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When it comes to growing Amtrak, what service expansion(s) do you view

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In this forum we talk about some ambitious ideas, like restoring service from Chicago - Florida. But on the other end of the spectrum, what are some examples of less daunting service expansions that you feel are within Amtrak's reach and would provide the most bang for Amtrak's buck (so to speak)?

 

I can think of a few, one being an overnight train from LA to the Bay Area along the Coast Starlight route. Some say it wouldn't work, citing the Spirit of California's poor performance back in the early 1980s. I would counter that by saying things are much different now, with a more robust Amtrak California network and the inconvenience of TSA.

 

What say you? What do you feel is the best "low-hanging fruit?"

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From what I heard, the main issue the Spirit of California ran into was a bad equipment allocation (two sleepers that regularly sold out and a bunch of coaches that ran empty overnight) combined with bad political timing (thank you for running for Senate, Gov. Brown...).

 

It depends on what you consider to be "less ambitious"...would SEHSR be more or less ambitious than an LD train through IN, KY, TN, and AL/GA en route to FL? Where would a restored NCH, a restored Pioneer, etc. fall?

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From what I heard, the main issue the Spirit of California ran into was a bad equipment allocation (two sleepers that regularly sold out and a bunch of coaches that ran empty overnight) combined with bad political timing (thank you for running for Senate, Gov. Brown...).

 

I would absolutely love a return of a Spirit of California/overnight Coast Starlight between SAC/SJC and LAX. I could have used it on my last California trip rather than using the 4768 SJC/Santa Barbara Thruway to 768 Pacific Surfliner. That was when it was bad the bus was early and I got to spend an extra hour at the Santa Barbara Amtrak around 5am. I also got to spend time at McDonald's along the route but it was in the middle of the night so I was in no mood for a burger.

 

There was a thread for the Sleep Bus somewhere on AU. They don't get some through train service between the Bay Area and LA and I might consider the Sleep Bus next time.

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It depends on what you consider to be "less ambitious"...would SEHSR be more or less ambitious than an LD train through IN, KY, TN, and AL/GA en route to FL? Where would a restored NCH, a restored Pioneer, etc. fall?

 

"ambitious"?

 

Based on what's happened in Amtrak since my first Amtrak trip in 1995,

 

Not ambitious: Oklahoma, Maine, Roanoke, VA. The BL was canceled, brought back as the TR, then canceled again. The Kentucky Cardinal came and went. I think we had Janesville? service come and go.

 

I wouldn't hold my breath for any LD expansions. You can blame this Congress but have things been any different since 1995 .... or since the Auto Train, the last LD route which is still here today, Before that, the Capitol Limited, the last LD route that doesn't require you to bring your own car which costs a lot more money and was just essentially a replacement for the Broadway Limited, Before that, maybe the Lake Shore Limited? Other than that we're at the mercy of states.

Edited by Philly Amtrak Fan

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The least ambitious service expansions are likely primarily corridor services that existed under Amtrak but have been cancelled since. Some of these include Minneapolis-Duluth, Indianapolis-Louisville, St. Albans-Montreal and Chicago-Toronto. Other new corridor services could be sections of former LD routes, such as Dallas-Houston, Los Angeles-Las Vegas, Oklahoma City-Kansas City and Pittsburgh-St. Louis. There are also potentially new routes entirely such as Cincinnati-Cleveland, Roanoke-Bristol, New Orleans-Baton Rouge and Albuquerque-Cheyenne. In my mind, any route that has acceptable trackage, high population size, feeds into the national network, and can be completed without an overnight segment is really not that ambitious. With political support, they can be completed in a relatively small timeframe. In addition to the addition of new routes, there are many opportunities for expanded frequencies along existing routes such as San Francisco-Los Angeles, Chicago-Cleveland, Chicago-Cincinnati, Pittsburgh-Harrisburg, and Dallas-San Antonio. There are also others that are already in the process of being implemented included New Orleans-Jacksonville, Chicago-Quad Cities, and Chicago-Rockford.

 

Sent from my SM-J327P using Amtrak Forum mobile app

Edited by brianpmcdonnell17

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Brian, unless they change the 750 mile rule corridor service expansion would require state support. Several of your route proposals cross state borders which mean multiple states would have to come together or one state would have to pick up all the costs which make it less likely. Ohio and Texas have had really poor track records when it comes to funding train service (cue Bob Dylan!) Hopefully Texas Central takes off and changes things in Texas.

 

As for a repeal of the 750 mile rule or a 750+ mile expansion, look at the track record of expansions in the Amtrak era. I'm not one to pour cold water. I'm not saying I'm not in favor of such expansions, I'm just saying look at the past track record.

Edited by Philly Amtrak Fan

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It may be much easier to get state and local support than federal support in the current setup. Even trains that run way longer than 750 miles depend on local financial support to continue running. Think Southwest Chief through Colorado and New Mexico for example.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

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I think an overnight Los Angeles-Oakland train is a great idea.. but instead of the coast route, run it over Tehachapi...just extend one of the current San Joaquin's, and call it The Lark..or perhaps The Owl, more appropriately...

The long running time going that way would not matter so much on an overnight train as a daylight train....and the train could even be run thru to San Diego, or Sacramento or even Reno...

 

Here's a view of what once was....

http://www.streamlinerschedules.com/concourse/track7/owl195707.html

Edited by railiner

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A couple of good candidates for expansion include a daily Cardinal, the Crescent Star, and an IND-KCY section of the Cardinal. The first would double ridership on the route, and the latter two would have many connections over a relatively short route. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards strongly supports the Crescent Star, and West Virginia strongly supports a daily Cardinal, so two of these expansions already have political support.

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I think an overnight Los Angeles-Oakland train is a great idea.. but instead of the coast route, run it over Tehachapi...just extend one of the current San Joaquin's, and call it The Lark..

The long running time going that way would not matter so much on an overnight train as a daylight train....and the train could even be run thru to San Diego, or Sacramento or even Reno...

Other than the occasional Coast Starlight detour, UP is strongly opposed to any passenger trains running over the Tehachapi Pass due to extremely heavy freight traffic. Therefore, expensive capital improvements would be needed before UP would even consider allowing passenger trains over that route. In addition, the California HSR project will close the Bakersfield-LA gap via a new alignment once that portion is done, so there is no need to put all that money into the slow Tehachapi route when there are plans to run a high speed train in the corridor.

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I think an overnight Los Angeles-Oakland train is a great idea.. but instead of the coast route, run it over Tehachapi...just extend one of the current San Joaquin's, and call it The Lark..

The long running time going that way would not matter so much on an overnight train as a daylight train....and the train could even be run thru to San Diego, or Sacramento or even Reno...

Other than the occasional Coast Starlight detour, UP is strongly opposed to any passenger trains running over the Tehachapi Pass due to extremely heavy freight traffic. Therefore, expensive capital improvements would be needed before UP would even consider allowing passenger trains over that route. In addition, the California HSR project will close the Bakersfield-LA gap via a new alignment once that portion is done, so there is no need to put all that money into the slow Tehachapi route when there are plans to run a high speed train in the corridor.

 

Makes sense...but when is this HSR going into service

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I can't see how anything that involves new mileage or new trains is "low hanging fruit." I would think that a good, undaunting task not yet achieved would be something like sorting out website glitches or dispatching locomotives that don't fail en route.

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I can't see how anything that involves new mileage or new trains is "low hanging fruit." I would think that a good, undaunting task not yet achieved would be something like sorting out website glitches or dispatching locomotives that don't fail en route.

 

I agree. Low hanging fruit may be something like adding a stop on an existing route assuming the stop still exists.

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I can't see how anything that involves new mileage or new trains is "low hanging fruit." I would think that a good, undaunting task not yet achieved would be something like sorting out website glitches or dispatching locomotives that don't fail en route.

 

I agree. Low hanging fruit may be something like adding a stop on an existing route assuming the stop still exists.

 

It took Hope, AR two decades to go from original request to an active stop. If that's the time frame for low hanging fruit I'd hate to see what high hanging fruit looks like.

 

*Corrected as per the post below.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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It took Hope, AK two decades to go from original request to an active stop. If that's the time frame for low hanging fruit I'd hate to see what high hanging fruit looks like.

 

 

Arkansas is AR. AK is Alaska. I'm not sure there is a Hope in Alaska and if there was, I'd like to see Amtrak get up to Alaska although that would really drive up the Amtrak budget and that would certainly not qualify as "low hanging fruit" anymore.

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Alaska is an example of where the federal government conveyed its railroad to the state....the ARR was owned by the Feds, and is now a state owned entity...

Nothing really to do with the topic, but I thought I'd throw in that little 'trivia' here.... :)

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In this forum we talk about some ambitious ideas, like restoring service from Chicago - Florida. But on the other end of the spectrum, what are some examples of less daunting service expansions that you feel are within Amtrak's reach and would provide the most bang for Amtrak's buck (so to speak)?

 

(1) Increased frequency on existing lines. (Starting with a daily Cardinal and Sunset, but going on from there.)

(2) Purchase of existing freight-owned lines and upgrades to provide more reliable, higher-speed travel.

(3) High platforms at stations served by Amfleets and Viewliners to provide faster boarding and better ADA accommodations.

(4) Better connectivity to local rail. (This is actually pretty good most places now, but Pittsburgh, Miami, and Tampa stand out.) And between Amtrak trains. (Pennsy-Cap through cars, for instance.)

(5) The Ethan Allen to Burlington VT and the Vermonter to Montreal, largely because most of the work is already done.

 

OK, so these aren't the true operational low-hanging fruit (like "provide ingredients lists in the dining cars"). But in terms of capital investments, I believe the low-hanging fruit is in leveraging the economies of scale inherent in railroading. So "new route" is the last thing you should think of. There's a lot of stuff which is way more bang for the buck than a new route.

 

I've made a half-hearted pitch for Two A Day on the Lake Shore Limited route. I really do think it would be bigger bang for the buck than any "new route". Zero new stations required. Any track or signal improvements benefit multiple trains per day. Etc.

Edited by neroden

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What would make the most sense is the restoration of service on lines that formerly had passenger service like PHL to CHI Broadway Ltd via the refurbished old PRR Mainline, but more importantly the through lines that ran directly West (from NY-PHL-WAS) to St Louis and Kansas City, saving time and avoiding a CHI connection and layover. The big problem is that additional equipment for route expansion does not exist. The will in Washington for an expanded national passenger rail network is just not there. The numerous small towns and cities along these old routes would probably welcome new service.

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Unfortunately, even if the political will and equipment were there for restoring the National Limited, some of the infrastructure is not. The panhandle line between Dayton, OH, and Indianapolis was abandoned shortly after the discontinuance of the National Limited, and there is no reasonable alternative routing between those two cities. This would make it cost prohibitive to bring the service back in it's original form. An alternative to your proposal would be to start an IND-KCY section of a daily Cardinal, which would run on the old National Limited route between those two cities. This would serve the end points you mentioned, and would be a lot cheaper than rebuilding the panhandle line in Ohio and Indiana.

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What would make the most sense is the restoration of service on lines that formerly had passenger service like PHL to CHI Broadway Ltd via the refurbished old PRR Mainline, but more importantly the through lines that ran directly West (from NY-PHL-WAS) to St Louis and Kansas City, saving time and avoiding a CHI connection and layover. The big problem is that additional equipment for route expansion does not exist. The will in Washington for an expanded national passenger rail network is just not there. The numerous small towns and cities along these old routes would probably welcome new service.

 

Obviously I (and I'm guessing you too dlagrua should since you're from NJ) should be more concerned about eliminating the PGH connection between the CL and Pennsylvanian instead of the CHI connection between the SWC and CL/LSL since the connection(s) in CHI are at pleasant hours and at CUS while the connections in PGH are at lousy hours and at the Pittsburgh Am-Shack. Sure, long term, let's do both! But let's have priorities! Don't forget about the Thruway-TOL connection too. We can get rid of that it would be nice (direct train between Michigan and the East Coast via TOL).

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Keelhauled's Law:

 

"As an AU discussion grows longer, the probability of the Broadway Limited being dragged into it approaches 1."

With a side mention of canceling the Cardinal, or at least an oblique snide comment about it?

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

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Keelhauled's Law:

 

"As an AU discussion grows longer, the probability of the Broadway Limited being dragged into it approaches 1."

With a side mention of canceling the Cardinal, or at least an oblique snide comment about it?

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

 

 

Gee thanks jjs. you had to remind him?

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The issue for expansion is the available inventory, and how long it would take to physically receive new inventory (i.e. CAF and the V2 cars). Even the low hanging fruit requires inventory. With the do nothing Congress (Dem or Rep), I don't see additional support for system expansion plus the needed additional inventory with such a long lead time to actually receiving inventory.

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