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Article: "What's Wrong With Amtrak"?


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#21 A Voice

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 05:01 PM

Or simply plow back the $500 million over the rail surplus into funding NEC maintenance. If the Commuter Agencies cough up a bit more then some of that surplus can be plowed back into mew equipment instead.

 

There's no free lunch.  The $500 million still represents real money which has been accounted for already in Amtrak's annual budget.  You can't come out ahead by redirecting Acela revenues into additional infrastructure work; You'll just need an additional half billion to make up the difference somewhere else.  

 

The states, through the respective Departments of Transportation and the various commuter agencies, would balk at paying a greater share of Northeast Corridor maintenance and improvements, even though they often soak up greater capacity than Amtrak does on its own railroad.  In theory, Amtrak could function fine with only one tube under the Hudson River in service; it's NJ Transit that couldn't, and needs more capacity in Penn Station.  I'll agree the commuter agencies would fairly be paying more (much more, in fact), but politically the idea is a non-starter.  It would be seen as just another way of shifting costs onto the states (again.....), absent a reasoned federal transportation policy.  And, honestly, they would have a point.  



#22 Anderson

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 02:10 AM

 

Or simply plow back the $500 million over the rail surplus into funding NEC maintenance. If the Commuter Agencies cough up a bit more then some of that surplus can be plowed back into mew equipment instead.

 

There's no free lunch.  The $500 million still represents real money which has been accounted for already in Amtrak's annual budget.  You can't come out ahead by redirecting Acela revenues into additional infrastructure work; You'll just need an additional half billion to make up the difference somewhere else.  

 

The states, through the respective Departments of Transportation and the various commuter agencies, would balk at paying a greater share of Northeast Corridor maintenance and improvements, even though they often soak up greater capacity than Amtrak does on its own railroad.  In theory, Amtrak could function fine with only one tube under the Hudson River in service; it's NJ Transit that couldn't, and needs more capacity in Penn Station.  I'll agree the commuter agencies would fairly be paying more (much more, in fact), but politically the idea is a non-starter.  It would be seen as just another way of shifting costs onto the states (again.....), absent a reasoned federal transportation policy.  And, honestly, they would have a point.  

 

Well, and let's imagine that Amtrak did go ahead and pass the bill along.  What would their reaction be if NJT and SEPTA turned around and said "You know what?  We want to bid out several slots to a third-party operator to try and offset our costs..."  Amtrak would (understandably if not justifiably) have a whole litter of calves at the concept.

To be fair, there's a block of NEC maintenance stuff that the states don't need for their trains (basically, most of the Acela-related improvements) and a large chunk of that does need to come from Amtrak...but at the same time I do think that should be allowed to cross-subsidize the rest of the system, if at a reduced rate (I do get the states not wanting to pick up the check for a bunch of 160 MPH improvements that they could never hope to use for their trains).


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#23 jis

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 06:32 AM

But the there also is a whole slew of tracks that needs to be kept operational mostly for the use of Commuter agencies, and just the operation of Amtrak trains do not require them.

The way to handle it is to manage tariff through the use of slots of various quality priced at appropriate levels.

As things stand, it is the NEC Commission, not Amtrak, that is tasked with figuring out who should pay how much, and it is quite likely that both Amtrak and Commuter agencies will land up paying more to cover the day to day maintenance to maintain SOGR. Capital improvements are the things that will be subsidized.

#24 neroden

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 05:55 PM

The only thing that matters is what is the total cost to run a train for a mile

Bzzzt. Wrong. You've failed to distinguish between fixed costs and variable costs. This matters. Look it up if you don't know the difference.

Which do you mean by "total cost"? I can tell you that practically every Amtrak train covers its variable costs. They nearly all generate a "gross profit".

The fixed costs, however, are most of the costs. Amtrak needs to run *more trains* in order to cover the fixed costs.
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#25 neroden

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 06:18 PM

As to the cost of the Acela IIs ($2.45bn, presuming that the whole package associated with them is considered part of the purchase), that would fund about a thousand new single-level railcars.  Using a trainset model for this (even if they would be individual cars), let's say you want your "standard" LD train to be 12 cars (bag, 4 sleepers, diner, cafe, 5 coaches)[1] and two locomotives.  Per Amtrak's estimates from a few years ago that's going to be $2.5m/car and $5-7m/locomotive (so $40-44m/set).  That's 54-61 sets.

Right now the LD system uses something like 52-53 sets of equipment plus spares (I forget how many the Sunset Limited uses), so in theory you'd be able to increase LD service by somewhere around 100%, maybe a hair more if you were then able to use those frequencies to improve equipment turn rates (e.g. reducing the amount of equipment that sits idle for close or more than to 24 hours somewhere).  My guess is that you'd be able to roughly get a 110-115% increase in service.

To be fair, there's not a strict apples-to-apples comparison here given the nature of some of the Western LD consists but you'd suddenly have a ton of additional LD capacity.  Still, you'd probably be looking at ridership on the LD system coming close to doubling...maybe more, maybe less depending on the schedules that you opted for as a result (and any knock-on effects to other schedules and through-traffic).  Still, that's probably somewhere in the ballpark of another 4m riders give or take.

Edit: If a mass order like that knocked the unit price of the cars down by 10% that's $37-41m/set that's another five sets.  At $2m even (20% down) that's $34-38m/set and 64-72 sets (10-11 additional).

[1] Obviously there would be variations: The Silver Star presently runs with 7-8 cars and a single locomotive while replacing the Builder with single-level equipment while preserving present capacity would probably involve something like a 15-20 car train (I'm thinking 6-7 sleepers, 7-9 coaches, and 2-3 food service cars).  You could also stipulate that on some routes with multiple long-haul trains there would be one or two "A trains" with a diner, second cafe/lounge, and more sleepers and one or two "B trains" with just an enhanced cafe and fewer sleepers.  Playing with the Builder as an example, a Western Star/Mainstreeter running with more limited amenities on an alternate schedule would arguably cover many of the same riders...but should induce additional riders as well through the added convenience of a second daily train.  In this respect, two 12-14 car trains might well perform better than a single 20-car train in terms of attracting ridership, even if one of them is obviously the "lesser" of the two.


I like the way you think. Here's an elaboration. And I'm not trying to compete with the Avelia Liberty order here; I'm trying to make a straight-up pitch for more cars.

How much would it cost, and how many cars would we need, to simply do this on the eastern services?  So:

-- LSL, and my "TWO A DAY" proposal running on the opposite schedule (6 trainsets?)

-- Broadway Limited -- TWO A DAY (6 trainsets?)

-- One a day Cardinal (worst case, 4 trainsets?)

-- One a day CL (3 trainsets?)

-- Two a day Silvers (as now -- 8 trainsets?)

-- Two a day Crescent -- one to New Orleans, one to Fort Worth (9 trainsets?)

 

That's about 36 sets of equipment.  Amtrak is trying to make its platforms in the East suitable for 12-car trains consistently, so 12-car is a good standard to work with.  So call it 1.44 to 1.58 billion dollars... except that a large order should be able to cut that down a bit.   We do already have 50 perfectly good Viewliners and 50 more on order, not counting the baggage cars, so you can reduce that by $250 million.  The order should still be large enough.

 

I think the exceedingly important thing to do is, however, to start buying the tracks.  The freights have caused trouble with almost all attempts to get more service.  Build South of the Lake and you relieve NS's biggest national headache, and this sort of proposal becomes a lot easier (note that I just proposed running 4 new  passenger trains per day through that section from Porter to Chicago).


Edited by neroden, 21 April 2017 - 06:18 PM.

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#26 Tarm

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 04:47 PM

 

The only thing that matters is what is the total cost to run a train for a mile

Bzzzt. Wrong. You've failed to distinguish between fixed costs and variable costs. This matters. Look it up if you don't know the difference.

Which do you mean by "total cost"? I can tell you that practically every Amtrak train covers its variable costs. They nearly all generate a "gross profit".

The fixed costs, however, are most of the costs. Amtrak needs to run *more trains* in order to cover the fixed costs.

 

 

Passenger trains have layers of costs.

1. Above the rail costs. Fuel, supplies, repairs and labor to get the train ready and to travel from point A to point B.

2.Trackage cost. Payments to the host railroads or a prorated share of the maintenance cost for Amtrak owned track.

3.Overhead. Headquarters, ticketing, off train managerial labor, etc.

4. Equipment replacement. As equipment wears out it must be replaced. Train operations need to have an operational margin after the first three cost categories are covered to fund new equipment replacements.

 

The title of this topic is "What's wrong with Amtrak?" so I'm trying to find out what is wrong with Amtrak.

 

So my question to this group is what routes cover which cost categories?

Do western LD trains cover 1 & 2 ?

Do eastern LD trains cover 1 & 2 with a little left over for 3?

Does the NE Corridor cover 1 & 2 & 3 and maybe some of 4?

Does anyone know?



#27 Carolina Special

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 06:38 PM

I believe when Amtrak reports route results there are three major cost buckets: directly assigned costs, allocations, and non-assigned costs (primarily depreciation). The first two buckets feed into the fully allocated contribution/loss that Amtrak reports: the non-assigned costs are in there to tie to GAAP results for public consumption, but doesn't factor into the route results (although depreciation as a proxy for capital expenditures likely should be considered in some manner).

The directly assigned costs are directly coded to each train/route and in theory should be accurate. There are probably coding errors each month, but a competent accounting department should find any material issues.

Allocations are costs from particular cost centers that have to be assigned by some metric to each train route. These are what the majority of the arguments seem to be about. Amtrak historically has allocated more than the freights, which helps lead to accuracy complaints.

As it stands in FY 2016, Amtrak says that with directly assigned & allocated costs the NEC made $469.7MM, State supported routes lost $69.6MM, and LD lost $501.6MM. Combined system lost $101.5MM, which looks related to LD which is why you get calls to shut down LD. Add in depreciation and some other non allocated items gets you to the reported $1,080.5MM loss for the year.

The primary question to me would be how accurate are the allocations by route. And what is the bare minimum to allocate to keep the train running. It should be a number between zero and total allocated costs.

But that is tough to answer without more detailed breakouts of allocation numbers, which in fairness to Amtrak would consume pages and pages of numbers if you tried to include all the details I would want to analyze, even in summary form. Amtrak has a lot of cost centers. I would expect that Amtrak accounting does have this, though, to provide to management. If anyone has seen anything like this published, please let know.

The best description I've seen of the Amtrak allocation system is the 2016 US DOT "Update on the Methodology for Amtrak Cost Accounting", which I just started looking at last night. It appears to cover Amtrak allocations for FY2014 in some detail. It probably would help to have a little background in accounting and allocations work before diving into the 157 pages: it does seem like a great sleeping pill supplement.

That's what I think I know, or don't really know (which is lots!).

#28 Tarm

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 08:03 PM

Thank you Carolina Special.

Shall we talk about the elephant in the room? Do LD trains cover their directly assigned costs? Does Amtrak attribute more than $500 million allocated cost to the LD trains? Because if LD trains do not cover their directly assigned cost then adding more LD trains will increase Amtrak's total losses. The loss per train will go down as the allocated cost is spread over more trains but the total loss for Amtrak will rise. With the current administration that is a political nonstarter.



#29 Larry H.

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 10:21 PM

First they need to have enough cars to cover the demand. When there are no sleeper accommodations for many weeks then something is wrong and the amount of passengers is greatly reduced from what it should be.  Then runs like the City of New Orleans used to have a morning and evening departure on each end of the run. That would no doubt greatly increase the ridership because getting the train in the middle of the night, or having to detrain at 3am is not conducive to encouraging riders. As I said recently in another thread the worst thing they did was to eliminate lots of runs that used to provide half way convenient connections to riders throughout the nation.  When a possible customer living in Kansas City or St. Louis wants to go to Florida why should you have to go to Chicago, then Washington or New York to go south?  The system is simply too small to really generate passengers.  Yet those trains that do run at certain times are quite full. If there were connections to far more places the ridership would really increase. 

 

Another thing when you were talking about Airplanes compared to cost for Trains I was struck some time back by an article that said the entire Superliner fleet of cars only would pay for one Boeing large jet.  Then the fuel used for a train was unbelievably less than the thousands of gallons a plane burns an hour, and that is polluting the air in major ways if your concerned about those things. 



#30 Tarm

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 06:28 AM

Larry H.

Would the fare revenue from those two additional CONO departures cover the directly assigned costs of those trains? Would there be sufficient funds remaining to service the equipment loan for the new equipment?  Sadly I think the answer is no because if it was yes Amtrak would have already done it. I think no is the same answer for all the new LD services I see dreamed up on this board. Now adding cars to an existing train to capture additional riders makes sense. Fare revenues "should" go up faster than additional costs. Wasn't the whole point of the Viewliner order to reduce repair costs and increase ridership?

What is wrong with Amtrak is that a lot of LD trains lose money. I would bet that a lot of them do not even cover their directly assigned cost let alone overhead or depreciation.  Amtrak needs to be restructured before someone pulls the plug on the whole thing.



#31 A Voice

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 03:16 PM

What is wrong with Amtrak is that a lot of LD trains lose money. I would bet that a lot of them do not even cover their directly assigned cost let alone overhead or depreciation.

 

Profit is not the objective in providing intercity passenger rail.  All passenger trains - including Acela - lose money and require a subsidy (based on fully allocated costs).  The purpose of the passenger train is a transportation service, not to make money for stockholders (else Amtrak wouldn't be a quasi-government entity).  

 

Commuter trains, light-rail, high-speed corridors - really any form of road or rail mass transit are all understood to require taxpayer support.  Why should the long-distance or regional passenger train be held to a different standard?  



#32 Tarm

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 07:50 PM

 

What is wrong with Amtrak is that a lot of LD trains lose money. I would bet that a lot of them do not even cover their directly assigned cost let alone overhead or depreciation.

 

Profit is not the objective in providing intercity passenger rail.  All passenger trains - including Acela - lose money and require a subsidy (based on fully allocated costs).  The purpose of the passenger train is a transportation service, not to make money for stockholders (else Amtrak wouldn't be a quasi-government entity).  

 

Commuter trains, light-rail, high-speed corridors - really any form of road or rail mass transit are all understood to require taxpayer support.  Why should the long-distance or regional passenger train be held to a different standard?  

 

Thank you, A Voice, you have hit the nail on the head. It is a question of subsidy efficiency. Is it in the best interest of the country for Amtrak to carry one passenger at a 20 cent subsidy per mile or ten passengers at a 2 cent subsidy each per mile. Would you rather have the Empire Builder or four round trips each day from Chicago to St. Paul plus two extra round trips Seattle to Portland.  Which would serve the most passengers? Which would have the greatest passenger miles? Which would have the smaller subsidy? Coach trains cost less money to buy, cost less money to run, have massively lower overall labor costs and are more energy efficient than LD trains.



#33 A Voice

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 10:52 PM

It is a question of subsidy efficiency. Is it in the best interest of the country for Amtrak to carry one passenger at a 20 cent subsidy per mile or ten passengers at a 2 cent subsidy each per mile

 

 

 

Not all passenger train services are going to carry the same cost structure; The Northeast Corridor can show an 'above the rail' profit (again, a half truth), but has huge capital expenses for infrastructure which completely dwarf the relatively modest operating subsidy for a train such as the Empire Builder.  In many ways it is, at best, an apples to oranges comparison.  Both services are important and both are worthy of federal (taxpayer) support; Neither should be expected to break-even financially.  

 

 

 

Would you rather have the Empire Builder or four round trips each day from Chicago to St. Paul plus two extra round trips Seattle to Portland.

 

It's not an either/or choice; You cannot trade a long-distance (LD) Chicago to Seattle/Portland train for additional (state-supported) regional trains.  Further, what you really need are all three services.  Not everyone is traveling within strictly defined corridors or regions; The St. Paul and Washington State trains will carry the most passengers, but the LD Empire Builder is the necessary link which ties them all together.  You wouldn't run a train (or bus, highway, etc.) from New York City to Philadelphia and another train from Baltimore to Washington D.C. - and no service at all between Philadelphia and Baltimore.  LD service in rural areas is appropriately more limited, but not fundamentally different.  

 

 

 

 Which would serve the most passengers? Which would have the greatest passenger miles? Which would have the smaller subsidy?

 

The greatest number of passengers (and passenger miles) are to/from the destinations with the greatest demand, obviously.  The smaller total subsidy is generally the long-distance service (fewer trains with little or no infrastructure cost are rather less expensive).  

 

 

 

Coach trains cost less money to buy, cost less money to run, have massively lower overall labor costs and are more energy efficient than LD trains.

 

I don't fully understand this comment.  How are coach-only trains more energy efficient than LD trains which carry dining and sleeping cars?  Coaches aren't that much less expensive than a sleeper to build, but the sleeping car's premium price potentially sees higher revenue.  Labor is related to the extent of onboard amenities; There are LD trains without sleepers and without dining cars, and conversely corridor and regional trains with First-class and business class sections.  You can't make such sweeping generalities with such a variety of differing service levels and transportation needs across the nation.  



#34 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 05:49 AM

 


 

 

Not all passenger train services are going to carry the same cost structure; The Northeast Corridor can show an 'above the rail' profit (again, a half truth), but has huge capital expenses for infrastructure which completely dwarf the relatively modest operating subsidy for a train such as the Empire Builder.  In many ways it is, at best, an apples to oranges comparison.  Both services are important and both are worthy of federal (taxpayer) support; Neither should be expected to break-even financially.  

 

 

 

The NEC has the highest cost but the highest payoff in terms of number of trains and speed. It is Amtrak's tracks and responsibility to maintain such tracks as opposed to "renting" from NS and CSX. Essentially Amtrak is paying them to maintain the tracks. The downside is the host railroads lower the capacity and the speeds which add to the operating costs and reduce the potential revenue. Ideally Amtrak would own more tracks and pay more for maintenance but run ten NYP-Florida and ten NYP-CHI (five via PA and five via Upstate) to make up for it. In the long run that might improve Amtrak's finances but that would be a huge startup cost. Think about how much time and money is needed just to connect the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas in California, double if not triple that to connect NYP to Florida or Chicago (although for Florida you'd only need WAS to Florida). Amtrak will always be at the mercy of the host railroads otherwise. If we throw enough money at them, they may allow us to run an extra train or two. I doubt they will ever allow Amtrak to run the number of trains to improve performance along the routes and satisfy demand.

 

 

 

It is a question of subsidy efficiency. Is it in the best interest of the country for Amtrak to carry one passenger at a 20 cent subsidy per mile or ten passengers at a 2 cent subsidy each per mile

 

 

 

Not all passenger train services are going to carry the same cost structure; The Northeast Corridor can show an 'above the rail' profit (again, a half truth), but has huge capital expenses for infrastructure which completely dwarf the relatively modest operating subsidy for a train such as the Empire Builder.  In many ways it is, at best, an apples to oranges comparison.  Both services are important and both are worthy of federal (taxpayer) support; Neither should be expected to break-even financially.  

 

 

 

I go by the R & R standard. If enough people benefit and at least help pay for such cost, it is worth it. If trains are half empty for hundreds of miles, it's not.

 

 

 

 

It's not an either/or choice; You cannot trade a long-distance (LD) Chicago to Seattle/Portland train for additional (state-supported) regional trains.  Further, what you really need are all three services.  Not everyone is traveling within strictly defined corridors or regions; The St. Paul and Washington State trains will carry the most passengers, but the LD Empire Builder is the necessary link which ties them all together.  You wouldn't run a train (or bus, highway, etc.) from New York City to Philadelphia and another train from Baltimore to Washington D.C. - and no service at all between Philadelphia and Baltimore.  LD service in rural areas is appropriately more limited, but not fundamentally different.  

 

 

Differences between the two examples.

 

1. PHL-BAL is not even 100 miles. MSP-SPK is over 1400 miles. It's easier IMO to justify a 100 mile gap than a 1400 mile one.

 

2) A lot more people ride between NYP-PHL and BAL-WAS than CHI-Milwaukee-MSP and SPK-SEA/Portland.


Edited by Philly Amtrak Fan, 24 April 2017 - 05:55 AM.

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/

 


#35 Thirdrail7

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 07:32 PM

 


 

 

Differences between the two examples.

 

1. PHL-BAL is not even 100 miles. MSP-SPK is over 1400 miles. It's easier IMO to justify a 100 mile gap than a 1400 mile one.

 

2) A lot more people ride between NYP-PHL and BAL-WAS than CHI-Milwaukee-MSP and SPK-SEA/Portland.

 

 

 

You could argue that a lot more people ride between those points because there is a lot of service between those points. If you took some of the billions that it takes to run the NEC and invested in the CHI-MSP corridor or SPK-SEA corridor, you might see a great increase in riders.


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


#36 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 07:48 PM

 

 


 

 

Differences between the two examples.

 

1. PHL-BAL is not even 100 miles. MSP-SPK is over 1400 miles. It's easier IMO to justify a 100 mile gap than a 1400 mile one.

 

2) A lot more people ride between NYP-PHL and BAL-WAS than CHI-Milwaukee-MSP and SPK-SEA/Portland.

 

 

 

You could argue that a lot more people ride between those points because there is a lot of service between those points. If you took some of the billions that it takes to run the NEC and invested in the CHI-MSP corridor or SPK-SEA corridor, you might see a great increase in riders.

 

 

Sorry I meant to say from somewhere between CHI-Milwaukee-MSP to somewhere between Spokane-SEA/Portland (ex. from CHI-SEA). Not the corridors themselves but between the corridors through the 1400 miles in the middle of nowhere.


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/

 


#37 CCC1007

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 08:07 PM

 

 

 
 
Differences between the two examples.
 
1. PHL-BAL is not even 100 miles. MSP-SPK is over 1400 miles. It's easier IMO to justify a 100 mile gap than a 1400 mile one.
 
2) A lot more people ride between NYP-PHL and BAL-WAS than CHI-Milwaukee-MSP and SPK-SEA/Portland.
 

 
 
You could argue that a lot more people ride between those points because there is a lot of service between those points. If you took some of the billions that it takes to run the NEC and invested in the CHI-MSP corridor or SPK-SEA corridor, you might see a great increase in riders.
 
 
Sorry I meant to say from somewhere between CHI-Milwaukee-MSP to somewhere between Spokane-SEA/Portland (ex. from CHI-SEA). Not the corridors themselves but between the corridors through the 1400 miles in the middle of nowhere.
If "middle of nowhere" included you, you might not think it was nowhere. Have you ever spent any time in a truly small town away from the major highways?

Edited by CCC1007, 24 April 2017 - 08:07 PM.


#38 Tarm

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 08:17 PM

 

It is a question of subsidy efficiency. Is it in the best interest of the country for Amtrak to carry one passenger at a 20 cent subsidy per mile or ten passengers at a 2 cent subsidy each per mile

 

 

 

Not all passenger train services are going to carry the same cost structure; The Northeast Corridor can show an 'above the rail' profit (again, a half truth), but has huge capital expenses for infrastructure which completely dwarf the relatively modest operating subsidy for a train such as the Empire Builder.  In many ways it is, at best, an apples to oranges comparison.  Both services are important and both are worthy of federal (taxpayer) support; Neither should be expected to break-even financially.  

 

 

 

Would you rather have the Empire Builder or four round trips each day from Chicago to St. Paul plus two extra round trips Seattle to Portland.

 

It's not an either/or choice; You cannot trade a long-distance (LD) Chicago to Seattle/Portland train for additional (state-supported) regional trains.  Further, what you really need are all three services.  Not everyone is traveling within strictly defined corridors or regions; The St. Paul and Washington State trains will carry the most passengers, but the LD Empire Builder is the necessary link which ties them all together.  You wouldn't run a train (or bus, highway, etc.) from New York City to Philadelphia and another train from Baltimore to Washington D.C. - and no service at all between Philadelphia and Baltimore.  LD service in rural areas is appropriately more limited, but not fundamentally different.  

 

 

 

 Which would serve the most passengers? Which would have the greatest passenger miles? Which would have the smaller subsidy?

 

The greatest number of passengers (and passenger miles) are to/from the destinations with the greatest demand, obviously.  The smaller total subsidy is generally the long-distance service (fewer trains with little or no infrastructure cost are rather less expensive).  

 

 

 

Coach trains cost less money to buy, cost less money to run, have massively lower overall labor costs and are more energy efficient than LD trains.

 

I don't fully understand this comment.  How are coach-only trains more energy efficient than LD trains which carry dining and sleeping cars?  Coaches aren't that much less expensive than a sleeper to build, but the sleeping car's premium price potentially sees higher revenue.  Labor is related to the extent of onboard amenities; There are LD trains without sleepers and without dining cars, and conversely corridor and regional trains with First-class and business class sections.  You can't make such sweeping generalities with such a variety of differing service levels and transportation needs across the nation.  

 

Coach trains cost less to buy because they do not have sleepers, a diner or an observation car. A five car coach train has the same capacity as a four coach train with two sleepers, a diner and an observation car. Five cars instead of eight.

Coach trains do not have the diner or sleeping car attendants hence the lower labor cost. They also do not fill up half a sleeper with on board train personal.

A five car trains weights less than an eight car train and fuel use is related to total weight.

Amtrak should not be in the business of hauling metal around. I should be in the business of hauling paying passenger around!



#39 CCC1007

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 08:41 PM

 

It is a question of subsidy efficiency. Is it in the best interest of the country for Amtrak to carry one passenger at a 20 cent subsidy per mile or ten passengers at a 2 cent subsidy each per mile
 
 

 
Not all passenger train services are going to carry the same cost structure; The Northeast Corridor can show an 'above the rail' profit (again, a half truth), but has huge capital expenses for infrastructure which completely dwarf the relatively modest operating subsidy for a train such as the Empire Builder.  In many ways it is, at best, an apples to oranges comparison.  Both services are important and both are worthy of federal (taxpayer) support; Neither should be expected to break-even financially.  
 

 
 Would you rather have the Empire Builder or four round trips each day from Chicago to St. Paul plus two extra round trips Seattle to Portland.

 
It's not an either/or choice; You cannot trade a long-distance (LD) Chicago to Seattle/Portland train for additional (state-supported) regional trains.  Further, what you really need are all three services.  Not everyone is traveling within strictly defined corridors or regions; The St. Paul and Washington State trains will carry the most passengers, but the LD Empire Builder is the necessary link which ties them all together.  You wouldn't run a train (or bus, highway, etc.) from New York City to Philadelphia and another train from Baltimore to Washington D.C. - and no service at all between Philadelphia and Baltimore.  LD service in rural areas is appropriately more limited, but not fundamentally different.  
 

 
  Which would serve the most passengers? Which would have the greatest passenger miles? Which would have the smaller subsidy?

 
The greatest number of passengers (and passenger miles) are to/from the destinations with the greatest demand, obviously.  The smaller total subsidy is generally the long-distance service (fewer trains with little or no infrastructure cost are rather less expensive).  
 

 
 Coach trains cost less money to buy, cost less money to run, have massively lower overall labor costs and are more energy efficient than LD trains.

 
I don't fully understand this comment.  How are coach-only trains more energy efficient than LD trains which carry dining and sleeping cars?  Coaches aren't that much less expensive than a sleeper to build, but the sleeping car's premium price potentially sees higher revenue.  Labor is related to the extent of onboard amenities; There are LD trains without sleepers and without dining cars, and conversely corridor and regional trains with First-class and business class sections.  You can't make such sweeping generalities with such a variety of differing service levels and transportation needs across the nation.  
 
Coach trains cost less to buy because they do not have sleepers, a diner or an observation car. A five car coach train has the same capacity as a four coach train with two sleepers, a diner and an observation car. Five cars instead of eight.
Coach trains do not have the diner or sleeping car attendants hence the lower labor cost. They also do not fill up half a sleeper with on board train personal.
A five car trains weights less than an eight car train and fuel use is related to total weight.
Amtrak should not be in the business of hauling metal around. I should be in the business of hauling paying passenger around!
Ok, I want to know if you have ever actually ridden one of the trains you think are wastes of money? There are good reasons to keep them operating as is, though it is hard to explain to those people that haven't been on these trains. Several of these reasons have been explained here already and I don't see that any of it has sunk in with you.

#40 WoodyinNYC

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 08:51 PM

Starting next year, Amtrak will begin to engage in a great demonstration to answer if overnight trains can offer sleeper and dining car service much more efficiently. The Eastern LD trains will each gain one additional sleeper from the Viewliner II order of 25 cars.

 

Trains that now run with 3 sleepers will have 4, and those with 2 sleepers will operate with 3. This equipment will change the ratio of sleepers to diners, or to see it another way, to change the ratio of paying sleeper class customers to the diner staff. Where 1 diner served 2 sleepers, it will be 1 diner serving 3 sleepers, yielding a 50% increase in productivity. Where it has been 3 sleepers per diner, it will be 4, yielding a 33% increase in output per crew member. (Note that I assume no change in the other cars in the consists, so the only added non-trivial cost will be fuel used to haul one more traincar.)

 

It could take some time for occupancy and pricing for the new capacity to get sorted out. But I remain hopeful that serving more riders with the same number of crew will allow the sleeper-diner combos to show a net positive operation.

 

 






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