Silver Star/Silver Meteor: There is a considerable gap between the two in the NEC but the trains are too close together in MIA. I have heard some AU posters would want a train arrive in Florida early enough to make it to cruise lines. You can't leave much earlier from NYP (assume you still have the capacity limitations of the Gateway Tunnel). Two hours earlier would have it leave at 9:02am which might be OK and would get to ORL at 8:06am and MIA at 3:58pm. That probably wouldn't get there in time. If you could run the Meteor to arrive in ORL around 8am and skip TPA that would get you to MIA around 2pm (you could try 7am/1pm too). But if you have the SS leave at the same time as the SM now it gets to Raleigh during the graveyard shift. So assuming the SS has to leave NYP first, ideally I would want to move the SM later (after 5pm). A 3 hour shift (leaving NYP at 6:15pm) would allow New York and Philly passengers to leave after work and still be early enough for WAS. Then you get to ORL around 4pm and MIA around 10pm which would create some difference between the two and allow you to run using just 3 sets instead of 4. It also allows you to shift the CL back and still have enough time for the CL-SM connection (I'm not really worried about the CL-SS connection at this point).

 

Palmetto: Assuming its role as a day train, the NYP times aren't ideal. You can't really move back the southbound departure time but maybe you could leave Savannah an hour or two earlier to get to NYP well before midnight.

 

Lake Shore Limited/Capitol Limited: Ideally the LSL would leave CHI before the CL because it takes longer to get to its destination. If the CL leaves two hours later, it arrives in PGH at 7:05am rather than 5:05am  (then you'd have to have the Pennsylvanian leave later eastbound) and if the SM is pushed back there isn't too much a reason not to push the CL back. I'd also move the westbound up an hour or two, once again getting to PGH and CHI earlier. I would say the PGH connections are backwards. There's a four hour gap going from the Pennsylvanian (a route with a pretty good OTP) and only a 2.5 hour gap from the CL (a route whose OTP isn't as good and missed the Pennsylvanian the last time I rode it). Assuming only two CHI-NEC trains serving northern Ohio it would be virtually impossible to serve CLE/TOL at good hours without sacrificing the connections with western trains. As for the LSL, you either have to leave late and arrive after the afternoon rush or around 6pm to make sure to get to NYP before 4pm although that would put BUF too early. You'd also like to leave westbound from NYP after 6pm but that jeopardizes the western connections.

 

Cardinal: Have the train leave CIN westbound for CHI early in the morning and leave CIN eastbound for the NEC at night (in other words, outside of the graveyard shift). This would eliminate the western connections but there are still two other trains for that purpose. I won't go further because I've beaten this issue to death and have posted a proposed schedule before.

 

Crescent: Ideally you would want to leave after 6pm and arrive by 8am but the Crescent is too long for that to be possible. I know people like to arrive in ATL before 8am. I'd consider a later southbound departure (4 hrs) to get to Greensboro/Charlotte after 6am and you'd still get to NOL around 11pm. Northbound you can leave NOL/ATL two hours later so you still leave ATL before midnight and make it to NYP around 4pm (I don't see the benefit of leaving ATL as early as you do now as it doesn't get you to WAS before the start of the work day anyway and you can't leave NOL much earlier than 7am.

 

City of New Orleans: Probably as good as it can be with only Carbondale among the major markets in the graveyard shift. Maybe you could move the northbound back an hour to have it reach Champaign/Urbana after 7am (doubt 9am vs. 10am into CHI makes much difference).

 

Texas Eagle: Also IMO ideally scheduled between CHI and SAS. You can probably push the southbound back an hour or two to give more time for LSL connections and make it to SAS not much later than 11pm. You'd probably want CHI-STL be overnight but that forces the train to arrive in and leave SAS during the graveyard shift.

 

Southwest Chief: Arrives in LA early enough and leaves after the evening rush hour so I think they're good where they are. The only improvement you could make to be to better serve Arizona but any changes would hurt the train in other areas.

 

California Zephyr: The 2pm westbound departure is not ideal for connections from the LSL/CL but does get you to DEN before the morning rush hour. Eastbound there is almost no leeway as you can't go much earlier out of Emeryville and later puts it too close for the LSL/CL connection.

 

Empire Builder: This is the one I thought could have some wiggle room. You could run overnight between CHI and MSP (Milwaukee would be during the graveyard shift but they have plenty of trains to/from CHI). Then Spokane wouldn't be in the graveyard shift either direction. I can see an 8 hour shift westbound (Milwaukee isn't that bad then). Ideally you'd leave CHI later but anything less than 8 hours puts MSP in the graveyard shift which you can't do. If you left MSP eastbound at midnight, you'd get to Milwaukee slightly after 6am and CHI before 8am. Any earlier and you get to CHI too early.

 

Coast Starlight: It isn't ideal between LAX and SJC/OAK/SAC (unless you like giving up an entire day to travel as opposed to sleeping through the night). But if you ran overnight between the two you put PDX in the graveyard shift both ways. I personally wouldn't care if Portland gets screwed (and you'd get to SEA earlier and leave later) but Portland is too big a market to lose. If you left PDX southbound before midnight, SAC is during the graveyard shift. Ideally you'd get to LAX earlier, leave LAX later to help San Diego (the CS-Surfliner connection gets you into SAN after 1am). But move the southbound up earlier and/or the northbound later and once again SAC is in the graveyard shift. 

 

Sunset Limited:If you could leave NOL late at night instead of early in the morning you would add Crescent-SL and CONO-SL possibilities but you'd lose the SL-CS and TE-SL connections so you're there isn't any net gain (although the TE-SL isn't that good anyway and requires being parked in SAS about 5 hrs). If you could add through car service from DAL arriving in SAS in time for an afternoon westbound departure from SAS then you're giving up 1 connection to add 2 and it becomes more attractive and takes SAS out of the graveyard shift. I had also proposed schedules for the SL and through cars to keep DAL/FTW and AUS connections. You can't leave SAS westbound any earlier (unless you want to arrive in LAX around 3am) and the later you leave SAS the longer the gap between the TE and SL. Ideally you'd like the southbound TE to get to DAL/FTW before midnight and AUS/SAS the next morning but STL winds up in the graveyard shift.

 

Which LD train schedules are not ideal to you and could you make them better?


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)!
 
 


#2 keelhauled

keelhauled

    OBS Chief

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 479 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:VT

Posted 30 January 2017 - 06:55 PM

Perhaps you could start by providing evidence that Amtrak doesn't set the schedules to begin with.


Go on, raise the flag, I got stars in my eyes...I'm in love with her and I won't apologize.


#3 Thirdrail7

Thirdrail7

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,938 posts

Posted 30 January 2017 - 07:11 PM

Precautionary, here. There is something that is always overlooked and that is equipment and crew turns. As you draw your conclusions, please realize that the tail sometimes wags the dog. A perfect example is:

 

 


Palmetto: Assuming its role as a day train, the NYP times aren't ideal. You can't really move back the southbound departure time but maybe you could leave Savannah an hour or two earlier to get to NYP well before midnight.

 

 

When that train arrives in Sav, the crew has to make sure everyone is off, then wye the train. Then, they must store it and secure it for servicing prior to being transported to their lodging (which is considered "limbo time.")  In the morning, they go on duty, perform departure tests/inspections, shove the train to the station, spot it, get orders and prepare for departure.  Moving the northbound Palmetto's departure time two hours earlier means the crew will not have the federally required time off between runs. Moving it up an hour makes the northbound train extremely susceptible to initial terminal delay if the previous southbound is over 30 minutes late or if there is a problem wyeing the train.

 

Therefore, it isn't just a matter of moving the northbound train an hour or two. You would have to come up with another crew or rearrange the couplets for the route.

 

I haven't really checked the rest of the trains you wanted to tinker with but these are some of the things that go into making a schedule.


Edited by Thirdrail7, 30 January 2017 - 07:12 PM.

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


#4 Hotblack Desiato

Hotblack Desiato

    Service Attendant

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 90 posts

Posted 31 January 2017 - 12:04 AM

Amtrak sets the schedules for their trains today, but host railroads have to approve any change to the schedules.  However, it's not as simple as Amtrak saying "here's our new schedule" and the host saying "ok."  There can be a lot of coordination and back-and-forth and other contractual things going on to work out what otherwise seems like a simple schedule change.

 

There is no situation where a host/freight railroad will tell Amtrak what schedule they should run.  However, if there is trackwork going on, they will work with Amtrak to modify schedules to accommodate.



#5 BCL

BCL

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,281 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:San Francisco Bay Area

Posted 31 January 2017 - 12:40 AM

I used to work a summer tracking railroad movements.  It was actually following shipping containers being transported by the major freight railroads.  These days they can probably be tracked by computer, but back then the main way was to call up each railroad's phone number for automated tracking.

 

I never got the sense that the freight railroads were operating on any kind of fixed schedule.  It kind of made sense because the time it might take to get each container on a chassis and hooked up to the train wasn't something that could be predicted depending on a number of factors.  I'd sometimes see the Port of Oakland on the freeway or on the train and wonder how they managed to do it.  It was like a symphony with thousands of moving parts, including ships, cranes, trains, and trucks.



#6 WoodyinNYC

WoodyinNYC

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,337 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:NYC

Posted 31 January 2017 - 04:27 AM



OK, fantasy world time. ... Rather than have the host railroads set the schedules for trains, what if Amtrak were in charge. Assume that Amtrak can't add trains, increase frequency, reroute, or cut trains. What would be their "ideal" schedule to maximize Ridership & Revenue. ...

...

Which LD train schedules are not ideal to you and could you make them better?

 

+++++

Sorry. I can hardly think in those terms. I'm all the time thinking about new and more equipment, and new and more upgraded tracks for 110-mph service. You'll get more bang from new and faster trains than from any tweaks to the schedules.

 

But you did provoke my own list of schedule improvements easily possible with more Stimulus-level funding.

 

Sorry, I can't work the multi-quote function. Probably too old to learn a new function of any kind. :-(

 

+++++

Auto Train: Probably as close to perfect as you can get.

 

Silver Star/Silver Meteor: There is a considerable gap between the two in the NEC but the trains are too close together in MIA. ... get to ORL around 4pm and MIA around 10pm which would create some difference between the two ...

+++++

No, the freight hosts want the Amtrak trains close together. Each one disrupts the freights' schedules by about two hours on either side (before and after). By running two passenger trains only two hours apart, part of the disruption of one of them overlaps with some of the disruption of the other.  So the host is feeling 'only' 6 hours of disruption instead of 8. See also: Capitol Ltd and [/i]Lake Shore Ltd[/i] Cleveland-CHI.

Anyway, both these trains perform well, so I'd add another sleeper and coach and leave 'em alone.

 

+++++

Palmetto: ... maybe you could leave Savannah an hour or two earlier to get to NYP well before midnight.

+++++

The Stimulus project near Quantico just south of D.C. was once promised to slice 10 minutes out of the Amtrak schedules. Well, even 10 minutes is valuable when looking at a Norfolk departure at 6:10 a.m. -- because 6:20 a.m. sounds so much later. LOL. But I digress.

If that 10 minutes savings can be pushed all the way down the tracks to Savannah, it will allow a psychologically useful change in the Savannah arrival from 9:04 p.m. to 8:54 p.m. And 10 minutes saved northbound gets you into NYP at 11:45 p.m. instead of 4 minutes before midnight. LOL.

Meanwhile Virginia keeps pecking away at bits of time D.C.-Richmond-Petersburg, and we can hope that time saved there will slide down the tracks to Savannah.

But hey, the Palmetto is one of the best performers among all the LD trains. Why mess with it?

 

+++++

Lake Shore Limited/Capitol Limited:

+++++

Ideally the South of the Lake project will carve 40 or 50 minutes or so out of the congested section  CHI-Porter-points east while we are still living to appreciate it. The project's purpose is to speed up the Detroit-CHI Wolverines and allow at least 6 more of them. That better run time SOTL could allow some tweaking of the schedules of the Capitol Ltd and the Lake Shore Ltd.

But we need more:

The Midwest Regional Rail initiative proposed a Cleveland-Toledo-(maybe Fort Wayne)-South Bend-CHI 110-mph corridor service that would cut the schedule from 6ish hours to 4 and some minutes. Now you're talking! Slice a fat two hours (including the SOTL improvements). Extend the 110-mph corridor to Pittsburgh saving more time. The Capitol Ltd and the Lake Shore will be transformed. (Not to mention how an exclusive 110-mph route would make it easier, not easy but easier, to add another LD train NEC-CHI.) Again, it needs a few Billion to get the right of way upgraded.

 

+++++

Cardinal: I've beaten this issue to death ...

+++++

Yes, you have. :giggle:

Take the Cardinal daily.

Make the Hoosier State have two runs daily, so three frequencies on this richest segment of the line.

Invest $250 million or less to chop 29 minutes out of the CHI-Indianapolis stretch. Invest a Billion to make a Cincinnati-Indy-CHI corridor like the St Louis-CHI corridor will be a year from now.

Split the Cardinal at Indianapolis to run Indy-St Louis-Kansas City-CHI. That's a third frequency for Missouri's River Runner and a second frequency Kansas City-CHI. (It will need to get back to the Chicago base in any case.

 

+++++

Crescent: Ideally you would want to leave after 6pm and arrive by 8am but the Crescent is too long for that to be possible. ... consider a later southbound departure (4 hrs) to get to Greensboro and Charlotte after 6am ...

+++++

Yes, a second frequency to serve North and South Carolina. But NS would hate Hate HATE to see another Amtrak train on this important route. Maybe another 'newish' frequency on the Carolinian route NEC-Richmond-Raleigh-Greensboro-Charlotte, joining the NS at Greensboro so only half the new frequency is on their tracks. Maybe this could be the train ATL-Birmingham-Meridian-split-Jackson-Shreveport-Dallas-Ft Worth (but then where, from the approved list)?

 

After the 'S' line is restored Richmond-Raleigh and chops an hour or two out of that segment, the route could be compelling: No new stations or other 'new route' hassles. Of course, ATL is really not ready for another train to stop.

Maybe look at a 'newish route' segment Charlotte-Columbia-Charleston-Savannah-points south, or Charlotte-Columbia-Augusta-Savannah-points south. Depending on the hours, I'd love to see that second frequency on the 100-mile stretch Charleston-Savannah, beginning a kind of corridor service.

 

+++++

City of New Orleans: Probably as good as it can be ...

+++++

Start by extending a corridor train CHI-Champaign-Carbondale a few hours down the road to Memphis.

Next make that train a LD train, a second frequency of the CONO{/i] on down Memphis-Jackson-Hammond (Baton Rouge)-New Orleans. Adding another train here will more than double the market.

 

+++++

Texas Eagle: Also IMO ideally scheduled between CHI and SAS.

+++++

Yes, it ain't broken, so let's not fix it.

For little money, the Trinity River Express tracks Dallas-Ft Worth could be upgraded to slice the ridiculous slow run time. For big money already spent St Louis-CHI will be helping with speed and on-time performance. Maybe the faster route will allow a tweak or two with the CHI departures and arrivals, but nothing big.

 

+++++

Southwest Chief: Arrives in LA early enough and leaves after the evening rush hour so I think they're good where they are.

+++++

It's a fine schedule for CHI-Kansas City-Albuquerque-Flagstaff-Williams Jct. (Grand Canyon)-L.A. To make any big improvement you'd need a second frequency, or a new second train. A short detour to Wichita or Pueblo would wreck the Chief[/]'s perfect timings in the other cities. Better to serve Wichita would be CHI-Kansas City-Wichita-Oklahoma City-Ft Worth-San Antonio. To serve Pueblo from CHI and Kansas City, best to take it up the Front Line Pueblo-Colorado Springs-Denver-Boulder-Ft Collins-Cheyenne. So that's two new trains, but I don't mind, they'd be well used. 

 

+++++

California Zephyr: 

+++++

Upgrade the tracks to save time, thus allowing an earlier westbound CHI departure. Of course, do either a re-route CHI-Quad Cities-Des Moines-Omaha-Lincoln-Denver, or stay put and add new second frequency CHI-Denver using this route. Customers can more easily put together a trip when they can choose between at least two departure times and two arrivals. 

 

+++++

Empire Builder:

+++++

First, add a second train CHI-Milwaukee-(insert Madison here)-St Paul-St Cloud and upgrade the tracks to save a couple of hours. After Scott Walker leaves the Governor's mansion, and I think he'd fit well into a Cabinet of crazies, then insert Madison with Milwaukee and CHI, and to St Paul and points west. This investment should allow a speeded-up Builder to leave Chicago later and arrive earlier, helping with the connections to other trains.

Second, extend a train CHI-St Paul-St Cloud-Fargo (Moorhead City), again making upgrades as needed for 110-mph operation. Again time saved would allow tweaking the Builder's schedule.

Third, (and a long story) revive the North Coast Hiawatha under the new name Sacajawea, to run CHI-St Paul-Fargo-string of small cities in Montana-Spokane-Pasco-Seattle.  Use the Stampede Pass route Spokane-Pasco-Yakima-Ellensburg-Seattle, and add Cascades corridor service between these Washington cities.

 

+++++

Coast Starlight:

+++++

Looking at the L.A. departures and arrivals and the Seattle departures and arrivals isn't the best way to look at the Coast Starlight. It's a Sacramento train. The overnight sections are thru the mountainous empty of far upstate California and southern Oregon. And the current Sacramento schedule is perfect for that.

Want to improve the schedule north and south of Sacrament?. It's easy: Spend money.

Upgrade the right of way thru the Willamette Valley of Oregon, from Portland down to Eugene. Oregon has got so far with planning this as to have chosen its preferred corridor. They'll need a little time to work out the actual upgrades required and do the engineering. But when the big money comes, from somewhere somehow, they plan to chop time out of the current 2 1/2 hour timetable. The planning documents so far talk about a true HSR project here. I don't think they've got the population to make it worth spending those Billions. But upgrading to a 110-mph route should be practical and affordable, and save at least 30 minutes, and perhaps an hour, out of the run time here for the Cascades and the {i]Starlight.

South of Sacramento, California is working on plans to upgrade the Surfliner route L.A.-Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo, and then to push on up to San Jose and San Francisco with a revived Coast Daylight. Altogether, these upgrades to the shared trackage could chop two hours out of the Starlight's schedule.

California is also looking to add corridor trains Sacramento-Yuba City-Chico-Redding. Of course, this stretch is done at night by the Starlight, but an hour saved here allows a later departure from Seattle-Portland and an earlier arrival there.

Finally, last year California added one more frequency to the main Surfliner segment L.A.-San Diego. It won't take many more trains to make this route hourly, and allow clock-face departure times. These trains feed passengers into LA Union Station and onto the Starlight, so more trains will help. Maybe rebuilding the station with thru tracks could make it easy to extend the [i]Starlight to San Diego, like in olden times.

 

+++++

Sunset Limited:

+++++

First, make it daily.

Second, look at the Sunset Shuttle that will come after the Texas Eagle/Sunset Ltd combination at San Antonio goes ahead as per the PRIIA study. That plan suggested that the New Orleans-Lafayette-Beaumont-Houston-San Antonio segment could also go daily, with its schedule little changed, in order to connect with the Sunset/Eagle in San Antonio. iirc My calculations were that the Sunset averaged less than 40 mph on this stretch thru the bayous. Put a second, state-supported corridor train here, then a third, fourth ...

The important improvement would come from investing in infrastructure upgrades to get up to the "Amtrak average speed" said to be about 55 mph. With a faster route New Orleans-San Antonio, the departure from the Big Easy could be moved from 9 a.m. to 10:30 or 11 a.m. This would allow a connection from the WB Gulf Coast (extended CONO) train Orlando-Jacksonville-Tallahassee-Mobile-NOLA, gaining a much better ridership than the current plan whereby the Gulf Coast train arrives in NOLA 30 minutes after the Sunset Shuttle has departed for San Antonio and L.A.

 

Maybe I'd have more to say but it's well past my bedtime.



#7 A Voice

A Voice

    Conductor

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 628 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 31 January 2017 - 09:32 AM

OK, fantasy world time. Rather than have the host railroads set the schedules for trains, what if Amtrak were in charge. Assume that Amtrak can't add trains, increase frequency, reroute, or cut trains. What would be their "ideal" schedule to maximize R & R (or R & P(Profit) as some changes may require an extra train set but if they make enough money on top of it they still come out ahead)? My main objective would be to minimize the number of major markets stuck in the graveyard shift. The more passengers you can get out of CIN, IND, Greensboro, Charlotte, and SAS, among others, the better.

 

"Fantasy World" for the freight railroads would probably be that they do, in fact, get to set the schedules.  But here in reality, they don't.  As already noted, Amtrak cannot just make changes without consultation (and negotiation) with the host railroad, but the greater constraints are things which are out of the control of either Amtrak or the freight carrier.  Geography itself is a big issue, but you also have hours of service, opposing freight traffic, other passenger and commuter trains, connections on either end of the route, terminal congestion, "slots" in congested areas (tunnels, etc.), and so on.  

 

Pretty much any schedule is therefore going to be a collection of compromises.  It's easy to look at those drawbacks and suggest improvements, but much more difficult to figure out how to actually solve the problem in a practical manner (which doesn't create more problems for every one you solve).  As usual, a larger budget would help immensely; You can solve pretty much any of these issues if you get some entity to write a big enough check, but again, how do you make these changes in a practical way?  



#8 BCL

BCL

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,281 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:San Francisco Bay Area

Posted 31 January 2017 - 01:51 PM

Pretty much any schedule is therefore going to be a collection of compromises.  It's easy to look at those drawbacks and suggest improvements, but much more difficult to figure out how to actually solve the problem in a practical manner (which doesn't create more problems for every one you solve).  As usual, a larger budget would help immensely; You can solve pretty much any of these issues if you get some entity to write a big enough check, but again, how do you make these changes in a practical way?  

 

In my neck of the woods, the issue with additional Capitol Corridor trains to San Jose is a concern.  The big issue is slots down the single track from Fremont to Santa Clara.  There's a certain section that's literally hemmed in by two streets running parallel to the track.  I'm not sure money could be thrown to take care of that.  On top of there being only enough space for one track, there's also parts going through wetlands.  Adding a second track there is a nonstarter.



#9 Philly Amtrak Fan

Philly Amtrak Fan

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,499 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Philadelphia Area

Posted 31 January 2017 - 03:08 PM

Let me remind you of the first four words of my post: "OK, fantasy world time. " I don't need all of AU pouring cold water on me (ironically the two biggest pourers (is that even a word) haven't yet. I'm also pointing out how much the host railroads have screwed over Amtrak and its passenger base. Is both the SM and SS arriving in MIA within an hour of each other ideal? Of course not. Is having both the LSL and CL run through CLE during the graveyard shift ideal? Of course not. Are the host railroads screwing us? Of course.

 

So Woody's solution is a whole bunch of new trains. Yeah, we won't have to negotiate with the host railroads there. Extend the Illini or Saluki to Memphis? Sure, they'll let us run on their tracks for nothing or close to nothing. Make the Sunset Limited daily? Union Pacific did everything they could to prevent it and still are. Didn't they say Amtrak can't even ask for a daily SL for seven years? I'm not against more trains but you're saying the host railroads would rather extra trains running through than to spread out the trains in Florida? And if they do agree, not only do you have to pay for the track rights but you also have to pay for equipment, fuel, labor, etc. We don't even have enough equipment to give the LSL a regular diner right now. If you just change the schedule, you pay the same amount for all these things but get more R & R without the added expenses (or lower added expense).

 

People talk about giving Amtrak more funding. That's not a fantasy? And if Amtrak gets more money, guess where that money's coming from. Is it going to just fall out of the sky? I've always been about how can we run Amtrak more efficiently and increase R & R with the money we get now? Is Amtrak best utilizing the money they get now? Can Amtrak make a cost neutral change that would actually make a real difference? I don't want to give Amtrak an extra billion a year if they're just going to throw it in the trash or if Congress demands the money be used on worthless routes like they have in the past. If Amtrak/Congress wants more of my money, shouldn't I have the right to question how it will be spent and/or how the current money I'm giving them now is spent? 

 

If other people are allowed to have fantasies, so should I. I get the impression that you all think bringing back the BL will cost some astronomical figure but bringing back the NCH would be much cheaper.


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)!
 
 


#10 jebr

jebr

    Engineer

  • Forum Manager
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,553 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:MSP

Posted 31 January 2017 - 03:40 PM

Looking solely at the EB changes: why are we making the one train that runs between MSP - CHI run essentially overnight? It may work out well if someone's wanting to spend the day or evening in CHI, but it's not ideal if you're wanting to get back and sleep in your own bed. You're also losing a lot of the traffic from the smaller intermediate markets that can drive traffic, and I'm not sold that Spokane and ND can make up the difference.

 

Frankly, I don't know how many people would choose an overnight train vs. an early morning/late evening flight, especially if I can get home in time to sleep in my own bed. A sleeper isn't as good as my bed at home, and a coach seat definitely isn't. If I'm on a multi-day trip and wanting to get home to work the next day, I'd much rather get in about 10 PM and sleep in my own bed than get up around 6 AM, having slept maybe a few hours on the train, and immediately have to jump into work. (Not that I haven't done this as a college student, but it's definitely not ideal.)

 

Plus, now all of a sudden any connections are lengthened considerably. Instead of boarding in the morning and having a few-hour layover in Chicago (maybe even downgrading to coach on the MSP - CHI leg to save some money) I now have to spend numerous hours in Chicago which, while a fine city, isn't my destination. Plus, I've just gotten off from an overnight leg with likely less than an ideal amount of sleep, which makes the trip less pleasant as well. You do gain a few west coast connections, but I'm not sure if they're worth it; frankly, someone doing a trip MSP - DEN on land with public transportation likely will lean towards a bus that can get them there in 19 hours versus spending 36 or so routing through Chicago.



#11 Philly Amtrak Fan

Philly Amtrak Fan

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,499 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Philadelphia Area

Posted 31 January 2017 - 03:53 PM

 

Frankly, I don't know how many people would choose an overnight train vs. an early morning/late evening flight, especially if I can get home in time to sleep in my own bed. A sleeper isn't as good as my bed at home, and a coach seat definitely isn't. If I'm on a multi-day trip and wanting to get home to work the next day, I'd much rather get in about 10 PM and sleep in my own bed than get up around 6 AM, having slept maybe a few hours on the train, and immediately have to jump into work. (Not that I haven't done this as a college student, but it's definitely not ideal.)

 

 

Current Pennsylvanian schedule from PHL to PGH: 12:42pm to 8:05pm. There goes seven hours of my day, not counting the travel to get to 30th St. plus the time from the PGH station to where I want to go.

 

If the train ran, say 12:42am to 8:05am, I got to sleep anyway. Sure, I'd rather sleep on my bed than a train but I'd also rather spend the 7 hours in the day doing something else than spending it on a train or spend the 7 hours in PGH or my destination. 7 hours isn't always 7 hours. When you're sleeping, it doesn't feel like 7 hours.

 

If the train ran overnight in both directions, I can spend leave late Saturday night for a Steelers or Pirates game, watch the game on Sunday and be back in Philly at 8am in the morning on Monday. Now I have to spend most of Saturday traveling, stay overnight in PGH, watch the game Sunday, stay overnight again, and then not get back to Philly until Monday afternoon. So a 16 hour round trip takes roughly 3 whole days and requires 2 overnights in a hotel while if the train were overnight I get 2 free nights accommodations for the price of the round trip fare and I have most of my Saturday and most of my Monday. 

 

Yes the day train is better for the intermediate markets but the overnight train is a better schedule for 7+ hr trips.


Edited by Philly Amtrak Fan, 31 January 2017 - 03:54 PM.

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)!
 
 


#12 jebr

jebr

    Engineer

  • Forum Manager
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,553 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:MSP

Posted 31 January 2017 - 04:41 PM

The idea of sleeping overnight while in transit is nice, but it presumes that the passenger can either get a comparable night's sleep on board and/or is okay with feeling groggy the next day. Amtrak coach, while better than most coach options, isn't good enough for most people to consider it comparable to a night in their own bed. Sleeper may be comparable, but I'd put it at closer to 10 hours for the ideal length for that (enough time to get into bed, sleep, and wake up 8 hours later and shower/get ready for the day.) I can usually power through a night sleeping in coach and be generally functionable (although with lots of coffee needed) the next day. However, once the second night in coach hits I'm essentially wanting to sleep the entire third day (or a large portion of it.) My wife will almost never take a night in coach, and would much rather take an early flight out/late flight back than sleep in coach. However, she'll spend all day in coach...as long as it doesn't require an overnight.

 

I don't disagree that overnight travel is nice to save on hotel accommodations. But I'd surmise that Amtrak has done enough ridership studies to determine how many people will ride an 8-hour trip during the day vs. at night. It'd be easy enough to look at the ridership WAS - BOS on each train and see if 65/66/67 has a significantly larger ridership on that segment than the average daytime regional; and if so if it would be enough to support a train without an extremely strong midpoint such as NYC. Most people probably would be like my wife and rather grab the flight than take a train overnight, and of those that want to save on accommodations, many would take the even cheaper option of a bus over a train even if the sleep isn't as good. To have a single daily train connecting two points run overnight seems like you'd miss a huge part of your market share.



#13 jebr

jebr

    Engineer

  • Forum Manager
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,553 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:MSP

Posted 31 January 2017 - 05:03 PM

Overall, I probably wouldn't change the current schedules much, if at all, at least from what I know of the schedules. Right now they generally do an okay to decent job of facilitating east-west connections while utilizing the equipment available decently well. Amtrak is essentially doing (on a larger and once-a-day schedule, allowing for room for most delays) what a lot of smaller-town public transit agencies do; run a route and try to get the routes to meet up together at a certain time window to allow people to transfer to a different spot at the major transfer point. It's not perfect, and I don't see a good way of facilitating east-east and west-west transfers in Chicago, but for what we have to work with I think it's okay. Any major changes would likely either break connections without enabling equivalent connections or require additional equipment. From Amtrak's side, there's a lot that ties into these schedules, and I don't think there's an easy way to change most of them. (I'd be open to ideas on the Texas Eagle and Sunset Limited, as I'm not familiar with that schedule as much, and it's possible the ideas Philly proposed here would help out that route. I'm honestly not sure.)



#14 Lonestar648

Lonestar648

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,228 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Texas

Posted 01 February 2017 - 04:02 PM

When my company had me located in Chicago, I found that the train schedules now in effect usually worked quite well for me.  For example, I could work the morning, then catch the EB to MSP, be at the hotel to meet my team for 6AM breakfast. The same applied for other cities, though some I would arrive during the morning, but I didn't leave until late afternoon or early evening.  I tried to use Amtrak every week I could instead of flying.  For me, instead of changing the schedules, I wish Amtrak would add new routes so more cities are serviced.


Trains Traveled On:
Texas Eagle                                      Sunset Limited                            California Zephyr                                Southwest Chief                Empire Builder            Capitol Limited           Lake Shore limited (NYP & BOS)      Crescent
Kentucky Cardinal                             Cardinal                                       Pere Marquette                                  Wolverines                        Lincoln Service            Empire Service          Keystone Service                               Acelas
NE Regionals                                    Pioneer                                        Desert Wind                                       Broadway Limited             Three Rivers                Southwest Chief        Coast Starlight                                    Empire Service
 
Amtrak Miles Logged: over 197,000


#15 jis

jis

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 19,337 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
  • Interests:Trains, Planes and Travel

Posted 01 February 2017 - 04:12 PM

The idea of sleeping overnight while in transit is nice, but it presumes that the passenger can either get a comparable night's sleep on board and/or is okay with feeling groggy the next day. Amtrak coach, while better than most coach options, isn't good enough for most people to consider it comparable to a night in their own bed. Sleeper may be comparable, but I'd put it at closer to 10 hours for the ideal length for that (enough time to get into bed, sleep, and wake up 8 hours later and shower/get ready for the day.) I can usually power through a night sleeping in coach and be generally functionable (although with lots of coffee needed) the next day. However, once the second night in coach hits I'm essentially wanting to sleep the entire third day (or a large portion of it.) My wife will almost never take a night in coach, and would much rather take an early flight out/late flight back than sleep in coach. However, she'll spend all day in coach...as long as it doesn't require an overnight.

 

I don't disagree that overnight travel is nice to save on hotel accommodations. But I'd surmise that Amtrak has done enough ridership studies to determine how many people will ride an 8-hour trip during the day vs. at night. It'd be easy enough to look at the ridership WAS - BOS on each train and see if 65/66/67 has a significantly larger ridership on that segment than the average daytime regional; and if so if it would be enough to support a train without an extremely strong midpoint such as NYC. Most people probably would be like my wife and rather grab the flight than take a train overnight, and of those that want to save on accommodations, many would take the even cheaper option of a bus over a train even if the sleep isn't as good. To have a single daily train connecting two points run overnight seems like you'd miss a huge part of your market share.

I tend to agree with you at least as far as my own travels go. My preference always is to sleep in a bed on terra-ferma if I have to work the next day. I do enjoy traveling by Sleepers but only for recreational travel, or if on a business trip, I can manage to keep the day of arrival free. Somehow sleeping in real bed and doing the morning toiletries in something bigger than the smallest closet in my house has its own charm, before having to walk into a meeting, or attend a morning breakfast meeting.



#16 Philly Amtrak Fan

Philly Amtrak Fan

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,499 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Philadelphia Area

Posted 01 February 2017 - 05:58 PM

I guess some of you see it as you would rather sleep on your bed than on an Amtrak train. I don't disagree. But I see it as when I was in California and traveling between the Bay Area and LA, would I rather spend a whole day on the Coast Starlight or an extra day of sight seeing in San Fran or LA? If you have to travel 7 or more hours on a train, pick your poison. In the old days they ran the Pennsylvanian from PHL to CHI leaving I believe 6am from Philly and midnight in Chicago. I would never take that train if I had another option. 18 hours? At least give me the overnight to sleep some of the time off.

 

I do agree you'd like to have at least one if not more than one daily trip to even consider an overnight train. The PGH-PHL would be ideal as the 2nd or if we're really lucky 3rd train between the two cities. Similarly, if you could have a SAC-LAX on top of the CS that would work (and did work before California stopped funding it).

 

In reality the western Pennsylvanian is stuck in the middle of the day so you can't really do much in the morning or the evening. CHI-MSP is morning to afternoon eastbound so you still have all night to spend in Chicago and afternoon to evening westbound so you still have at least until noon in Chicago.

 

As for the transfers in Chicago, if you have one route between two cities you have to schedule it for transfers. But if you have two, why not have one to serve the intermediate points outside the graveyard shift? Not everyone going to Chicago wants to transfer east or west, some just want to visit Chicago. Or if most of the passengers through CHI do want to transfer east or west maybe a transcontinental is justified or at least NYP-DEN or NYP-Texas (both would probably be fewer miles than the current western 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)!
 
 


#17 jebr

jebr

    Engineer

  • Forum Manager
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,553 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:MSP

Posted 01 February 2017 - 09:16 PM

Here's the thing: your first post in this thread stated that we can't add any new trains or modify the routing of any current ones; we could only work with the timetables. With a single train a day on pretty much every route with rather limited overlap (the Silver Star/Silver Meteor being the closest, with the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited playing a distant second, and the rest at best maybe sharing endpoints with another train) I don't think there's a whole lot of tweaking we can do without a lot of other consequences.

 

If we have a couple of trains running a 8-12 hour long corridor, make the third daily trip an overnight trip. I probably wouldn't do it before the third simply because there really aren't any corridors that would be better off with one overnight and one day train versus two day trains (one in the morning and one in the afternoon.) An afternoon train would still catch people that want to spend half the day in the major market while picking up the after-work crowd downline, whereas a night train would have very little midpoint ridership. 

 

As for the sightseeing trip, I'd probably look at catching a late night flight down or staying one more night and catching a morning flight to my destination. An airport hotel room plus a coach flight will be around the same price (if not cheaper) than an Amtrak sleeper ticket for a similar distance, and I have a full-sized bed in a full-sized room to sleep on. This will probably leave me more rested overall given similar time constraints, and more rest if either end doesn't have a strict time constraint. If a train is running from CHI - MSP from 11 PM to 7 AM, I won't be able to go to sleep before 11 PM (even if I board early, it likely won't be more than a half-hour early, and it takes time to settle down and go to sleep) and I'll have to wake up by 6 if I want to shower (maybe earlier if the showers are busy) and have to quickly get ready before having to jump out at 7. At a hotel I'm not under that strict of time constraints; one end would have that (flight at 8, so I have to be on the airport shuttle by 6) but if my events end at 8, I could be at my hotel room by 9, with my bags already in there and settled in and be to sleep by 9:30 PM easily.



#18 Anderson

Anderson

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 8,176 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Virginia

Posted 24 February 2017 - 02:22 PM

A lot of this depends on the cities being served.  In some cities, though, a downtown hotel has a good chance to hurt (we're talking the difference between $99-139 and $169-200+ for the same general price ranges).  The same tends to apply to a number of other cities (San Francisco, Chicago, and New York stand out in the US; Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver stand out in Canada).

There's also the option to "slow run" for an 0800-ish arrival while preserving a sane Chicago departure: An extra hour isn't going to be missed somewhere in rural Wisconsin, but doing so could also give you some "commuter-esque" business on the way into MSP.  This isn't a "park the train for four hours" move like VIA did with the Enterprise (why they did not simply run that train via Ottawa, which would have added another two hours as well as a decent city pair, and run it from Quebec City...sigh...).


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)

#19 Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 15,596 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Austin Texas
  • Interests:Passenger Trains/Travel/Sports(except Soccer)/Government-Politics/Reading/Old Buildings
    Movies/Music/Unicorns and Ancient Aliens!

Posted 24 February 2017 - 03:56 PM

Good post Cliff! I remember the Late and Great Enterprise well, rode it many Times between Montreal and Toronto and always wondered why VIA didn't originate it in Quebec City and run through Ottawa as you mentioned, instead of parking for several hours in Brockville.

Also it used to be a cross platform transfer at Union Station to the Canadian once the Canadian stopped originating in Montreal and left Toronto in the morning. 😎
 
"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

#20 Anderson

Anderson

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 8,176 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Virginia

Posted 27 February 2017 - 09:57 AM

I'll take a shot at my own question:
VIA seems to have not really "figured out" the idea of having a train run between more than one main city pair on the Corridor until a few years ago.  All of their trains were, at one point, either Quebec-Montreal, Montreal-Ottawa, Montreal-Toronto, Ottawa-Toronto, or Toronto-[west] with the odd exception of one or two through-Ottawa trains.  I still remember when they added an Ottawa-Quebec through-run a few years ago and recall how it stood out.

 

This bugs me in no small part because of what forcing a change of intercity trains does to ridership, and because on occasion the equipment will run through but pax may have to do a Chinese Fire Drill in the station all the same.  The Enterprise stands out, yes, but there are plenty of other cases where even if seat turnover is 90%, listing and enabling a through-ticket (even with, say, a ticket re-scan on change of crew and a 20-30 minute hold at Montreal or Toronto...and remember, they start BC boarding 20-30 minutes early) has room to slip a significant amount of ridership into the system.

Edit: I'm going to blame the "Montreal Fire Drill" approach on the Rens.  VIA makes a concerted effort to keep that equipment around Montreal, presumably for maintenance reasons.  This is a valid approach, but it is not without consequences in terms of sacrificing through ridership.  Between the likely coming standardization of equipment, VIA adding more Quebec-Montreal-Ottawa through service, and (hopefully) increased travel speeds I'm hopeful that Montreal and Toronto might become analagous to Washington in terms of just doing a "toaster pop" and running sets through.


Edited by Anderson, 27 February 2017 - 11:50 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)




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users