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A proposal to restructure Amtrak


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#81 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 10 July 2017 - 06:32 AM

 

 

 

You ask for more service and when someone shows it to you, you whine and become dismissive. Roanoke is MORE Amtrak and is an example of what happens when a state is concerned with service.

 

Pennsylvania is looking at a 100 million dollar bribe (see, there's another use for the 500 million spent on the racetrack) to restore a route for a second train, plus another 4-6 million to operate on a route that had a second train until 1995. 

 

Need something else to wake you up? Since the Broadway was cut in 1995, the Three Rivers came and went.  Meanwhile, The Heartland Flyer began in 1999, The Montrealer was cut but The Vermonter assumed its place in 1995, the Palmetto was cut and restored, The Downeasters began service in 2001, The Lynchburg service began in 2009, Norfolk service began in 2012, The Acela Express service debuted in 2001, effectively doubling service to New England, The San Joaquins and Michigan Services expanded.

 

Let's talk about the Ethan Allen. Vermont (spurred on by the Vermonter) added service to the area for the first time since 1953 in 1996. Vermont has proposed withdrawing funding for the train on a few occasions, but each time their efforts were rebuffed.  Not only did they contribute, they teamed with Amtrak and New York to fund upgrades. As such, instead of cutting the train, they are funding an extension to Burlington. If this occurs, it will bring train service to an area that hasn't had trains since 1953!

 

So don't say there isn't more Amtrak. You just chose to ignore it since it doesn't pass through your backyard.  Have you written your Congressman and asked them to eliminate the arbitrary 750 rule? Have you written your state to ask for the to press for more service to your state? Have you written Stephen Bloom and asked him if he intends to block restoration of a second train to PGH? Hell, representatives that are literally around the corner from the state capital are loath to support a train that could benefit them.

 

 

 

When service is reinstated and cut later then while it is a temporary gain the net result in the long run is none. The Palmetto? You think replacing a train that went to Florida with a train that stops in Savannah is a net gain? You think having the Vermonter replace the Montrealer is a net gain? Does the Heartland Flyer help anyone other than Oklahoma? Of course I am selfish but how many of you outside of the state of Oklahoma have even visited there? How many of you outside of the Northeast have visited Vermont? I will admit they have done good things in Michigan. Of course, Amtrak could reward them by giving them an LD train to get to the East Coast (or at least to Toledo like the Lake Cities) but no. The bottom line of what is "meaningful" to me is "how many people live there and how many people want to go there?", not "does it benefit Philly?" I hope they restart Gulf Coast service. I won't likely use it, but it is a link between Florida and New Orleans and even though it would still require an overnight stay would help Florida residents get closer to Texas/California and the other way around. 

 

I don't mind Vermonter, Ethan Allen, Heartland Flyer, etc because while as you pointed out federal tax dollars do support state supported services, a large majority is state funded ("The Keystone Service and Pennsylvanian are financed primarily through funds made available by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.") You may be paying federal tax money towards the Pennsylvanian but unless you live in PA, you're not paying state taxes while I am. On the other hand, West Virginia residents pay ZERO state taxes on the Cardinal so all of us are paying the same federal taxes on the train even though WV benefits from it far more than the rest of us. So there is a big difference between state funded and federal funded service and it doesn't change the fact that if Pennsylvania stops funding the Pennsylvanian it goes away.

 

In the past, I have heard jjs say (without prompting from me) that he considered it a mistake to kill the BL and questioned Congress's intentions to kill it before it was killed. At least he gets it. Others still would like to see it back. My impression from you has been us in PA deserved to lose the BL and we should've done more to save it. Do you even care it's gone or care if it ever comes back? Do you even want the through cars implemented? You sound like you don't, in fact you sound like you're glad it's gone. If you're trying to change my selfish behavior, pitting the BL on us is only going to make me more selfish. You want me to care that some of you may lose your train, how many of you cared at all that we lost ours? How many of you have lost your #1 train like I have? Maybe if you did, you'd understand my behavior more. 

 

As for contacting Congress/PA government, most contact from a single person goes in one ear and out the other. Even a few NARP campaigns have fallen on deaf ears. If I thought I could make a difference, I would. BTW, I did email Senator Casey and actually got a response back (although i am not sure it was him or one of his staffers).


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/

 


#82 ehbowen

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Posted 10 July 2017 - 06:46 AM

How many of you have lost your #1 train like I have?

 
Please look up Lone Star; see also Houston extension of the Texas Eagle. Hear me whining about it (much)?

 

By the way, I miss the Broadway Limited as well; I had a memorable trip over it in 1985 and I consider it the preferred routing from Chicago to most of the East Coast. I would be all in favor of any serious proposal to restore service. But to restore it at the cost of losing what now is an admittedly skeletal but nonetheless usable national rail system...no. Give me Minot, Alpine, Klamath Falls, Texarkana, and all the rest. "More Amtrak", as far as I'm concerned, means more Amtrak, not less. Of course, I would trade it for a restructuring of the legal and financial incentives which would make it attractive and profitable for the private railroads to return to operating passenger services....

 


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#83 Thirdrail7

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Posted 10 July 2017 - 10:45 AM

When service is reinstated and cut later then while it is a temporary gain the net result in the long run is none. The Palmetto? You think replacing a train that went to Florida with a train that stops in Savannah is a net gain? You think having the Vermonter replace the Montrealer is a net gain?

 

That's not true when trains like the Vermonter realigned the route and add stops that previously had not been served.  As for the Palmetto, the concept of this thread is to restructure Amtrak to make it less dependent on funds. What happened to the Palmetto is a classic example of that concept. When the Palmetto operated to JAX, it covered its costs. When the Palmetto was extended as part of a Florida realignment, it LOST MILLIONS. As such, it was canceled and restored as a JAX, then SAV train that once again started bleeding less money. I consider it a net gain for everyone because they have more options and that makes them more likely to use the train. The ridership shows as much. FYI, at some point this decade, restoration to FLA was once again analyzed and it would still bleed money...even though it wouldn't have a dining car. 

 

Besides, you asked for more Amtrak.  Restoration of canceled service is more Amtrak. I don;t think it is enough Amtrak, but it is more Amtrak.

 

 

Of course I am selfish but how many of you outside of the state of Oklahoma have even visited there? How many of you outside of the Northeast have visited Vermont? I will admit they have done good things in Michigan. Of course, Amtrak could reward them by giving them an LD train to get to the East Coast (or at least to Toledo like the Lake Cities) but no. The bottom line of what is "meaningful" to me is "how many people live there and how many people want to go there?", not "does it benefit Philly?" I hope they restart Gulf Coast service. I won't likely use it, but it is a link between Florida and New Orleans and even though it would still require an overnight stay would help Florida residents get closer to Texas/California and the other way around.

 

You are definitely selfish but that doesn't make you a bad person or unreasonable. Most of us are selfish or have selfish tendencies.   Your snobby, ,suburban soft attitude is what does you and your arguments in.  As I'm fond of saying, meaningful is subjective. Do you think people that visit Thurmond (the town that basically has 500 times its population utilizing the service) gives a hoot about the Keystone Upgrades? Do you think they want a multi-billion tunnel going through Baltimore when they can't even get daily service? Do you think passengers in Texas and OK want to pay the full costs of their service while passengers on the NEC get a free pass?  How many of them are going to Philadelphia? How many of them are going to Baltimore? How many of the are going to Mystic, Kingston or Elizabethtown? Why does someone in Hawaii have to subsidize the Auto Train?

 

Who are you to take away from other taxpayers and give to others? Are you Robin Hood? Are you a Congress person? That's their job and they do it well enough! Why is it satisfactory for you to be selfish but everyone else has to acquiesce to the fund sucking NEC and any other service you "deem" acceptable?  It is this line of thinking that brought us the PRIIA funding formula. The whining about what am I getting for my money and why am I paying for such and such.

 

Along those lines, let's address this:

 

 

I don't mind Vermonter, Ethan Allen, Heartland Flyer, etc because while as you pointed out federal tax dollars do support state supported services, a large majority is state funded ("The Keystone Service and Pennsylvanian are financed primarily through funds made available by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.") You may be paying federal tax money towards the Pennsylvanian but unless you live in PA, you're not paying state taxes while I am. On the other hand, West Virginia residents pay ZERO state taxes on the Cardinal so all of us are paying the same federal taxes on the train even though WV benefits from it far more than the rest of us. So there is a big difference between state funded and federal funded service and it doesn't change the fact that if Pennsylvania stops funding the Pennsylvanian it goes away.

 

That is hogwash and you know it. For the taxes most of the country pays, they get 2 trains a day....if they're lucky. Some may get a little more service and some may get slightly less service.  The same federal taxes that West Virginia and Montana pays contributed to the Keystone Corridor.  Hell, Wyoming, Alaska and South Dakota help pay for the Keystone and NEC upgrades and they don't have ANY service.

 

So, once again I'll say, let's not get it twisted.  Your state taxes primarily fund the service. For your contribution, you have 120 trains pass through your area. However, the rest of the nation is financing THE MAJORITY of the infrastructure costs that ALLOWS PA to fund the Keystones. How many trains would PA be able to operate if the rest of the nations wasn't paying the BILLIONS it takes to operate, maintain and support their portion of the NEC (as suggested by the Amtrak Reform Council of 1997) and Keystone service?

 

I notice you ALWAYS gloss right over that factoid. The reality of the situation is your fares should be a lot higher, your taxes should be a lot higher to cover the service patterns you and the rest of the NEC rider have.  You should consider yourself LUCKY that the Northeast Coalition channeled their inner Senator Byrd and got the NEC EXEMPT from the 750 mile rule!

 

 


In the past, I have heard jjs say (without prompting from me) that he considered it a mistake to kill the BL and questioned Congress's intentions to kill it before it was killed. At least he gets it. Others still would like to see it back. My impression from you has been us in PA deserved to lose the BL and we should've done more to save it. Do you even care it's gone or care if it ever comes back? Do you even want the through cars implemented? You sound like you don't, in fact you sound like you're glad it's gone.

 

Whether I care or don't care is quite irrelevant. However, since you're not know for your reading or searching skills, I'll let you know that I've had these types of discussions long before you decided to sign up with your singular message. I think you would enjoy the topic in which I made a post regarding which of the of Chicago trains I would have liked to preserve..  I've mentioned my opinion know to you on this board. It can also be found on my wish list

 

I

 

 

If you're trying to change my selfish behavior, pitting the BL on us is only going to make me more selfish. You want me to care that some of you may lose your train, how many of you cared at all that we lost ours? How many of you have lost your #1 train like I have? Maybe if you did, you'd understand my behavior more.

 

 Here's another conversation that basically sums up everything I stated here. This time, the target was the Downeasters, which is a service I don't use. I don't like so see any trains cut and I don't necessarily mind selfishness but it shouldn't come at the expense of others. As you can see, my selfishness would eliminate the Downeasters and Pigeon. Why? I want the Cape Codder back. I want the Montrealer back, I want the Auto Train to venture further north/east. I want the Silver Star to serve ST Pete. I want the Gulf Breeze to return.

 

I also wanted a pony when I was young.

 

 

However, I do care about of eliminating service that people actually care about and fight to preserve. So when you ask if I think if Pa could have done more to save it, the answer is a resounding yes. I think they could also do more to resurrect as many of the other states did. However, the states that it would serve have shown minimal desire for it to return. the ADMIN on the other board asked you to cite or link anything concrete that the legislators have done to restore service. He's asked for polls or anything other than All Aboard Ohio or a blog that shows the interest. It is minimal. let's even look at your contribution:

 

.

As for contacting Congress/PA government, most contact from a single person goes in one ear and out the other. Even a few NARP campaigns have fallen on deaf ears. If I thought I could make a difference, I would. BTW, I did email Senator Casey and actually got a response back (although i am not sure it was him or one of his staffers).

 

That's true but clearly you have given up. You have a neighbor that poo-poos the second PGH frequency and you expect us to feel sorry for your plight and steal someones train. You also expect us to attack the trains that exist because they don't fit your narrow vision. 

 

Feel free to be selfish. However, most are tired of hearing it when the reality of the situation is your state gets a HUGE bargain and doesn't lobby for additional long distance service.


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


#84 norfolkwesternhenry

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Posted 10 July 2017 - 10:51 AM

I'm not losing my western connections from MSP.

Empire Builder MSP-CHI (2) CHI-MSP (2) MSP-PDX (1) MSP-CBS (5.5 H late) (1) MKE-MSP (1) MSP-SEA (1) Coast Starlate PDX-EMY (1.5H late) (1) California Zephyr DEN-SLC (1H late) (1) Hiawatha CHI-MKE (1) NE Regional WAS-BAL (1) WAS-NYP (1) Acela Express BAL-WAS (1) BOS-WAS (1) Late Shore (Limited service) CHI-BOS (On Time) (1) Capitol Limited WAS-CHI (1) Texas Eagle SAS-CHI (1.5 HR late, 1 HR late) (2) CHI-SAS (1) (55 min early) Wolverine DET-DER-ARB-CHI (35 Min late) (1) Cascades SEA-VAC (1)
Non-Amtrak: VIA: Corridor Service Q.C.-Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Windsor (1) Canadian: VAC-Winnipeg 4.5 H late (1) D. C. metro, Montreal Metro, Toronto subway, Portland streetcars, BART, Metra, NYC subway, Boston subway, Twin cities Blue/Green line
train cars travelled in: Superliner: Coach, Sleeper, Diner, CCC, SSL. Amfleet: LD Café, Café/Business, coach. Viewliner: Sleeper, Diner. Acela: Café, Business, quiet car. Horizon: Coach. Talgo: coach, diner, café; non Amtrak: ex CP Via Canadian Manor cars, Park car, diner,sleeper, Skyline lounge. LRC trainset: coach (tilt de-activated)

No trees were killed to make this, but a number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.

My apologies if I offend you, or seem stubborn, it's simply my nature. I am 14 after all, and my English isn't exactly perfect.


#85 west point

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Posted 10 July 2017 - 01:17 PM

We actually have no idea what the traffic on various LD trains would be.  Example --  Have not seen any advertisements for the Crescent here in years.  How many persons on the Cardinal route have seen any ads ?  Yet Crescent ( WASH <> ATL ) & Cardinal ( 2nd sleeper this summer )  are selling out many times in sleepers. Maybe the Cardinal if equipment was available one additional train set could make it daily for the summer season ? ( Of course the extra T&E persons would probably cost too much ) ?    Have no

idea..  It all comes down to more equipment is needed now.  What with the very long delays by CAF and the Nippon (N-S) meltdown Amtrak might have to consider robbing one train for another !f a major incident sidelines some cars ?  



#86 jis

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Posted 10 July 2017 - 01:24 PM

If just availability of equipment was the issue for making the Cardinal daily, they could easily have done so for the period 10 July through 1 Sept. But clearly there are other issues like the pound of flesh that CSX might want to extract. Nothing is as simple as that. Equipment is one of the issues, but not the only one.



#87 west point

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Posted 10 July 2017 - 05:04 PM

Absolutely CSX is a  problem for daily Cardinal.  What we here believe is that there is not any equipment for a daily Cardinal.  For instance where would you get 2 V-1 sleepers ? Rob the LSL or Meteor ?  If V-2 sleepers had been available ?   LD coaches ?  Baggage ?  Coaches might be available but probably Amfleet -1s ?


Edited by west point, 10 July 2017 - 05:07 PM.


#88 jis

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Posted 10 July 2017 - 05:08 PM

Only someone like Thirdrail can provide an informed assessment of that. What we believe here is 50% nonsense based on nothing anyway. So it may or may not be right. ;) Notwithstanding that some of the discussions are fun :)



#89 Thirdrail7

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Posted 11 July 2017 - 10:14 AM

Absolutely CSX is a  problem for daily Cardinal.  What we here believe is that there is not any equipment for a daily Cardinal.  For instance where would you get 2 V-1 sleepers ? Rob the LSL or Meteor ?  If V-2 sleepers had been available ?   LD coaches ?  Baggage ?  Coaches might be available but probably Amfleet -1s ?

 

 

Only someone like Thirdrail can provide an informed assessment of that. What we believe here is 50% nonsense based on nothing anyway. So it may or may not be right. ;) Notwithstanding that some of the discussions are fun :)

 

 

If you reduced the Cardinal to one sleeper, utilized a diner lite, eliminated the 18 seat club "business class" and took the risk being short during disruptions, you could run a daily Cardinal with the existing fleet. This is particularly true now that the Cardinal's consist mirrors the Silver Star consist. IF you really had an issue, you could break up the first inbound( usually 98) and make up 51. When 50 arrives that night, you could reimburse 97.

 

Your protection is slim but it is doable.

 

 

You'd still have the problems with reverse flow of the Buckingham Branch, particularly if coal makes even a small comeback.


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


#90 neroden

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Posted 11 July 2017 - 06:26 PM

Neroden: I could not agree with you more on the need of Amtrak to own or at least control the tracks it runs on so you have given me an idea, (you'll hate it.)
 
The SL host railroad wanted $750 million in capital payments to increase the SL from 3X to daily or $187.5 million a day. They have now set the market. So they should be willing to pay 3 X $187.5 million or $562.5 million to get rid of it.


You know, it would actually be interesting to see how much UP would offer in exchange for discontinuing the Sunset. What I'd propose if I were suggesting such a thing is running the Texas Eagle "around the corner" from San Antonio through Houston to New Orleans. Why? There seems to be no political support for the Sunset Limited in California, none in Phoenix, very little in Tucson or El Paso, none in West Texas, none in San Antonio, and very low support in Houston -- but there is support between Houston and New Orleans. And some people would take Houston-Austin or Houston-Dallas if it were daily, even if it is circuitous.

I unfortunately suspect that UP would suddenly turn around and not offer anywhere NEAR $560 million. :-P Their daily Sunset number was a bit dishonest, a gross overestimate. If they were being asked to pay up to remove the Sunset Limited, I suspect they would suddenly go all lowball on us.

The idea of seeing whether they'd entertain a high-priced buyout of the politically least popular line in the couuntry is an interesting one though. At the very least it might call their bluff and force them to turn around and start talking about how easy it is for them to host Amtrak and how little trouble it is. :-)
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#91 neroden

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Posted 11 July 2017 - 06:39 PM

You'd still have the problems with reverse flow of the Buckingham Branch, particularly if coal makes even a small comeback.


It won't. To be more specific, thermal coal from the Appalachians is dead and will only decline from here on. (Yes, that's highly specific. I've spent a lot of time looking at energy economics. Appalachian coal is simply price uncompetitive for power production now.)

Met coal is very low volume. And if Illinois or western coal is imported to the east coast (unlikely) it isn't going to take this route.

It's time to start planning for the point when CSX tries to get rid of the Cardinal route through abandonment, downgrading, or sale to shortlines. With the end of West Virginia thermal coal business, they WILL try to do this. It would be good to be amassing a political coalition and possible sources of money to buy the line. That might be the real big opportunity for Amtrak on the Cardinal route -- let's not miss it.

Edited by neroden, 11 July 2017 - 06:40 PM.

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#92 Tarm

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 08:12 AM

 

Neroden: I could not agree with you more on the need of Amtrak to own or at least control the tracks it runs on so you have given me an idea, (you'll hate it.)
 
The SL host railroad wanted $750 million in capital payments to increase the SL from 3X to daily or $187.5 million a day. They have now set the market. So they should be willing to pay 3 X $187.5 million or $562.5 million to get rid of it.


You know, it would actually be interesting to see how much UP would offer in exchange for discontinuing the Sunset. What I'd propose if I were suggesting such a thing is running the Texas Eagle "around the corner" from San Antonio through Houston to New Orleans. Why? There seems to be no political support for the Sunset Limited in California, none in Phoenix, very little in Tucson or El Paso, none in West Texas, none in San Antonio, and very low support in Houston -- but there is support between Houston and New Orleans. And some people would take Houston-Austin or Houston-Dallas if it were daily, even if it is circuitous.

I unfortunately suspect that UP would suddenly turn around and not offer anywhere NEAR $560 million. :-P Their daily Sunset number was a bit dishonest, a gross overestimate. If they were being asked to pay up to remove the Sunset Limited, I suspect they would suddenly go all lowball on us.

The idea of seeing whether they'd entertain a high-priced buyout of the politically least popular line in the couuntry is an interesting one though. At the very least it might call their bluff and force them to turn around and start talking about how easy it is for them to host Amtrak and how little trouble it is. :-)

 

Now you're talking! The most valuable part of a discontinued LD train is not the saved operating cost but the value of the slot it opens up for the host railroad. So 187.5 million dollars divided by the SL1995 miles = $93,750 per train mile. Is this reasonable? It has been said on this site that an Amtrak train affects its host railroad from two hours before to two hours after its passing. Four hours total or 1/6th of the day. So $93,750 X 6 = $562,500.  Can you build a mile of railroad track for $562,500? NO! In the case of the SL no money needs to change hands. So Amtrak goes to UP and offers "We will discontinue the 3X SL west of Houston, (4896 train miles per week,) if you increase NO to HOU  from 3X to 14X, (3993 train miles per week.) Deal? Which schedule do you think would have the most passenger miles? Which would have the lower operating cost?


Edited by Tarm, 12 July 2017 - 08:21 AM.


#93 CCC1007

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 08:40 AM

 

Neroden: I could not agree with you more on the need of Amtrak to own or at least control the tracks it runs on so you have given me an idea, (you'll hate it.)
 
The SL host railroad wanted $750 million in capital payments to increase the SL from 3X to daily or $187.5 million a day. They have now set the market. So they should be willing to pay 3 X $187.5 million or $562.5 million to get rid of it.

You know, it would actually be interesting to see how much UP would offer in exchange for discontinuing the Sunset. What I'd propose if I were suggesting such a thing is running the Texas Eagle "around the corner" from San Antonio through Houston to New Orleans. Why? There seems to be no political support for the Sunset Limited in California, none in Phoenix, very little in Tucson or El Paso, none in West Texas, none in San Antonio, and very low support in Houston -- but there is support between Houston and New Orleans. And some people would take Houston-Austin or Houston-Dallas if it were daily, even if it is circuitous.

I unfortunately suspect that UP would suddenly turn around and not offer anywhere NEAR $560 million. :-P Their daily Sunset number was a bit dishonest, a gross overestimate. If they were being asked to pay up to remove the Sunset Limited, I suspect they would suddenly go all lowball on us.

The idea of seeing whether they'd entertain a high-priced buyout of the politically least popular line in the couuntry is an interesting one though. At the very least it might call their bluff and force them to turn around and start talking about how easy it is for them to host Amtrak and how little trouble it is. :-)
 
Now you're talking! The most valuable part of a discontinued LD train is not the saved operating cost but the value of the slot it opens up for the host railroad. So 187.5 million dollars divided by the SL1995 miles = $93,750 per train mile. Is this reasonable? It has been said on this site that an Amtrak train affects its host railroad from two hours before to two hours after its passing. Four hours total or 1/6th of the day. So $93,750 X 6 = $562,500.  Can you build a mile of railroad track for $562,500? NO! In the case of the SL no money needs to change hands. So Amtrak goes to UP and offers "We will discontinue the 3X SL west of Houston, (4896 train miles per week,) if you increase NO to HOU  from 3X to 14X, (3993 train miles per week.) Deal? Which schedule do you think would have the most passenger miles? Which would have the lower operating cost?
The problem I have and what I think the freight railroads would also see as a problem is that it is simply not only a function of train miles, as there are intangible and unquantifiable issues like choke point congestion, terminal congestion, terminal delays, and many more that are different for each and every route... adding a train can cause so much of a headache in these areas that the freight lines are correct in asking for capital upgrades in those areas to help facilitate the new train. Look at whitefish and havre Montana as examples of where BNSF would likely ask for upgrades if anyone were to propose a second empire builder.

Edited by CCC1007, 12 July 2017 - 08:41 AM.





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