Jump to content


  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

About keelhauled

  • Rank

Profile Information

  • Gender
  • Location

Recent Profile Visitors

The recent visitors block is disabled and is not being shown to other users.

  1. keelhauled

    What would you add?

    CDoT already runs bus service from Grand Junction/Glenwood Springs to Denver via I-70, which is much faster than the Moffat route and probably has considerably higher on-line traffic potential thanks to the ski areas. It doesn't seem like it would be a very good idea to take on paying for an expensive piece of mountain railroad when one crossing of the Rockies would do just as well.
  2. As long as Massachusetts is funding service, it's in their interest to promote travel within the state, and to better integrate the western part of the state with the Boston MSA, instead of providing a route for people to spend money in New York. Although the point is probably moot in all of our lifetimes anyway, given how long it will take to negotiate capacity increases from Worcester to Springfield with CSX, then to fund them, then to build them...then do the whole thing again to Pittsfield, except this time with more challenging topography.
  3. I interpreted his comment as referring to the LSL's checked baggage, not Springfield staffing, at least not yet.
  4. keelhauled

    National Menu Changes?

    It says "mushroom bolognese." The base is probably mushrooms instead of meat.
  5. It's a day that ends in y, so there has to be a train somewhere on the Amtrak system late enough to cause consternation and despair to its passengers. It's just how it is.
  6. keelhauled

    NEC Thangsgiving rush

    There was debris in catenary in New Jersey.
  7. keelhauled

    P42 Shortage?

    How many trains leave the original terminal with a freight engine? The number of spare P42s in an Amtrak yard doesn't matter if you have collision or breakdown necessitating replacement power hundreds of miles from an Amtrak facility and with freight locomotives closer.
  8. keelhauled

    Fire Richard Anderson Campaign?

    If Amtrak's current track use payments are so small as to not be in an incentive to prioritize passenger trains over freight traffic, then it stands to reason that, all else being equal, they need to be higher in order for passenger traffic to operate reliably on time. A passenger train would have to represent more revenue than the amount of income generated by however many freight trains are not able to run because of the capacity taken up by the passenger train. In that context, the operator doesn't matter--it could be Amtrak, it could be Iowa Pacific, it could be the freight railroad itself. But that money needs to come from somewhere--where? It has to be the federal government, doesn't it? Even if you use non-cash subsidies such as tax breaks, the difference still has to be made up by taxpayers. And it should be self-evident that such a strategy would cost even more than what Amtrak receives in operating subsidies today, since its current payments are insufficient to ensure timely service. If it's one's opinion that long distance trains are worth the federal subsidy in general, then Amtrak is as good an operator as any, probably marginally better since indirect costs can be amortized over more trains, instead of each operator maintaining their own customer service channels, administrative staff, mechanical sites, etc. If you don't think that the network returns enough to justify the subsidy, then the operator isn't going to make a difference because it's not going to make the financial demands disappear. It's also not accurate to say that highway and airline users pay no right of way costs--on road diesel is taxed for the highway fund, and airplanes pay landing fees to the airports every time they hit the tarmac. It's not enough to make the infrastructure self-sustaining, but then the same is true of Amtrak's access payments.
  9. keelhauled

    Menu Capitol Limited?

    Well that's my point, Amtrak will promise one thing, but it's not always what their crews actually deliver. It's shooting themselves in the foot, and personally I think the on board service is the company's biggest weakness that's entirely within their control.
  10. keelhauled

    Menu Capitol Limited?

    Was in-room dining ever advertised? I don't recall ever being offered it. In fact, on my one LSL trip with the box meals, the crew didn't say anything about the option even though it was part of Amtrak's advertising copy. As always, the most consistent thing about Amtrak is its inconsistency.
  11. What it says on the tin, via AP/NYTimes. Amtrak doesn't seem to have issued a press release yet. $168 million operating loss (lowest since 1973) on record high $3.4 billion revenue; hopes to eliminate operating loss entirely by 2021; ridership flat at 31.7 million, blamed on service disruptions such as NYP work; board authorized acquisition of new diesel locomotives.
  12. 90% of them book online, according to Amtrak's chief marketing officer.
  13. keelhauled

    Fire Richard Anderson Campaign?

    How do you tell someone in urban America that their funds go to supporting rural Interstate exchanges they will never drive across or subsidies for crops that are exported and they will never eat? By and large, rural states are net recipients of federal funding already, and more urbanized states are the net donors, so why should even more money flow inland? Part of living in the United States and having a federal government is accepting that tax money is going to flow where the needs of the nation demand it. Someone in Kansas may never live near a port, yet some portion of their taxes supports the Coast Guard's authority over US waters, and so in return they have access to all the goods that flow through the ports. They may never use a train on the NEC, but nevertheless their taxes that go to the route will help ensure the region's continued economic health, so that they can continue to use their Citibank credit card to buy products on Amazon (to take two companies with a significant/soon to be significant NYC presence). Perhaps this is where I am hopelessly optimistic that our society will accept that their taxes are required to support parts of the country that they may never see. You'll find no argument from me here. I guess we just disagree as to the way the total transportation pie is divided up, so to speak. Going back to the NEC example, yes it has well developed highways and airports, but it also has extremely dense urban cores with extremely high real estate costs, the most congested airspace in the country, and the only airports (LGA, JFK, and DCA) that are slot controlled in the country. In light of that, rail transport can be an incredibly important piece of the transportation puzzle, providing high passenger capacity into city centers through relatively narrow corridors, and do so in a time competitive manner since major destinations are close together while preserving airspace capacity for long-haul traffic that cannot realistically be expected to travel via land or sea. So the balance I see would be cars delivering passengers to major outlying points where land is cheap, trains transporting passengers into and between the urban areas, while planes provide continental and international connectivity. The formula doesn't work in areas that don't have the high costs of personal vehicle transport, because trains will never be able to match the convenience factor of being able to arrive and depart from one's residence on their own schedule (and this will become even more true if/when autonomous vehicles become the norm), nor does it work across distances long enough that aircraft are significantly faster, even in downtown-to-downtown comparisons. Yes, but I don't really see how that supports the idea of long distance trains. A funding source that promotes development of trains by private operators and/or states? Yes please, let's have more of it. But I don't see any reason to expect that would lead to investments in long-haul trains, as opposed to corridors like what Brightline has or what Texas Central is working towards. For all the reasons I have expounded on so far, the idea of dedicating significant federal funding to a national network doesn't really make sense to me. On a completely unrelated note, I am happy to see your screen name again.
  14. keelhauled

    Fire Richard Anderson Campaign?

    I actually agree with in you in principle, at least generally. I do think that some long distance trains work as a series of overlapping corridors, like the LSL or the Silver trains. There are probably other examples, either that could exist or perhaps parts of existing routes. I am less convinced that is true of the Western trains, although an argument could probably be made for the EB as essential transportation based on the limited Interstate highway access on its route. But anyway, the idea of building, as you say, a reliable and timely network of long distance trains is tilting at windmills when there are more important and urgent concerns with the existing network. In order to have reliable and frequent passenger service you need to own the infrastructure. I know you have made that point before, and you're right. But how do you do that? Either you forcibly take over the existing freight trackage, or you build your own, and neither of those are realistic. If you think there is political support to seize major freight corridors, you're out of your mind, and it's a horrible idea anyhow in terms of national infrastructure. Intercity passengers can be, and by and large are, accommodated via highway and air travel, but there is no realistic way to transport the volume of freight that moves by rail if that track capacity is taken by passenger trains. Building a parallel passenger route (actually logistically it would probably be better to build freight lines to preserve passenger access to downtown cores) is maybe marginally more politically feasible but far more costly and would almost certainly involve decades of legal wrangling over eminent domain cases at huge expense. California's struggle with HSR is certainly not a model you would want to follow, but would probably look like a cakewalk compared to a similar project using exclusively federal funds across multiple state lines. And in any case, the United States struggles mightily with even maintaining its existing publicly owned infrastructure, both road, rail, and in some areas aviation. Why should we be spending precious time and money in building a brand new system when we can't even get the existing house in order? Unfortunately there is not an unlimited pot of money to go around--and this is where I will complain again about the Downeaster, because both Brunswick projects I mentioned were primarily federally funded--and I think that the investments should be going to where there are identified problems with current infrastructure, such as any number of NEC projects, the NS mainline entering Chicago from the east, the painfully slow Chicago/St. Louis suburban running on the Lincoln Service, CSX chokepoints in Virginia, etc. Perhaps you are more optimistic about the chances of the government suddenly managing to develop a bipartisan consensus to make a huge infrastructure push than I am, but I don't see that happening in any of our lifetimes. Ironically, even as public support for public transportation will probably continue increasing gradually, the political support has likely peaked as the left/right urban/rural split continues. I don't think that either party will ever control both houses of Congress and the presidency with a majority strong enough to push through effectively single-party legislation, which is really what would be needed to pass the kind of legislature required to build out some kind of national rail system that is significantly different than what we have now. So most, if not all, major public transportation projects are going to come under the auspices of state or municipal governments, which pretty well precludes the idea of major interstate developments. I guess what it comes down to is that at this point I think the balance of both the nation's existing transport network, and associated travel patterns, and the political support for public infrastructure investments has tipped so far towards the use of highways and aviation for long distance travel that it's a futile endeavor to advocate for a wholesale restoration of the national passenger rail network that existed up until the 1950s. Expecting that to come back is going to be a long wait for a ship that won't come in. Instead we should be directing what money is available towards projects that will support the continued operation of trains in the areas where they are already an important segment of the transportation network. Expansion of the network is going to be led primarily on a regional basis, such as what we have seen in Virginia, some areas of the Midwest, and California. If Indiana or Ohio or wherever doesn't choose to make the effort, well, that's a pity, but there's no point in spending political and monetary capital in trying to force trains upon them when there is so little of it to go around and so many other places to spend it.
  15. keelhauled

    Fire Richard Anderson Campaign?

    Why, as a national transportation policy, should we be subsidizing anyone other than those people? We already subsidize rural infrastructure and society to a huge extent through road spending, agricultural subsidies, healthcare spending, etc. Why is it prudent spending to fling more money at long distance trains, which are completely redundant and in almost all cases nowhere near essential transportation? Insofar as the federal government has an obligation to ensure that a its citizens have access to mobility--which I do believe that it does--why should it be obligated to provide that service in the form of trains, when other modes of transport are more cost effective and in many cases more reliable? The fundamental advantage of railroads is that they have an extremely high throughput capacity, at the cost of an extremely high physical investment. The only way the investment can be justified is if the capacity is utilized, and there is no scenario in which long distance trains do that. The capacity is paid for and used by private freight operators, in which case as we see happens across the country passenger trains become horribly tardy and of complete uselessness to anyone who wants reliable transportation, which I assume would be everybody. Or, the investment is made publicly, but for the purpose of only an extremely limited use of the infrastructure, ie Raton Pass, in which case the subsidy per passenger becomes spectacularly, and I would argue unjustifiably, high. I am speaking from the point of view of someone who has lived in rural Vermont, New York, and now Colorado, all of which have been served by single daily passenger trains, and all of which I used extremely infrequently in favor of either buses or personal vehicles. Almost universally I found it more efficient to drive or use a bus to Northeast Corridor points for transportation within the region. Trains are horrible as a feeder service. Either you do it cheaply with one train a day, which appeals to a tiny subset of the market that can afford to have extremely flexible schedules, or you use multiple frequencies that cost more, carry few people at a time, and could be replaced at great savings by buses. Look at what happened to the Downeaster when it was extended to Brunswick--there are about 20 passengers on each train east of Brunswick (calculated from the three roundtrips daily that previously operated). With 306 seats (4x 72 seat coaches and 18 BC seats), that is a 6.5% load factor. 6.5%!!! They spent $35 million on the project, then another $9 million to get two more round trips to Brunswick this fall. The entire train generated $8.6 million in revenue last year. How can you possibly justify expenditures like that for so few people? Trains are just an awful fiscal decision for low density traffic. So what is the point of long distance trains as a public service? What is the justification for subsidizing the segment of travelers who are riding for the experience, or because they have time to kill and choose trains as personal preference? Why are they not paying full freight? And why is a train so critically important for the remainder of passengers, those who do require ground transportation for a certain city pair that the train serves, that we should pay for such an inefficient mode of transport? There is nothing inherent about long distance train service that supports towns and cities, certainly not more than an effective highway network, which the United States just so happens to already have across a much larger area of the country than the Amtrak network.