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Wall Street Journal Article: The Future of US Rail Travel


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#1 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 24 June 2017 - 02:00 PM

I found this article at the NARP Facebook page.

 

https://www.wsj.com/...avel-1498010520

 

Interviewed in the article is Andy Kunz, president of the US High Speed Rail Association. He discussed their organization's proposed map (http://ushsr.com/ushsrmap.html). The first phase was supposed to have been completed in 2015.

 

As much as we want to save Amtrak in its current form, IMO it's map and route system is outdated and 20-25 years from now it will be more outdated. Outside of the NEC and other parts, Amtrak in its current form will always be at the mercy of CSX, UP, and other host railroads. Train speeds and delays will always be a problem. Growth in terms of new routes and to new cities has been and will be limited in the future. Past PRIAA's have shown the average age of LD passengers is in the mid to upper 50's. If Amtrak can't appeal to the younger generation, who will be riding these trains 20-25 years from now? The easy short term goal is saving the current map and system but it seems like trying to band aid a broken system. Maybe we don't need to scrap the current system and start new but we should start thinking about something new. "We" need our own railroads, not just borrowing CSX's and being second class citizens to freight. Maybe we don't need to kill any current routes but we better add some routes/cities with a chance of growth. If people (especially young people) aren't riding our current trains, get them trains they will ride. If you want Columbus, OH to support Amtrak (they did have a rally this weekend), find a way for Amtrak to support Columbus.

 

 

 

 


Trains Traveled: Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA), Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI), Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS), Lake Shore 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)
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#2 Fred Wis.

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Posted 24 June 2017 - 03:22 PM

Interesting article. But the poster's comment about Amtrak needing to support the city served if Amtrak wants the city's support really intrigued me. I think you are on to something there. Of course useful schedules for that city would be the obvious starting place, but what else could Amtrak do to support a city? Is it different for different towns? Is it different for urban and rural cities? Don't mean to hjajck your post, but I think your comment is a very important idea.



#3 Mystic River Dragon

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Posted 24 June 2017 - 04:31 PM

With all due respect, Philly Amtrak Fan, I think the demographics may be changing, at least on the long-distance Florida trains I've been on. When I first started riding them about 8 years ago, the roomettes seemed to have all older people or perhaps a parent and child. The past few years, though, my roomette neighbors have often been Millennials. This is, of course, a very small sample. Anyone notice the same thing on other long-distance routes?

 

If Millenials find the long-distance trains more convenient than driving and more comfortable than flying, they may be the generation that saves the network. They already prefer the freedom and convenience of living in cities and taking commuter rail rather than needing to depend on a car. So perhaps it would be good to find and promote things in Amtrak long-distance that would appeal to them (besides the wifi, of course, which is already promoted). Perhaps how their lives will be made easier and more convenient, which seems to be a focus for them.

 

I do like the HSR map shown, however, except that it gets rid of anything across the top of the country, which seems a bit unfair to the people who live there.


Edited by Mystic River Dragon, 24 June 2017 - 04:33 PM.


#4 Pere Flyer

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Posted 24 June 2017 - 06:44 PM

With all due respect, Philly Amtrak Fan, I think the demographics may be changing, at least on the long-distance Florida trains I've been on. When I first started riding them about 8 years ago, the roomettes seemed to have all older people or perhaps a parent and child. The past few years, though, my roomette neighbors have often been Millennials. This is, of course, a very small sample. Anyone notice the same thing on other long-distance routes?


I'm a millennial (born in mid-90s) and took an LD train for the first time last month (TE FTW-CHI). The demographics of the sleepers, from what I could tell, were more diverse than I expected as a loyal reader of this forum :giggle: . Across from my roomette were a man and woman who both looked close to my age, and down the hall was a man who appeared to be in his thirties.

My sister is a college student a few years younger than me and depends on the LSL to travel between home and school. FWIW, we both have AGR accounts.
 

If Millennials find the long-distance trains more convenient than driving and more comfortable than flying, they may be the generation that saves the network. They already prefer the freedom and convenience of living in cities and taking commuter rail rather than needing to depend on a car. So perhaps it would be good to find and promote things in Amtrak long-distance that would appeal to them (besides the wifi, of course, which is already promoted). Perhaps how their lives will be made easier and more convenient, which seems to be a focus for them.


Your assessment sounds just about right. I fit the profile of the car-less millennial urban dweller. I fly merely out of convenience and cost, but mark my words: I'd rather take the train! I recently had to travel from OKC to ATL; were it possible in three connections or less, I would have taken Amtrak instead of a direct DL flight.

Amtrak's student discount is certainly effective in courting adolescent riders. I think expansion of thruway/rail service to college towns (as has been discussed on a different forum), creation of direct routes between major cities, and improved OBS would gain and retain fresh millennial ridership. These changes make everyone's life more convenient, not just those of millennials. But they are also changes that have been pined about for years on this forum and in public discourse.


Edited by Pere Flyer, 25 June 2017 - 12:16 AM.

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#5 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 25 June 2017 - 11:46 PM

From GrowTrains.com:http://www.growtrain...make-it-better/

 

One of NARP's goals: “Put 80% of Americans within 25 miles of a rail station by 2035.” 

 

I found one state in the latest NARP report that had even 50% of its residents within 25 miles (Rhode Island). Connecticut (49%) just missed with Massachusetts (45%) and Maryland (44%) trailing. California didn't list a percentage. Looking at a lot of the states, I'd guess it's about 25% now and 40% would be a reasonable goal by 2035. 


Trains Traveled: Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA), Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI), Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS), Lake Shore 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/


#6 jebr

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Posted 26 June 2017 - 01:27 PM

I think 80% is feasible if we're willing to also include short (under 2 hour) dedicated or semi-dedicated Thruway routes to train service. (Semi-dedicated would be something like a Supershuttle-style service where you're guaranteed to have a ride there when the train arrives, even if it's extremely late, but other non-rail passengers may be picked up and/or dropped off en route.) In Iowa, for example, until the line is repurposed to route the Zephyr through Des Moines and Iowa City feeder bus services to the train should be able to connect those cities pretty easily to the broader network. (Jefferson Lines has some service between Des Moines and Osceola, but I don't think it's right at the station and it definitely doesn't hold for the train if it's late.)

 

I'm surprised the 25-miles-from-a-train-station statistic is so low, though. I would've expected most states to be higher considering that most of the metropolitan areas have some train service in them. What report are you looking at? I'm wondering if that statistic is off somehow.



#7 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 26 June 2017 - 01:29 PM

 

 

I'm surprised the 25-miles-from-a-train-station statistic is so low, though. I would've expected most states to be higher considering that most of the metropolitan areas have some train service in them. What report are you looking at? I'm wondering if that statistic is off somehow.

 

The usual NARP states file: https://www.narprail...38/states-1.pdf


Trains Traveled: Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA), Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI), Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS), Lake Shore Limited (NYP-CHI), , Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL), Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX), California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY), City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)
Bring back the Broadway Limited (or Three Rivers or any Chicago-Pittsburgh-Philly train)!
 
https://www.facebook...roadwayLimited/


#8 jebr

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Posted 26 June 2017 - 01:39 PM

 

 

 

I'm surprised the 25-miles-from-a-train-station statistic is so low, though. I would've expected most states to be higher considering that most of the metropolitan areas have some train service in them. What report are you looking at? I'm wondering if that statistic is off somehow.

 

The usual NARP states file: https://www.narprail...38/states-1.pdf

 

 

I'm pretty sure they're way off on their calculations for the percentages (assuming the raw number of people within x miles of a station is correct) almost by a factor of two. The "within 50 miles" of Minnesota states 40% but the raw number is 4.28 million, which is actually about 78% of Minnesota's population (which is 5.49 million according to Google.) Same with Michigan - it says 44%, but 8.7 million people is actually about 88% of Michigan's 9.923 million residents.



#9 Eric S

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Posted 27 June 2017 - 08:34 AM

Yeah, I glanced at a couple states too, and the numbers definitely seem off to me. So...is the percentage wrong? Or the raw number? Or both?



#10 jebr

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Posted 27 June 2017 - 01:57 PM

I'm guessing the percentage, since Rhode Island maxes out at 50%, and I don't think there's a single place in Rhode Island that's more than 50 miles from a train station as the crow flies.



#11 Eric S

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Posted 27 June 2017 - 02:19 PM

Ah, good call checking Rhode Island. The population NARP shows as living within 25 and 50 miles of a station (1,052,567) is actually the entire state population. Looks like you're right that the percentage figures are off by a factor of 2 (give or take a little bit, depending on what total population figure one uses [2010 Census, 2016 estimates, etc]).



#12 R30A

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Posted 27 July 2017 - 12:55 PM

There is no part of Connecticut nor Rhode Island that is more than 50 miles from a train station. I think you have to double each percent to get the right number. 

Only AL IA ID KY MT NV OK SD TN and WY have fewer than 50% within 50 miles.  



#13 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 27 July 2017 - 03:13 PM

There is no part of Connecticut nor Rhode Island that is more than 50 miles from a train station. I think you have to double each percent to get the right number. 

Only AL IA ID KY MT NV OK SD TN and WY have fewer than 50% within 50 miles.  

 

Well considering no Las Vegas, Nashville (or Knoxville), or Louisville (or Lexington), NV, TN, and KY are not surprising. Without Boise and just one stop, ID isn't surprising. To me AL is since they do serve Birmingham. And MT? I thought they had a dozen stops there and the EB runs about 400-500 miles through the state.


Trains Traveled: Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA), Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI), Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS), Lake Shore Limited (NYP-CHI), , Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL), Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX), California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY), City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)
Bring back the Broadway Limited (or Three Rivers or any Chicago-Pittsburgh-Philly train)!
 
https://www.facebook...roadwayLimited/


#14 CCC1007

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Posted 27 July 2017 - 04:14 PM

There is no part of Connecticut nor Rhode Island that is more than 50 miles from a train station. I think you have to double each percent to get the right number. 

Only AL IA ID KY MT NV OK SD TN and WY have fewer than 50% within 50 miles.  

 
Well considering no Las Vegas, Nashville (or Knoxville), or Louisville (or Lexington), NV, TN, and KY are not surprising. Without Boise and just one stop, ID isn't surprising. To me AL is since they do serve Birmingham. And MT? I thought they had a dozen stops there and the EB runs about 400-500 miles through the state.
Montana is 700+ miles east to west and 300+ miles north to south. Alzada, MT is closer to Texas than it is to Yaak, MT.

#15 JayPea

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Posted 27 July 2017 - 04:43 PM

A good share of Montana's population is along the I-90 corridor....much more than 50 miles away from the EB route. It's not surprising at all.
Amtrak miles traveled: 85410
Pre-Amtrak miles traveled:8478
Bustitution miles traveled:450
States traveled through on Amtrak: 44




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