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Dreaming About "Amtrak 2.0"


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#1 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 20 July 2017 - 03:12 PM

This thread could go in a lot of different places.

 

I feel that the current Amtrak LD system can only go so far in its current setup. You can only hear so much having NS, CSX, UP, etc blocking any progress when it comes to passenger rail. As long as they are controlling access to passenger rail, passenger rail will always be second class to the freights. The NEC model of multiple trains and frequencies and higher speeds, while maybe not as good as train transportation in Europe and Asia, certainly is the envy of the rest of the nation. If the government can "own" their tracks all across the country and not just in the NEC, then the level of service found in the NEC could be possible in other areas of the country and rail travel can be as popular or close to as popular in other densely populated areas as it is in the NEC. Unless the host railroads are willing to start selling us their tracks, the obvious idea would be to start building our own. Yes, it will be difficult and expensive. But so is dealing with CSX's crap right now. It's just like the decision to rent vs. to buy. I think eventually Amtrak or the future of national rail service has to think long term and not short term. Maybe instead of just band-aiding or trying to fill a bunch of holes we start fresh (or we do both if we can "afford" it). Then, while we may never be profitable, we can at least cover our operating costs like the NEC does. Who knows, maybe private rail would be more likely to want to run on government owned tracks as opposed to other companies' and we may see competition in passenger rail like the pre-Amtrak days. Then we can have more rail service for less cost to the American taxpayer.

 

There are a few "high speed rail" models out there (the USHSR Association (http://www.ushsr.com/ushsrmap.html) has one but their first phase was supposed to be completed in 2015). While speed is certainly a huge asset in rail travel, I and I'm sure most of us would just like the freedom to run more trains at more convenient times and not be stranded for hours in the middle of nowhere because of UP or overnight in Chicago until the train the next night to the east coast. Any tracks that we can control instead of CN helps us. 


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/

 


#2 Fred Wis.

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Posted 20 July 2017 - 03:35 PM

This sounds like fun. Just out of curiosity, where do you propose the billions of dollars to buy these tracks, or buy land to build tracks, would come from? Perhaps the government tooth fairy?



#3 railiner

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Posted 20 July 2017 - 07:52 PM

Elon Musk?

http://www.npr.org/s...y-d-c-hyperloop

 

By the way, when Amtrak was asked by some press to their reaction to this, their reply was: "No comment"......


Edited by railiner, 20 July 2017 - 08:37 PM.

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#4 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 20 July 2017 - 09:57 PM

I already started a thread about the hyperloop.

 

I don't know how accurate this is. $10B sounds relatively cheap to me. But I'm pretty sure PHL to CHI is more than 500 miles.

 

http://www.nychicagorr.org/Facts.html


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/

 


#5 Anderson

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Posted 25 July 2017 - 12:25 PM

Setting aside hyperloop (as I've said to a bunch of folks, it's got technical issues and if those get worked out it might be awesome...but I don't buy the stated capacity estimates, etc.), there's something that has gotten under my skin for some years: You have a number of billionaires who have signed onto that pledge to give away something like 95-99% of their wealth...but some of those guys, like Warren Buffett, have also pushed for HSR.  Now, don't get me wrong, a number of the initiatives that some of them have chosen to focus on are quite noble...but even when they're pushing HSR I don't see them turning around and sitting down with the government and even saying "We think this is a good policy, we'll put in $Xbn to fund it if you'll agree to operate it".  Probably the best example of this, IMO, would have been with Florida HSR.  Now, I do like the project that developed...but when Scott was looking at axing it, I have to wonder what the reaction would have been if Buffett (I use him since he has a great deal of wealth and went on the record on the issue around 2009-10) had turned around and said "You know what?  You're right, I see the issue with that segment being too short.  So I'll put $5bn in to cover construction to Miami and I'll put another $5bn into an endowment to cover any possible operating losses out of interest."  By the same token he could have simply turned around and bought the whole AAF bond issue.

On the other end, these guys could also initiate proxy fights to force the Class Is to play ball or force them to break off certain ROWs into separate corporate entities (and then negotiate "reasonable" deals with the states to add slots, raise maximum speeds, etc.).

These are examples, but I do see them as illustrating a particularly annoying part of the problem: There are people who do have the resources to deal with this (or indeed, to fix other issues in the US) but who, both alone and as a group/class, simply don't put the resources they have into attempting to address the problem.  They'll shout at a wall over climate change but in many cases (Musk being a clear exception in many respects) won't actually sit down to start funding alternative(s), instead screaming for the government to do it instead.


Capitol Limited (7), CA Zephyr (4) Lake Shore Limited (1), Acela (2), NE Regional (2), Sliver Meteor (4)

Upcoming: Silver Meteor (1), Lake Shore Limited (1), SW Chief (2), MO River Runner (1), Texas Eagle (1)

Possibly Upcoming: Either Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (2) or Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (1)

#6 railiner

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Posted 25 July 2017 - 02:11 PM

.).

These are examples, but I do see them as illustrating a particularly annoying part of the problem: There are people who do have the resources to deal with this (or indeed, to fix other issues in the US) but who, both alone and as a group/class, simply don't put the resources they have into attempting to address the problem.  They'll shout at a wall over climate change but in many cases (Musk being a clear exception in many respects) won't actually sit down to start funding alternative(s), instead screaming for the government to do it instead.

In a nutshell.....that's why they're billionaires, and we're not......... ;)


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#7 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 26 July 2017 - 06:15 AM

"Super Fantasy" Thread

 

If the tracks don't exist, assume we can (and have the money to) build them. The goal is to build a system which reaches the maximum people at the minimum cost. Assume that "Amtrak 1.0" will still exist for the rural areas although routes with an equivalent 2.0 route will be replaced.

 

Since Amtrak owns the NEC, Keystone, and Michigan tracks they can be built into 2.0.

 

I've always said the first stage should be connecting the NEC with Chicago and with Florida.

 

Of course I'm going to want the Chicago route to go through Philly (and Pittsburgh) and I think it makes sense since we already have Amtrak owned tracks through HAR already. If we can go HAR-CHI not only do we have PHL-CHI and NYP-CHI but WAS-CHI (the triple threat). If we can have multiple frequencies, we can have some trains so WAS-BAL-PHL-CHI and others NYP-New Jersey-PHL-CHI. It would be easier to get to Michigan and connect with the Wolverine route than to go from HAR directly with CHI (for at least the first stage). Going via Michigan is longer overall but Amtrak already has tracks there and it adds a large state and the Detroit metropolitan area. So I will call this route the Red Line.

 

As for Florida, my dream line is via ATL (again longer but more traffic and if no freight interference and higher speed the time difference may even out or hopefully work in our favor). The route would roughly be the NEC from BOS-WAS, then the Carolinian from WAS-CLT, the Crescent from CLT-ATL, and a new line ATL-TPA-ORL-MIA (if no viable tracks between Atlanta and Tampa, build them, again, SUPER fantasy). Ideally you could have stops at Tallahassee and Gainesville along the way, getting two huge college populations. So this will be my Blue Line.

 

Assuming CAHSR and Texas Central ever get done, one idea would be to connect California and Texas via Phoenix (maybe Albuquerque as well?). Then if you can go from Chicago to Texas via STL (where HSR is already in progress) then you would have a coast to coast network (New York-Chicago-Texas-California) and have all of the largest 14 metropolitan areas (https://en.wikipedia...atistical_Areas) in the country connected.

 

In addition, you'd then want to increase your presence in the Northeast/Midwest by building "Lake Shore Limited 2.0" from BOS/NYP to CLE via upstate New York/BUF, as well as connecting CLE and CIN via Columbus, PGH and CIN via Columbus, CHI and CIN via IND, CHI and MSP via MKE (maybe Madison while you're at it). If you've got a good network in the Midwest, it shouldn't be too hard to go further south to Louisville/Nashville (either from Indy or from Cincinnati). Las Vegas shouldn't be too hard from Los Angeles (although I haven't heard anything good about Xpress West in in a while). The next goals would be Seattle/Portland and Denver but they are both far away from the current stage map. Obviously you'd go up the Pacific Coast from the Bay Area/SAC to get to the Pacific Northwest. Maybe you can go from KCY to DEN or build a train from CHI to DEN via Iowa/Nebraska (hopefully hitting Des Moines instead of the current CZ route).

 

The dream one day is to get the USHSR (http://www.ushsr.com/ushsrmap.html) or America 2050 map (http://www.america2050.org/HSR-Network.png). But you have to make some progress outside of the NEC. Hopefully California, Texas, and Florida (Brightline) are making progress, and we can see progress in the Southeast and Midwest.


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/

 


#8 cirdan

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Posted 26 July 2017 - 07:14 AM

In many situations this is already happening. Commuter rail operations such as TRE, Tri-Rail, Sun Rail etc have bought tracks off the freight railroads, upgraded them, and are running a fairly passable passenger service on those tracks.

 

In the above examples, Amtrak is also being hosted on those tracks. Even if in the case of TRE for example, it wasn't that easy to srike a deal with Amtrak.

 

Rather than an ordained top down policy of all track being bought  in one go, I see this stepwise path as having some potential. Some other lines may go into govt or state ownership at some point in the future. Other bits will probably never change. It's a horses for courses approach.

 

In the case of the Lincoln Service Corridor, I think this was a missed opportunity, with lots of tax money going into improving a corridor that the govt still doesn't own or control.



#9 Eric S

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Posted 26 July 2017 - 07:43 AM

In many situations this is already happening. Commuter rail operations such as TRE, Tri-Rail, Sun Rail etc have bought tracks off the freight railroads, upgraded them, and are running a fairly passable passenger service on those tracks.

 

In the above examples, Amtrak is also being hosted on those tracks. Even if in the case of TRE for example, it wasn't that easy to srike a deal with Amtrak.

 

Rather than an ordained top down policy of all track being bought  in one go, I see this stepwise path as having some potential. Some other lines may go into govt or state ownership at some point in the future. Other bits will probably never change. It's a horses for courses approach.

 

In the case of the Lincoln Service Corridor, I think this was a missed opportunity, with lots of tax money going into improving a corridor that the govt still doesn't own or control.

 

Re: Lincoln Service - Big, big, big missed opportunity in the 1990s when SP controlled (most of) the line and was going through some financial difficulties and was unloading assets and willing to sell that line. I believe that is when state and local entities in California picked up lines and slots (Metrolink, Capitol Corridor, etc). Sigh.



#10 Anderson

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Posted 26 July 2017 - 05:21 PM

 

In many situations this is already happening. Commuter rail operations such as TRE, Tri-Rail, Sun Rail etc have bought tracks off the freight railroads, upgraded them, and are running a fairly passable passenger service on those tracks.

 

In the above examples, Amtrak is also being hosted on those tracks. Even if in the case of TRE for example, it wasn't that easy to srike a deal with Amtrak.

 

Rather than an ordained top down policy of all track being bought  in one go, I see this stepwise path as having some potential. Some other lines may go into govt or state ownership at some point in the future. Other bits will probably never change. It's a horses for courses approach.

 

In the case of the Lincoln Service Corridor, I think this was a missed opportunity, with lots of tax money going into improving a corridor that the govt still doesn't own or control.

 

Re: Lincoln Service - Big, big, big missed opportunity in the 1990s when SP controlled (most of) the line and was going through some financial difficulties and was unloading assets and willing to sell that line. I believe that is when state and local entities in California picked up lines and slots (Metrolink, Capitol Corridor, etc). Sigh.

 

This is sort of an odd angle to look at the issue from, but would it be better to deal with a Class I (and all that entails) for an entire route or close to it?  Or would it be better to have a train switch hosts/dispatchers a half-dozen times?  I wonder because IIRC one of the banes of the Silver Star's existence has been the ten miles of NS track outside of Raleigh, and in general whenever a train changes railroads it creates an opportunity for problems.  If the dispatching is still handled in the same office that's one thing, but if not it's another (especially since the hosts can start pointing fingers at one another...for example, I know on some of the VA trains you get CSX effectively wagging their finger at Metro-North for delays on Regionals coming into CSX territory and saying "Look, we've given you a slot and that slot was clear, but we can't keep six slots open for one train just hoping to guess at when it will arrive").


Capitol Limited (7), CA Zephyr (4) Lake Shore Limited (1), Acela (2), NE Regional (2), Sliver Meteor (4)

Upcoming: Silver Meteor (1), Lake Shore Limited (1), SW Chief (2), MO River Runner (1), Texas Eagle (1)

Possibly Upcoming: Either Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (2) or Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (1)




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