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Article: "What's Wrong With Amtrak"?


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#41 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 08:53 PM

Tarm,

 

I'm thinking you are comparing running a coach car vs. a sleeper car. The coach car certainly has more capacity. But the sleeper car fare is way higher. So an appropriate question is which brings in more revenue, one coach car or one sleeper car (and this does not account for the additional cost of the sleeper car vs. the coach car)? I would say if you can get the same amount of revenue from 50 coach passengers vs. 25 sleeper passengers that I'd rather have the 50. You can (and do) say the train itself is a necessity but the sleeper (and diner) are luxuries. Congress shouldn't IMO be subsidizing these. It basically is saying you are paying taxes so people can enjoy Amtrak steaks.

 

The Palmetto looks to have better financials than most of the LD trains because of the lower cost of the train without sleepers or a diner car even though it doesn't bring in as much revenue (or ridership south of WAS). So while sleepers for the SS or SM and diner for the SM bring in more business and more money, do the sleepers/diners pay for themselves? Probably not.


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/

 


#42 crescent-zephyr

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 10:13 PM

Philly.. I do agree that corridors make the most sense. The problem is, it's not an either or. You can't take LD trains away and magically have corridors. I feel the opposite is true. The LD trains help lay the foundations for future corridor trains. Both in ridership, and infrustructure.

Your sleeper argument makes little sense to me... Do you beleive that airlines should not be able to have first class on subsidized flights?

Amtrak: - Coast Starlight*, Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin*, Cascades*, Empire Builder*, California Zephyr*, Southwest Chief*, City of New Orleans*, River Cities, Illinois Zephyr*, Wolverine, Cardinal, Capitol Limited*, Lake Shore Limited, Downeaster, Acela Express*, Crescent*, Carolinian*, Silver Star*, Silver Meteor*, Maple Leaf* Texas Eagle.

 

VIA: - Canadian*

 

Iowa Pacific - Hoosier State*, and City of New Orleans Pullman*.   


#43 A Voice

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 01:08 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.

 

 

 

Has the use of the new Viewliner Ii sleepers above actually been announced as such by Amtrak?  Not every train has the same level of sleeper demand, and each not does necessarily need exactly one more sleeper than current.  Further, if the new sleepers are deployed in this manner, will there be enough cars to restore sleepers to 66/67 (Twilight Shoreliner) and other potential uses (daily Cardinal, etc.)?  



#44 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 02:05 PM

Philly.. I do agree that corridors make the most sense. The problem is, it's not an either or. You can't take LD trains away and magically have corridors. I feel the opposite is true. The LD trains help lay the foundations for future corridor trains. Both in ridership, and infrustructure.

Your sleeper argument makes little sense to me... Do you beleive that airlines should not be able to have first class on subsidized flights?

 

What airplane flights don't pay for their own operating costs? This doesn't count the airports or air traffic control. I would believe if a flight costs American or United more than it brought in then they wouldn't fly it (as opposed to Amtrak who is forced to run money losers). Can Delta or Southwest ask the government to subsidize the operating costs of a flight from Wilkes Barre to Los Angeles which wouldn't pay for itself?

 

And first class on a plane isn't equivalent to sleepers on Amtrak. I would say Amtrak business class is the better comparison. The equivalent to sleepers on a plane would be seats that fly flat so you can sleep in a horizontal position and you better believe American/United would never pay for those if they didn't pay for themselves. And on planes I highly doubt customers have private toilets (although I have never flown first class and haven't been on an airplane in over 20 years. True, business class is usually a 2+1 layout which does cut capacity but nowhere near as much as a sleeper car.


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/

 


#45 Deni

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 02:10 PM

I'm reminded of the old "joke" about the CEO interviewing candidates to be his new accountant. He asks three candidates to looks at his books and tell him if they say his company is making money or losing money. First accountant says he is making money, second says he is losing money. The third one say, "what do you want the books to say." The third accountant of course gets the job.

 

There are so many ways to interpret the numbers that depending on the person's (politicians's) agenda they'll claim one is doing great and the other sucks. Lots of People in DC claim the NEC makes a profit while arguing to shut down the money-pit LD trains.

 

Fact is probably that the LD trains don't do as poorly as these guys claim and the NEC certainly doesn't make money. Now does the NEC do worse than LD trains? Who knows. But I'd bet when all is added up it is probably a wash. But as others have mentioned already, we really need a NATIONAL rail system in this country. I should be able able to hop on a train in Chicago and be able to get to any region of the country, just as people who live in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Seattle, NYC, etc., should be able to. Now, should I be able to do that with just one train? Well, maybe not. Maybe somebody crunches numbers, ridership, equipment, cost, etc., and it makes sense, for instance, to run a corridor train(s) CHI-MSP and another separate train(s) MSP-SEA/PDX. If that made sense, why not? I mean, I'm nostalgic for my CHI-SEA rides on the EB I took so many times when I was younger so I would miss the full two-day experience but change is OK as long as it makes sense. But I am one of those people who likes long train rides and still think you should be able to go from NYC to LAX on one train because that would be awesome.

 

But would even shorter corridor trains replacing all LD trains make sense? Even if there were no gaps in the service? If I make the same trip from CHI to SEA but have to change trains in MSP, then in Minot, then in Havre, and again in Spokane...well, that would suck. I would also guess that states like MT and ND would have a hard time supporting corridor trains like CA or IL just due to population. LD trains are crucial to rural areas in this country.

 

Either way we still have to invest in the train system in this country the same way we invest in the highway system. To expect them to make money or break even is silly. No, we don't want to throw money down the drain on services nobody uses so certainly operational efficiency is a goal, along with ridership, and serving areas with little other transportation options.

 

One thing I've always thought the LD trains should do is have a "2nd class" sleeper option. Why have they never had dormitory style sleepers like trains once had in this country and still have in other parts of the world, like Europe? (If they still do in Europe, it's been a while since I was on an overnight on mainland Europe, in 1999 we were on a train from the Spanish-French border to Genoa that had six-berth groupings). Why not have cheaper sleeping options such as compartments with 6-berths (bought separately) or lined up down the aisle? Kind of a hostel-style on the train. (Think of the scene in White Christmas when they throw the curtains of their berths open to the hallway when they arrive in VT) Some of my more recent travel in Asia had second class sleepers with six berths like that. I know so many people who are not train buffs like me but would love to take an LD ride across the country but don't want to sit up in coach all night and also can't afford a roomette on Amtrak. I think a mid-range price with a place to lay out and sleep could be a winner for Amtrak. Would really be beneficial with solo travelers.



#46 Deni

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 02:12 PM

 

Philly.. I do agree that corridors make the most sense. The problem is, it's not an either or. You can't take LD trains away and magically have corridors. I feel the opposite is true. The LD trains help lay the foundations for future corridor trains. Both in ridership, and infrustructure.

Your sleeper argument makes little sense to me... Do you beleive that airlines should not be able to have first class on subsidized flights?

 

What airplane flights don't pay for their own operating costs? This doesn't count the airports or air traffic control. I would believe if a flight costs American or United more than it brought in then they wouldn't fly it (as opposed to Amtrak who is forced to run money losers). Can Delta or Southwest ask the government to subsidize the operating costs of a flight from Wilkes Barre to Los Angeles which wouldn't pay for itself?

 

And first class on a plane isn't equivalent to sleepers on Amtrak. I would say Amtrak business class is the better comparison. The equivalent to sleepers on a plane would be seats that fly flat so you can sleep in a horizontal position and you better believe American/United would never pay for those if they didn't pay for themselves. And on planes I highly doubt customers have private toilets (although I have never flown first class and haven't been on an airplane in over 20 years. True, business class is usually a 2+1 layout which does cut capacity but nowhere near as much as a sleeper car.

 

 

There are many regional airports where flights are subsidized by the federal government.



#47 Chessie

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 02:29 PM

I'm reminded of the old "joke" about the CEO interviewing candidates to be his new accountant. He asks three candidates to looks at his books and tell him if they say his company is making money or losing money. First accountant says he is making money, second says he is losing money. The third one say, "what do you want the books to say." The third accountant of course gets the job.
 
There are so many ways to interpret the numbers that depending on the person's (politicians's) agenda they'll claim one is doing great and the other sucks. Lots of People in DC claim the NEC makes a profit while arguing to shut down the money-pit LD trains.
 
Fact is probably that the LD trains don't do as poorly as these guys claim and the NEC certainly doesn't make money. Now does the NEC do worse than LD trains? Who knows. But I'd bet when all is added up it is probably a wash. But as others have mentioned already, we really need a NATIONAL rail system in this country. I should be able able to hop on a train in Chicago and be able to get to any region of the country, just as people who live in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Seattle, NYC, etc., should be able to. Now, should I be able to do that with just one train? Well, maybe not. Maybe somebody crunches numbers, ridership, equipment, cost, etc., and it makes sense, for instance, to run a corridor train(s) CHI-MSP and another separate train(s) MSP-SEA/PDX. If that made sense, why not? I mean, I'm nostalgic for my CHI-SEA rides on the EB I took so many times when I was younger so I would miss the full two-day experience but change is OK as long as it makes sense. But I am one of those people who likes long train rides and still think you should be able to go from NYC to LAX on one train because that would be awesome.
 
But would even shorter corridor trains replacing all LD trains make sense? Even if there were no gaps in the service? If I make the same trip from CHI to SEA but have to change trains in MSP, then in Minot, then in Havre, and again in Spokane...well, that would suck. I would also guess that states like MT and ND would have a hard time supporting corridor trains like CA or IL just due to population. LD trains are crucial to rural areas in this country.
 
Either way we still have to invest in the train system in this country the same way we invest in the highway system. To expect them to make money or break even is silly. No, we don't want to throw money down the drain on services nobody uses so certainly operational efficiency is a goal, along with ridership, and serving areas with little other transportation options.
 
One thing I've always thought the LD trains should do is have a "2nd class" sleeper option. Why have they never had dormitory style sleepers like trains once had in this country and still have in other parts of the world, like Europe? (If they still do in Europe, it's been a while since I was on an overnight on mainland Europe, in 1999 we were on a train from the Spanish-French border to Genoa that had six-berth groupings). Why not have cheaper sleeping options such as compartments with 6-berths (bought separately) or lined up down the aisle? Kind of a hostel-style on the train. (Think of the scene in White Christmas when they throw the curtains of their berths open to the hallway when they arrive in VT) Some of my more recent travel in Asia had second class sleepers with six berths like that. I know so many people who are not train buffs like me but would love to take an LD ride across the country but don't want to sit up in coach all night and also can't afford a roomette on Amtrak. I think a mid-range price with a place to lay out and sleep could be a winner for Amtrak. Would really be beneficial with solo travelers.


I agree with this part completely.

I traveled LD in Asia in what is called a hard sleeper (as opposed to a soft sleeper, which is their version of first class and very similar to our bedroom class) and it was a delight. Six berths in an open and airy compartment with two little window tables and seats. I honestly liked that setup better than roomettes, not to mention it makes solo LD train travel much more affordable. I am not saying doing away with roomettes or bedrooms because they serve a different purpose, but open berths like in Asia or Canada or old Pullman style could be a consideration.

#48 Deni

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 02:40 PM

 

One thing I've always thought the LD trains should do is have a "2nd class" sleeper option. Why have they never had dormitory style sleepers like trains once had in this country and still have in other parts of the world, like Europe? (If they still do in Europe, it's been a while since I was on an overnight on mainland Europe, in 1999 we were on a train from the Spanish-French border to Genoa that had six-berth groupings). Why not have cheaper sleeping options such as compartments with 6-berths (bought separately) or lined up down the aisle? Kind of a hostel-style on the train. (Think of the scene in White Christmas when they throw the curtains of their berths open to the hallway when they arrive in VT) Some of my more recent travel in Asia had second class sleepers with six berths like that. I know so many people who are not train buffs like me but would love to take an LD ride across the country but don't want to sit up in coach all night and also can't afford a roomette on Amtrak. I think a mid-range price with a place to lay out and sleep could be a winner for Amtrak. Would really be beneficial with solo travelers.


I agree with this part completely.

I traveled LD in Asia in what is called a hard sleeper (as opposed to a soft sleeper, which is their version of first class and very similar to our bedroom class) and it was a delight. Six berths in an open and airy compartment with two little window tables and seats. I honestly liked that setup better than roomettes, not to mention it makes solo LD train travel much more affordable. I am not saying doing away with roomettes or bedrooms because they serve a different purpose, but open berths like in Asia or Canada or old Pullman style could be a consideration.

 

 

Yeah, I found them great too. Definitely not arguing for eliminating current sleeper layout, some people like that and pay a premium for it, but that being the only choice does cut a lot of people out of the sleeper option. Not only would it help solo travelers but also those in odd number groups. My wife and I travel with our young daughter and in places like SE Asia we've only had to pay for each berth. In America we would have to pay for two rooms, wasting a berth that we have to pay for. I'm also someone who likes to meet travelers and Amtrak sleepers do not lend themselves to that.



#49 ainamkartma

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 02:44 PM

 

Philly.. I do agree that corridors make the most sense. The problem is, it's not an either or. You can't take LD trains away and magically have corridors. I feel the opposite is true. The LD trains help lay the foundations for future corridor trains. Both in ridership, and infrustructure.

Your sleeper argument makes little sense to me... Do you beleive that airlines should not be able to have first class on subsidized flights?

 

What airplane flights don't pay for their own operating costs? This doesn't count the airports or air traffic control. I would believe if a flight costs American or United more than it brought in then they wouldn't fly it (as opposed to Amtrak who is forced to run money losers). Can Delta or Southwest ask the government to subsidize the operating costs of a flight from Wilkes Barre to Los Angeles which wouldn't pay for itself?

 

 

There are of course many many examples of airline flights not recouping their costs, including entire _categories_ of flights.

Just a few:

1) The last days of TWA, when they had a killing contract with Carl Icahn that forced them, in a  nutshell, to lose money on every ticket

2) The entire industry after 9/11

3) "Essential Air Service" subsidized flights

4) The flights that led to every single major legacy carrier declaring bankruptcy, often multiple times in the last few decades

5) Internationally, flights on routes that are served by national "vanity" airlines that are happy to run at a loss: NYC-MIL, as just one of many examples

 

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#50 CCC1007

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 03:00 PM

Philly.. I do agree that corridors make the most sense. The problem is, it's not an either or. You can't take LD trains away and magically have corridors. I feel the opposite is true. The LD trains help lay the foundations for future corridor trains. Both in ridership, and infrustructure.

Your sleeper argument makes little sense to me... Do you beleive that airlines should not be able to have first class on subsidized flights?

 
What airplane flights don't pay for their own operating costs? This doesn't count the airports or air traffic control. I would believe if a flight costs American or United more than it brought in then they wouldn't fly it (as opposed to Amtrak who is forced to run money losers). Can Delta or Southwest ask the government to subsidize the operating costs of a flight from Wilkes Barre to Los Angeles which wouldn't pay for itself?
 
And first class on a plane isn't equivalent to sleepers on Amtrak. I would say Amtrak business class is the better comparison. The equivalent to sleepers on a plane would be seats that fly flat so you can sleep in a horizontal position and you better believe American/United would never pay for those if they didn't pay for themselves. And on planes I highly doubt customers have private toilets (although I have never flown first class and haven't been on an airplane in over 20 years. True, business class is usually a 2+1 layout which does cut capacity but nowhere near as much as a sleeper car.
Ever hear of the essential air services? How about regional aircraft operated by contractors? Do you think these are hugely profitable?

#51 Chessie

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 03:35 PM

Seeing railroad is an "essential" service in and of itself to many, I would go as far as saying providing remote rural areas with services should be one of the top considerations.

That is to say, if we have to choose between a line that serves many unique stations and a second frequency of an existing line, I would give considerable more consideration to the former.

And no, I personally do not live in a remote area.

Edited by Chessie, 25 April 2017 - 03:37 PM.


#52 A Voice

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 03:46 PM

 

 

 

What airplane flights don't pay for their own operating costs?

 

You've seriously never heard of the federally subsidized Essential Air Service (EAS)?  Budget of around $270-280 million per year.  



#53 AmtrakBlue

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 03:58 PM

 

 

 

What airplane flights don't pay for their own operating costs?

 

You've seriously never heard of the federally subsidized Essential Air Service (EAS)?  Budget of around $270-280 million per year.  

 

I had not until I joined AU.  ;)  I agree with others that the small rural areas need Amtrak and airports as much, if not more than, the big cities.


2011: Jun: WIL=>WAS=>WIL (NER) // Nov: WIL=>WAS=>CHI=>PRO (NER=>CL=>CZ)
2012: Apr: WIL=>WAS=>WIL (NER) // May(NTD): WIL=>PHL=>WIL (NER) / PHL=>PAO=>PHL (Keystone) // Aug: WIL=>WAS (NER) / BWI=>WIL (NER) // Oct(Gathering): PHL=>WIL (NER) / PHL=>HAR=>PHL (Keystone) / SEPTA, NJT, PATCO, River Line, Princeton Dinky
2013: May(NTD): WIL=>WAS=>WIL (NER)  // Oct (Gathering): WIL=>CHI (Card) / CHI=>MKE=>GLN=>CHI() / CHI=>JOL=>CHI () / CHI=>WIL(CL=>NER) / CTA, Metra. SEPTA (WIL=>NRK) // Nov:  PHL=>PHL (Autumn Express) 
2014: May(NTD):  WIL=>PHL=>WIL(NER) // May:  WIL=>BOS=>WIL(NER) day trip

2014: Oct(Gathering): WIL=>NYP=>TOL(pd-NER=>LSL) / TOL=>CHI=>LAX=>EMY(pts-LSL=>SWC=>CS) / EMY=>CHI=>TOL (pts-CZ-CL) / TOL=>WAS=>WIL(pd-CL=>NER)
2015: May: CHI=>CIN(pd-Card) / CIN=>WIL(pts Card)
2015;  Oct(Gathering):  WIL=>WAS(Acela) / ALX=>WAS(NER) / WAS=>BAL(Acela) / WAS=>WIL(NER)

2016: Mar: WIL=>WAS=>WIL (NER)  // Oct:  WIL=>NYP=>NYP=>WIL (Autumn Express) 


#54 Eric S

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 04:01 PM

It's also not unheard of for airports (or another government entity, whether city, county, state, etc) to subsidize or offer revenue guarantees for specific flights, sometimes smaller airports for flights to major hubs, sometimes larger airports for international flights.






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