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Is Amtrak LD Truly Relevant

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Looking at LD on-time statistics, I really don't think Amtrak is vaguely relevant. Trains 16 hours late? Plain inexcusable. And please... don't discuss the on-time performance of legacy airlines vs. Amtrak -- that ship sailed ages ago (and there's no excuse for the absurd on-time performance of legacy airlines, either). But steel wheels on steel rails should simply get through... but weak-kneed Amtrak management coupled with absurd governmental rules (freight before passengers?) hamstring the carrier.

 

Sure, sometimes trains can't get through... a mountain pass snowed under; tracks flooded. Happens. But it seems that there are no contingency plans that Amtrak can put into place to overcome obstacles. The weather has been good for a week or so; no major issues other than heat, yet the wonderful Amtrak Status Map system shows red box after red box after red box -- trains dramatically late (like more than 1/2 day).

 

I don't want to hear that "Amtrak is doing the best it can" as an argument; no, it is not. As someone else said here, once the Heritage diners come off eastern LD trains, they'll go to Canada, be properly maintained, and put in another half-century of good, reliable service. So... maintenance crews are not doing the job, plain and simple. They're quasi-government employees and have no incentive to do a better job (just like Congress).

 

I'm a big believer in privatization rather than government subsidy; if it's time for Amtrak LD trains to be gone, I'd try to privatize them and see what happens. If they fail, then that's how it goes. Companies go in and out of business all the time. And I truly don't want to hear about "it's the only way I have to go see my grandchildren" or any of that rot; the move closer to your grandchildren or have the little buggers move in with you.

 

If you're incapable (for physical or emotional reasons) of flying or driving, then don't go -- you have absolutely no right to travel, regardless of the means. And if you can't afford to fly or drive... then don't go. Like all of us, I have plenty of things I want but will never have; doesn't bother me one whit.

 

Don't get me wrong: I'm all for train travel. I've ridden great US trains pre-Amtrak; I've ridden trains all over Europe in both luxury and basic accommodations, depending on the destinations. I prefer to ride trains here in the US, given the relative ease of travel compared to flying (no TSA intrusion, for instance). Even though it's bad, the food on an Amtrak train is better than anything you can get on a plane (if you even get food). And few things are as comfortable and comforting as seeing the American (or European or Asian) countryside go by as you relax in a sleeper. The best.

 

I'm just talking relevance here. And with so few LD routes to handle, Amtrak simply might no longer be relevant as anything other than a regional/corridor carrier. Perhaps that's for the best, too.

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Guest PaulM

I agree with you 100%, except I would substitute the word highway where ever appropriate. When was the last time private enterprise financed, built, and operated a highway? 1840 maybe?

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I'm a big believer in privatization rather than government subsidy; if it's time for Amtrak LD trains to be gone, I'd try to privatize them and see what happens. If they fail, then that's how it goes. Companies go in and out of business all the time. And I truly don't want to hear about "it's the only way I have to go see my grandchildren" or any of that rot; the move closer to your grandchildren or have the little buggers move in with you.

 

If you're incapable (for physical or emotional reasons) of flying or driving, then don't go -- you have absolutely no right to travel, regardless of the means. And if you can't afford to fly or drive... then don't go. Like all of us, I have plenty of things I want but will never have; doesn't bother me one whit.

Based on your comment, if you don't like late trains, then don't use them. Take the plane or drive. "You have absolutely no right to travel" on the train.

 

It would take a lot to fix the on time performance:

Laws that financially penalize railroads that fail to follow federal rules giving Amtrak priority and sttrict enforcement of such laws.

A solution to the fact that fast-moving Amtrak trains have different railbed issues than slow moving freights that can live with slow-orders.

A commitment by states and the federal government to adequately fund rail travel.

Better Amtrak management.

A decision as to who pays for multi-tracking heavily used sections as well as eliminating more crossings.

A decision as to proper maintenance of rail lines and crossings.

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The weather has been good for a week or so; no major issues other than heat, yet the wonderful Amtrak Status Map system shows red box after red box after red box -- trains dramatically late (like more than 1/2 day).

 

 

You do realize that the Missouri River has been at unprecedented record flooding levels for months now don't you? Just because it hasn't rained for a week doesn't mean that the river automatically drops to normal levels and all of the flood damage to tracks and bridges is miraculously fixed overnight. Trains 7/8, 5/6, and 3/4 have all been dramatically impacted by this flooding, slow orders through the affected areas, as well as increased other train traffic due to rerouting away from the flooding. Amtrak isn't perfect but unless you can control the weather (I for one can't) I think your argument is rather misinformed and misguided.

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I don't want to hear that "Amtrak is doing the best it can" as an argument; no, it is not. As someone else said here, once the Heritage diners come off eastern LD trains, they'll go to Canada, be properly maintained, and put in another half-century of good, reliable service. So... maintenance crews are not doing the job, plain and simple. They're quasi-government employees and have no incentive to do a better job (just like Congress).

 

 

 

Can you actually prove that? Or do you just like presenting wild speculation as fact?

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I'm a big believer in privatization rather than government subsidy

Then let's get rid of all the government subsidies the airlines and roads get!

 

Oh, that's right, the Government does subsidize roads and airlines! Who pays for the FAA, ATC, the airports themselves, "Security" at the airports, DOT, the building and repairing of roads, the building and repairing of bridges, etc...?huh.gif And if that's not a subsidy, what is?huh.gif

 

I know I do not want to pay $1,000,000 to fly coast to coast or $500,000 to drive to the store to get some milk!rolleyes.gif But without subsidies, that's what it will cost!

 

After 9/11, didn't all (or most) of the airlines complain that they were losing money?huh.gif So the Government provided BILLIONS OF $$ to the airlines!

 

The grand total that Amtrak received was $0.00!rolleyes.gif

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Can you actually prove that? Or do you just like presenting wild speculation as fact?

Given the OP's ignorance of this:

 

You do realize that the Missouri River has been at unprecedented record flooding levels for months now don't you? Just because it hasn't rained for a week doesn't mean that the river automatically drops to normal levels and all of the flood damage to tracks and bridges is miraculously fixed overnight. Trains 7/8, 5/6, and 3/4 have all been dramatically impacted by this flooding, slow orders through the affected areas, as well as increased other train traffic due to rerouting away from the flooding. Amtrak isn't perfect but unless you can control the weather (I for one can't) I think your argument is rather misinformed and misguided.

 

 

I seriously doubt that any reality-based rebuttals will do any good at all.

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Agreed about the inexcusable part. Is this one of those new 'only in America' jokes? e.g. Only in America can someone arrive a half-hour early at a train station, see their daily train leave right under their noses, and then find out that it's yesterday's train?

 

@Privatization: It just will not work.

Edited by NY Penn

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As much as we'd all prefer to ignore the OP or dismiss his commentary as typical Tea-publican right wing radio talking point rhetoric, the fact remains that far too many Americans do believe this trash, therefore it's our responsibility to counter these distortions of reality with FACTS.

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In a way I almost feel sorry for the guy because there will come a day when thing don't work for him and he won't understand what hit him. Lable it however you want:

 

"What goes around comes around"

 

"You reap what you sow"

 

"Vengance is mine says the LORD, I will repay."

 

No matter how you label it, you will generally at some point be on the receiving end of what you dish out or whatever attitude you have and you will not enjoy the experience. Ignore the guy and let him stew in his own juice.

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Guest ToddVanSlyke

No, I don't use unreliable trains. I have a trip scheduled for next summer and my wife and I want to take the train to LA... haven't done the Chief in years. But I can't rely on it getting there anywhere near on time. And mid-summer so weather (other than heat) shouldn't be an issue.I'm probably going to drive -- which is silly and wasteful but at least more-or-less controllable (I can always detour around problems).

 

And... if privatization doesn't work, well, so be it. Then let Amtrak be a regional/corridor carrier and that'll be that. Perhaps it's just time for the government to be out of the passenger railroad business altogether; privatize the corridors and when the rest dies, the rest dies. I'd hate it and mourn it... but maybe it's just time for passenger railroading over LD routes to be put in their graves and become a nostalgic memory. Like steam locomotives.

 

Don't get me wrong: we have every right to travel. We just have no special right to travel the way we want to, regardless of what that ignorant idiot said.

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Guest George B

As much as we'd all prefer to ignore the OP or dismiss his commentary as typical Tea-publican right wing radio talking point rhetoric, the fact remains that far too many Americans do believe this trash, therefore it's our responsibility to counter these distortions of reality with FACTS.

 

Facts don't mean anything to the OP. That was obvious from the get-go.

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No, I don't use unreliable trains. I have a trip scheduled for next summer and my wife and I want to take the train to LA... haven't done the Chief in years. But I can't rely on it getting there anywhere near on time. And mid-summer so weather (other than heat) shouldn't be an issue.I'm probably going to drive -- which is silly and wasteful but at least more-or-less controllable (I can always detour around problems).

 

And... if privatization doesn't work, well, so be it. Then let Amtrak be a regional/corridor carrier and that'll be that. Perhaps it's just time for the government to be out of the passenger railroad business altogether; privatize the corridors and when the rest dies, the rest dies. I'd hate it and mourn it... but maybe it's just time for passenger railroading over LD routes to be put in their graves and become a nostalgic memory.

I'll say just two last things on this subject - Amtrak was established in 1971 because the freight railroads did not want to run passenger trains anymore. In the late 1950's and thru the 1960's train travel was so bad and unreliable that fewer and fewer passengers rode it. Today, the passenger loads go up and up every year! The only reason that more people do not take trains is because of capacity issues!

 

But remember: "Nobody rides trains any more!"blink.gif

 

And as far as not riding the Southwest Chief because you "can't rely on it getting there anywhere near on time", I'll say this. In all my traveling on the SWC, I never arrived into LAX on time - most times, it been 30 minutes to an hour EARLY!ohmy.gif

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No, I don't use unreliable trains. I have a trip scheduled for next summer and my wife and I want to take the train to LA... haven't done the Chief in years. But I can't rely on it getting there anywhere near on time. And mid-summer so weather (other than heat) shouldn't be an issue.I'm probably going to drive -- which is silly and wasteful but at least more-or-less controllable (I can always detour around problems).

So as a matter of choice you'd knowingly and with acknowledgement do a silly and wasteful thing. That is indeed comforting to know. :)

And... if privatization doesn't work, well, so be it. Then let Amtrak be a regional/corridor carrier and that'll be that. Perhaps it's just time for the government to be out of the passenger railroad business altogether; privatize the corridors and when the rest dies, the rest dies. I'd hate it and mourn it... but maybe it's just time for passenger railroading over LD routes to be put in their graves and become a nostalgic memory. Like steam locomotives.

First what makes you assume that privatization will work, other than a matter of faith?

 

Which corridor do you think will operate nicely in privatized form, and what makes you believe so? just for kicks, how many highways do you think will operate nicely in a privatized form? Please note that in general the corridor that show to be close to profitable all involved cost allocations that are dubious at best. And some of the most heavily traveled corridors actually have lower cost recovery than Amtrak LD.

Don't get me wrong: we have every right to travel. We just have no special right to travel the way we want to, regardless of what that ignorant idiot said.

Where does anyone explicitly say that one has a right to travel? It certainly is not one of the enumerated rights in the Bill of Rights. So that right derives from the 9th amendment (and indeed before it was adopted, from an assumption implicit in the Constitution), viz...

 

Ninth Amendment – Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

 

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

 

 

That being the case, who is to say that the right to travel is any more sacrosanct than the right to travel by a horse and buggy or by an airplane, or (shudder) even by train, until some law or regulation is promulgated stating otherwise?

 

Ergo.... if one believes one has a right to travel, it follows that one has a right to travel by whatever means they choose, absent any specific prohibitions that has stood the test of a constitutional court judgement.

 

Inquiring minds want to know.

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As much as we'd all prefer to ignore the OP or dismiss his commentary as typical Tea-publican right wing radio talking point rhetoric, the fact remains that far too many Americans do believe this trash, therefore it's our responsibility to counter these distortions of reality with FACTS.

 

Not here however, that is preaching to the choir.

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Jis, well said and temperate, as usual!

 

PS: Let's privatize the FAA and a few of the major airports. They need to pull their weight too!

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While I certainly do not agree with everything the OP said I think one point he makes is true, LD train travel in the USA is certainly not a necessity. I support it, but I also do not see it as necessary. If every LD train was cancelled tomorrow, very little about this country would change.

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You said this:

 

you have absolutely no right to travel, regardless of the means.

 

And then you said this:

 

Don't get me wrong: we have every right to travel. We just have no special right to travel the way we want to,

 

And mid-summer so weather (other than heat) shouldn't be an issue.

 

Because there is no weather ever during the summer. Just ask the folks in Joplin, Tuscaloosa, and the folks all along the Missouri River about that one. Just saying that Amtrak has almost as much as chance of weather delays no matter what the season is.

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While I certainly do not agree with everything the OP said I think one point he makes is true, LD train travel in the USA is certainly not a necessity. I support it, but I also do not see it as necessary. If every LD train was cancelled tomorrow, very little about this country would change.

 

I have to agree with a lot that is being said. Regardless of the flooding problems, Amtrak's LD train performance has been just abysmal all over the system. If you want relevence then just compare the number of flights from Chicago to Denver, Albuquerque, Phoenix and the West Coast vs how many Amtrak carries on their little one train a day schedules. And to make that one train a day takes from 5 to 7 sets of expensive equipment on the road every day.

 

Personally, I think Amtrak's LD trains are a necessary part of it's network and a great national asset as a way to see the country at eye level. But not the way they are being run today. More routes are needed and more equipment and the service needs to be run on time and it needs to be a real service. Not some govt employees just trying to get through so they can get paid. The markets are there for the picking. But I doubt if there are that many repeat riders after one horrible Amtrak experience after another. Only railfans will put up with what is going on right now.

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Guest minnesota2011

I have to agree that Amtrak long-distance trains are irrelevant for 99.9% of the population. As a past Amtrak passenger, I wish it weren't true, but it's reality. At the rate things are going, I don't see how the LD trains can last much longer than another decade or so. The reasons include a sparse route system that makes it very difficult to get to many places, aging and poorly maintained equipment, on-board employees with poor attitudes, terrible on-time performance, and coach fares that often exceed the cost of an airline ticket. After my recent experience with long-distance coach travel, I have decided to never try that again. I have also traveleled by sleeper in the past, but the fares have gotten so ridiculously expensive that I won't consider it now. The future is with improved corridor services, not the LD trains.

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