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Brightline takes over XPress West!


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#41 Anderson

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Posted 19 September 2018 - 10:53 PM

Doesn't UP own the Antelope Valley line?

Anyhow...
-Driving Victorville-Las Vegas is 188 miles (per Google maps).  Let me round that off to 190 miles.

-Driving Palmdale-Victorville is 52 miles (per Google maps).  Let me round that off to 50 miles.

-Driving Los Angeles-Palmdale is 65 miles, give or take (per Google maps).

The total distance (c. 240 miles) is the same as Miami-Orlando.  Even presuming that you could get the average speed up to about 90-100 MPH on a greenfield line (I think that is a stretch), that still leaves getting over the mountains and into Los Angeles.  Runtime Las Vegas-Palmdale eats up 2:24-2:40.  The question is what you can manage for that last 65 miles...at 60 MPH, the time is 1:05.  At 50 MPH, the time is 1:18.  At 45 MPH, the time is 1:27.  So at the long end of both timetables, runtime is 4:07.  At the short end, 3:29.  The latter is, in my view, viable; the former is just a little bit too long.

 

Edit: Revising and extending the analysis, I'm checking timetables:
-For Metrolink, Palmdale-Union Station runs 1:59 on "local" trains and 1:42 on the daily semi-express (which eliminates six stops and corresponds to three minutes lost per stop).  This would seem to indicate 1:36 on a run that is an express operation save for Burbank, or 1:33 on a run of the route which only stopped at either Burbank or Palmdale.  Of interest is that the end-to-end time Lancaster-Union Station is 2:09 and the implied time for that on a semi-express run would be 1:52.

-The stopping patterns are different (ranging from 2-4 intermediate stations), but Lancaster-Union Station was indicated as 2:32/2:48 for the same run on SP's Owl in 1957 and 2:33/2:29 for the SP's West Coast at the same time.  The San Joaquin Daylight marked 2:26/2:23 in 1957 and 2:17/2:14 in 1971...so I find it fascinating that a commuter train today can out-pace what was available then.

-Route length is given as 68 miles Palmdale-Los Angeles in the timetable for the Owl (neither the West Coast nor the San Joaquin Daylight made that particular stop, and even the Owl only did it as an off-timetable flag stop).

I still think some improvements would be needed here (the total runtime floor is about four hours based on the various timetables, which is probably at the outer edge of viability for covering operating costs and interest for LA-Vegas itself)...but then again, the route as a whole (if routed in this manner) is around 310 route-miles, which is also pushing the edge of your viability envelope for "higher speed" rail in terms of distance.


Edited by Anderson, 20 September 2018 - 12:46 AM.

Amtrak mileage to date: Somewhere between 120,000 and 150,000 miles...I /really/ need to run all of my trips through a calculator sometime.

...and no, I am not /that/ Anderson...;-)


#42 Brian_tampa

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 04:49 AM

Well it's 119 rail miles. That's an average of 40 mph, which is what you would expect from freight rail with 3 intermediate station stops. Let's say the train loses 20 minutes total (both the dwell time and the loss time in acel/ decel) that's 2 hours and 35 minutes with an average speed between 45 and 50. Those are good average speeds on freight lines.

The Brightline sets would shave a few minutes off with faster acel / decel, so without the intermediate stops you could probably get it around 2:15.

Also... You do know that Brightline and FEC are practically the same company. Negotiating with UP or BNSF will be much more difficult.


An average of 40 mph over 119 miles is what Amtrak gets. Amtrak also does not fully compensate the freight railroads for their use of the tracks and gets what they pay for in terms of performance. Brightline's business model is to pay for the required infrastructure needed to get a viable and modern passenger operation. Brightline is installing 200 miles of second main track with 60mph crossovers every 8 miles on the FECR. I think they would do what is required in CA to get whatever operating time they believe will make them profitable. I am assuming that Brightline looked at the numbers and have already asked the freight railroads, in general terms, what it would take to get a similar operating agreement as they have with FECR. 

 

I don't think using Cajon Pass is an option due to the amount of trains and the route. If anything, they will go to Palmdale and then south.

 

FECR was owned by the same entity when they made the agreement with Brightline. But the agreement was written so that FECR was not disadvantaged and was later sold to the Mexican mining company. Fortress owns many companies, including Sprint communications and Brightline. Did you know Sprint sued Brightline last year over a billing dispute? Being part of Fortress or FECI does not mean the businesses are not run independently. 


Edited by Brian_tampa, 20 September 2018 - 04:53 AM.


#43 Palmetto

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 06:21 AM

I agree about not being able to use the BNSF Cajon Pass route.  In fact, the railroad is planning to add more triple track between the Summit and Barstow to accommodate its own trains.

 

But why would Brightline build a route SOUTH from Palmdale when Victorville is to its EAST and Las Vegas is to its NORTHEAST.



#44 Ryan

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 06:59 AM

He’s talking about the route in the other direction. Over the mountain by something other than the Cajon Pass to Palmdale and then south to LA.
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#45 Brian_tampa

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 07:04 AM

Brightline would probably not build a new route but use the existing rail line into Santa Clarita via Antelope Valley then down to Burbank and LA. Brightline needs to get into or nearer to the Los Angeles Basin to attract more passengers. Since the HSR project will not be built for another 20+ years between Palmdale and LA, they need to do something before then. Also, politically California wants the route to Las Vegas to connect with their HSR at Palmdale.



#46 Brian_tampa

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 07:28 AM

Metro is planning to build a multi-modal transportation corridor between Palmdale and east of Victorville. That is the route that Xpresswest intended to use to connect to CA HSR at Palmdale. 

 

https://www.metro.ne...esert-corridor/

 

Here is a map:

 

https://media.metro....idesert_eng.pdf


Edited by Brian_tampa, 20 September 2018 - 07:32 AM.

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#47 crescent-zephyr

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 09:57 AM

"An average of 40 mph over 119 miles is what Amtrak gets. Amtrak also does not fully compensate the freight railroads for their use of the tracks and gets what they pay for in terms of performance."

What is your source that Amtrak doesn't full compensate the freight railroads?

The speeds are based on track conditions, not on how much Amtrak pays. I mean yes, Amtrak can pay extra to super elevate curves etc. To allow for faster running, is that what you are talking about?

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#48 jis

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 10:07 AM

Metro is planning to build a multi-modal transportation corridor between Palmdale and east of Victorville. That is the route that Xpresswest intended to use to connect to CA HSR at Palmdale. 
 
https://www.metro.ne...esert-corridor/
 
Here is a map:
 
https://media.metro....idesert_eng.pdf

Exactly! That was my point. I don't see Brightline trying to use Cajon Pass.

Edited by jis, 20 September 2018 - 10:07 AM.

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#49 Brian_tampa

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 10:13 AM

I do not have a specific source other than general knowledge of how Amtrak was setup at its inception and what I have read over the decades regarding the rate that Amtrak pays the host railroads. When I talk about compensation, it is not just about obtaining the right to operate X number of trains each way per day on a route for X dollars per train. It is also about compensating for the impact on the freight operations caused by a higher speed train such as an Amtrak train. Brightline has compensated FECR by building new track, paying FECR for operating rights, and covering their part of the costs to maintain the infrastructure required to operate frequent  higher speed passenger trains. 


Edited by Brian_tampa, 20 September 2018 - 10:15 AM.


#50 jis

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 10:25 AM

Also paying 50% of the cost of the entire Florida Dispatching Company (FDC) which controls dispatching of FECR and will also dispatch any AAF owned railroad like Cocoa to Orlando and eventually to Tampa. In exchange it gets equal dibs at controlling the general rules of dispatching for the entire railroad under control of the FDC.


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#51 cirdan

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 10:39 AM

I do not have a specific source other than general knowledge of how Amtrak was setup at its inception and what I have read over the decades regarding the rate that Amtrak pays the host railroads. When I talk about compensation, it is not just about obtaining the right to operate X number of trains each way per day on a route for X dollars per train. 

 

The money that Amtrak pays the railroads doesn't makie any of them rich. The only reason they tolerate Amtrak in the first place is because the  law says they have to.

 

If you want any of the big freight railroads to voluntarily accept and welcome passenger trains, you need to pay them quite a bit more.



#52 jis

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 10:51 AM

The only practical way to run a reliable higher speed passenger system on a big freight railroad ROW is to negotiate with them to put down an additional track or two on their ROW as AAF is doing with FECR.And of course that costs more money that Amtrak can practically get until something changes. So here we are where we are.
 
Speaking of Palmdale to Los Angeles basin routing of CAHSR ... http://www.latimes.c...919-story.html#
 

Doesn't UP own the Antelope Valley line?

No. LAUS to Burbank Jct, and thence to Lancaster of the Antelope Valley Line is owned by SCAX with UP retaining trackage rights. So Brightline would mostly have to deal with SCAX.

The Coast Line beyond Burbank Jct is owned by UP with SCAX and Amtrak trackage rights. But that would not be part of a Palmdale to LAUS route before the CAHSR is constructed down (well, mostly under) the grapevine.


Edited by jis, 20 September 2018 - 11:08 AM.

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#53 cpotisch

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 11:45 AM

 

I do not have a specific source other than general knowledge of how Amtrak was setup at its inception and what I have read over the decades regarding the rate that Amtrak pays the host railroads. When I talk about compensation, it is not just about obtaining the right to operate X number of trains each way per day on a route for X dollars per train. 

 

The money that Amtrak pays the railroads doesn't makie any of them rich. The only reason they tolerate Amtrak in the first place is because the  law says they have to.

 

If you want any of the big freight railroads to voluntarily accept and welcome passenger trains, you need to pay them quite a bit more.

Agreed. By law the Class Is have to let Amtrak use the tracks, and the amount payed just has to offset costs directly resulting from Amtrak's use of the tracks. So the frights don't have to be paid enough to fully compensate for the complications of dispatching and scheduling trains. There's no doubt in my mind that if it weren't required to by law, Amtrak would not be able to use those tracks.


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#54 cpotisch

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 11:49 AM

Well, and it seems probable that some investments could get a better runtime than Amtrak presently has Los Angeles-San Bernadino, too.  I think 4.5 hours Union Station to Las Vegas might be a bit too long.

Practically speaking, I have to wonder what could be done on the Palmdale side of things (which implies a different catchment area).

I disagree that it would be too long. Currently to get between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, you either have to fly, take a bus, or drive. Taking the train is much more convenient than flying, much more comfortable than a bus, and of course unlike a car, you don't have to drive. So I think the convenience and comfort of the train could easily compensate for any extra running time.


Routes Traveled: Silver Meteor, Silver Star, CrescentLake Shore LimitedCalifornia Zephyr, Sunset Limited, Texas EagleEthan Allen Express, Empire Service, Maple Leaf, AdirondackAcela Express, Northeast RegionalKeystone Service, Downeaster w/ Great Dome
 
Wish List: Auto Train, Cardinal, CONO, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, Crescent (overnight), Adirondack w/ Great Dome


#55 crescent-zephyr

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 11:54 AM

Any comparison to what Amtrak pays to use tracks vs. new startups like the Star in Minneapolis which uses BNSF?

In this situation it doesn't even matter, because Amtrak paying more money doesn't automatically raise the speed limit on a line. That would be a whole nother significant investment.

I wasn't assuming that Brightline would want to use the route of the chief. But that route actually exists, which makes it slightly more appealing than a route that may or may not get built. (Yes I realize the theoretical x train route to vegas may or may not get built itself).

Obviously, if a more favorable line is available, that would be a logical choice to use.

Hey, if all goes well Brightline could end up being the operator of the surfliners and run through trains vegas to San Diego. No way to know without a crystal ball.

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.

 

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#56 Mystic River Dragon

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 12:06 PM

I agree with cpotisch that 4.5 hours would not be too long, especially if the train ride is promoted as part of the vacation experience to the casinos. Base the trains on the current Brightline model, including a lounge at each end (with free food) for passengers in the premium cars, plus modern, clean, comfortable seats for all passengers, and maybe a café on the train with good-quality food.

 

The time would fly by, especially when you compare it to the same amount of time one has to put up with on the Northeast Regional for a trip between, say, Philly and central Connecticut. 

 

crescent-zephyr, never mind Brightline running the Surfliners--I want them to take over the NEC! :P


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#57 RSG

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 12:47 PM

Currently to get between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, you either have to fly, take a bus, or drive.


Practically correct, but technically incorrect. One can always take the Southwest Chief to Kingman, then the Commuter Services [dba Amtrak Thruway Express] shuttle to Vegas. Then back again, if one so desires.



#58 cpotisch

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 01:10 PM

 

Currently to get between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, you either have to fly, take a bus, or drive.


Practically correct, but technically incorrect. One can always take the Southwest Chief to Kingman, then the Commuter Services [dba Amtrak Thruway Express] shuttle to Vegas. Then back again, if one so desires.

That includes a bus ride, doesn't it?


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#59 RSG

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 01:44 PM

 

 

Currently to get between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, you either have to fly, take a bus, or drive.


Practically correct, but technically incorrect. One can always take the Southwest Chief to Kingman, then the Commuter Services [dba Amtrak Thruway Express] shuttle to Vegas. Then back again, if one so desires.

 

That includes a bus ride, doesn't it?

 

 
It's actually an airport-style shuttle van (one large, one small). Though it sounds miserable on the surface, I've found it to be quite comfortable (though cozy) and the time passes pretty fast [faster if one has a smartphone or other electronic device]. Plus, the employees of the company which operates the shuttle are very low-key and accomodating.
 
Since posting my original comment, I notice that booking such a trip eastbound directly is not possible from any station west of KNG, so one would have to travel to a station past KNG and do a western version of the Toledo Shuffle.


Edited by RSG, 20 September 2018 - 01:46 PM.


#60 cirdan

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Posted 21 September 2018 - 03:45 AM

 

Well, and it seems probable that some investments could get a better runtime than Amtrak presently has Los Angeles-San Bernadino, too.  I think 4.5 hours Union Station to Las Vegas might be a bit too long.

Practically speaking, I have to wonder what could be done on the Palmdale side of things (which implies a different catchment area).

I disagree that it would be too long. Currently to get between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, you either have to fly, take a bus, or drive. Taking the train is much more convenient than flying, much more comfortable than a bus, and of course unlike a car, you don't have to drive. So I think the convenience and comfort of the train could easily compensate for any extra running time.

 

 

To compete on time, a train has to be significantly faster than friving. This is because driving time is measured door to door whereas train times don't include the time it gets to and from the station at either end, plus any waiting time at the station. You typically don't turn up at a sttaion with second to spare, so to make the comparison totally fair, that has to be accounted for too.

 

This goes for airlines too.

 

Now, personally I believe that trains have other advantages besides speed, and that there are plenty of people who wopuld take the train even if it took longer, as long as that excess time stayed within reason. For example because the time you spend on a train can be used productively whereas driving time is essentialyl wasted time. But if you are going to compete on speed alone, then you need to compare like to likes, and that means the train must be faster than driving to be equal, and must be a lot faste rto be faster.






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