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DesertDude

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

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Personally, there's been enough focus on the NEC. Fix the tunnels, but then, simultaneously, dedicate some improvement & upgrades for the national system trains, the ones Amtrak continually ignores. More cars & locomotives would be a start.

 

Notice how Amtrak rarely, if ever, markets the LDs.

Amtrak treats the national trains like a stepchild.

 

Instead of improving or upgrading the trains, Amtrak's irrational management only cuts things, like dining cars or quality of meals.

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Instead of improving or upgrading the trains, Amtrak's irrational management only cuts things, like dining cars or quality of meals.

 

Amtrak can only spend the money they are given and use the cars they have. Do you think they want to take the dining car away from the LSL or SS? They don't have any to use. They are trying to save money because they aren't given enough money. If you think they aren't using the money/equipment they get wisely, that's a different story. But they can't spend money they don't have. As for the meals, I consider them luxuries and I'd rather spend money to start more routes than Amtrak steaks if I had the choice.

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But it's a habit with Amtrak management.

They treat the LDs as step-children.

They only run them because "they have to."

 

There's rarely any marketing of the national trains, nor upgrades or improvements. Only cuts.

 

Look at the removal of the Pacific Parlor Cars. They assume people won't care and "will ride the train anyway."

 

When Brian Rosenwald introduced those cars on the Coast Starlight, he wanted to add similar amenities to some of the other routes, but Amtrak management rejected those ideas, as they don't really care about the national system.

 

Amtrak has been run by some incompetent management.

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But it's a habit with Amtrak management.

They treat the LDs as step-children.

They only run them because "they have to."

 

 

Well, you may not have to worry about them too much longer as there may not be the same zeal in Congress to keep the running. :ph34r: The LD network lacks the ridership and is extremely costly to operate and constantly draws the ire of Congress. Do you honestly think they care about a 60 year old car that they deem a luxury?

 

 

Amtrak has been run by some incompetent management.

 

Yes...Congress. They allocate juuust enough to barely keep it alive. As PhillyAmtrakFan and Former Congressman Mica mentioned" Should steaks and prioritize equipment?"

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Personally, there's been enough focus on the NEC. Fix the tunnels, but then, simultaneously, dedicate some improvement & upgrades for the national system trains, the ones Amtrak continually ignores. More cars & locomotives would be a start.

 

Notice how Amtrak rarely, if ever, markets the LDs.

Amtrak treats the national trains like a stepchild.

 

Instead of improving or upgrading the trains, Amtrak's irrational management only cuts things, like dining cars or quality of meals.

 

It's funny but Congress instructed Amtrak to STOP sending money from the NEC to subsidize the LD network. Since they aren't given enough money to successfully order larger amounts of equipment (like more locomotives and cars) or maintain the existing level of services and amenities, decisions need to made.

 

Have you written your representative to ask for more funding for the LD network?

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Personally, there's been enough focus on the NEC. Fix the tunnels, but then, simultaneously, dedicate some improvement & upgrades for the national system trains, the ones Amtrak continually ignores. More cars & locomotives would be a start.

 

Notice how Amtrak rarely, if ever, markets the LDs.

Amtrak treats the national trains like a stepchild.

 

Instead of improving or upgrading the trains, Amtrak's irrational management only cuts things, like dining cars or quality of meals.

 

It's funny but Congress instructed Amtrak to STOP sending money from the NEC to subsidize the LD network. Since they aren't given enough money to successfully order larger amounts of equipment (like more locomotives and cars) or maintain the existing level of services and amenities, decisions need to made.

 

Have you written your representative to ask for more funding for the LD network?

 

I live in NYC. New York I feel contributes and spends a significant amount on Amtrak and intercity rail, and NYC is pretty central, so I have access to a large array of trains, which I think have pretty good equipment and service. Meanwhile, you have many states in the south and out west with very minimal or no train service, with old equipment and sometimes limited amenities. Those trains' equipment and rolling stock aren't getting any younger, and more and more amenities are getting cut. So it is very frustrating that Amtrak doesn't have the cash, or isn't allowed to spend the cash on those routes. I feel like the NEC probably has the best Amtrak service in the nation, and much of the limited money Amtrak gets has to spent here. That's frustrating to me, and tenfold to the people who live in those areas.

Edited by cpotisch

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From the perspective of one who lives in South Florida and who likes train travel, we really need a train from either Orlando or Jacksonville to New Orleans to gives us reasonable access to the national railway system.

 

I’m not sure the rest of the country cares enough to support the cost of re-establishing service to New Orleans if they have to pay for it.

 

To get the states involved ( Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida) all to agree to a project to accomplish this would also be a daunting task.

 

If it were shown to be economically feasible, a private enterprise could undertake it but, again the regulatory nightmare would be discouraging.

 

Unless the AMTRAK management wants it to happen and gets behind it, in my opinion it won’t happen.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

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In Philadelphia we have a ton of trains along the NEC and to Harrisburg but one to Pittsburgh and the skeletal LD system beyond that. New York, Washington, and Harrisburg are within driving distance. I often take the train to New York to avoid parking (although usually NJT) but usually drive to visit my family in northern Virginia (I did try the NER once to Alexandria, didn't like it, probably should have gotten off at WAS or earlier). To me, my biggest use for trains is long distance so I don't have to drive hundreds/thousands of miles and I don't want to fly. I realize that isn't the peak train audience but there are other train markets other than the NEC out there (the South was mentioned for sure) that aren't being met and it's a shame. In the old days when you (I wasn't born until after Amtrak was formed) had PRR, NYC, and all the others, you had way better service. Now we're slaves to Amtrak and the only service is what we have now or we can afford.

 

As for writing Congress, in one ear and out the other. They only care about Amtrak if the routes run through their particular state(s) (and sometimes they won't even care if they do).

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After watching Amtrak, and its trials and tribulations for the last 47 years, I've pretty much given up hope for the national network to get much, if any, better than what exists currently.

Perhaps a few minor regional route extension's like Roanoke, but that's about all. I just hope it doesn't shrink any.

 

The national bus network has shrunk even more drastically in the past decades...low air fares, fierce competition on strong routes, and ironically, the Interstate Highway system, which makes long distance driving fast and easy, have made flying and driving the choice ways for long distance travel for most....

Edited by railiner

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But it's a habit with Amtrak management.

They treat the LDs as step-children.

They only run them because "they have to."

 

There's rarely any marketing of the national trains, nor upgrades or improvements. Only cuts.

 

Amtrak has been run by some incompetent management.

Alternatively you could say that Amtrak is run by management that prioritizes investment in services that are a meaningful and competitive offering in their market. From that point of view spending money on long distance trains is a waste of resources that could benefit a greater number of passengers elsewhere.

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But Amtraks Official Title has NATIONAL as the First Word and it's mission isto run Passenger Trains including the LD Trains, not just the Corridors or Commuter lines..

 

Most of us understand the Political Realities that Management must deal with, but cutting LD Trains has never made things better overall and Never will. YMMV

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I realize that isn't the peak train audience but there are other train markets other than the NEC out there (the South was mentioned for sure) that aren't being met and it's a shame. In the old days when you (I wasn't born until after Amtrak was formed) had PRR, NYC, and all the others, you had way better service. Now we're slaves to Amtrak and the only service is what we have now or we can afford.

 

 

 

You had way better service but all of those carriers folded. Why? They all said they couldn't make money on passenger service. Even commuter/subway services that carries millions of riders cannot make profit on passenger services.

 

That is one thing that always amused me. They took the remnants of bankrupted or money losing services, made into one company and for some reason, thought it should make a profit...and have the nerve to be surprised when it doesn't.

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But it's a habit with Amtrak management.

They treat the LDs as step-children.

They only run them because "they have to."

 

There's rarely any marketing of the national trains, nor upgrades or improvements. Only cuts.

 

Amtrak has been run by some incompetent management.

Alternatively you could say that Amtrak is run by management that prioritizes investment in services that are a meaningful and competitive offering in their market. From that point of view spending money on long distance trains is a waste of resources that could benefit a greater number of passengers elsewhere.

 

 

This is nonsense, though. The Lake Shore Limited is a meaningful and competitive offering in its market. This is indisputable. But it gets hit with service quality cuts.

 

Meanwhile, massive amounts of money go into keeping the Sunset Limited, which is clearly neither meaningful nor competitive in its current form -- and can't even seem to get the support of the representatives of the districts it goes through -- alive.

 

Clearly management has NOT been prioritizing investment in services which are a meaningful and competitive offering in their market. I'd like it if they did. Any competent business analysis would pinpoint the Chicago Hub-NEC services as a crucial network-building element which should be enhanced ASAP. We should stop calling them by the misleading names of "long-distance trains" and "national network trains". They are the Midwest-Northeast connecting services. There are occasional hints of investment, but they are not recognized for their crucial role.

Edited by neroden

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This is nonsense, though. The Lake Shore Limited is a meaningful and competitive offering in its market. This is indisputable. But it gets hit with service quality cuts.

 

Meanwhile, massive amounts of money go into keeping the Sunset Limited, which is clearly neither meaningful nor competitive in its current form -- and can't even seem to get the support of the representatives of the districts it goes through -- alive.

 

Clearly management has NOT been prioritizing investment in services which are a meaningful and competitive offering in their market. I'd like it if they did. Any competent business analysis would pinpoint the Chicago Hub-NEC services as a crucial network-building element which should be enhanced ASAP. We should stop calling them by the misleading names of "long-distance trains" and "national network trains". They are the Midwest-Northeast connecting services. There are occasional hints of investment, but they are not recognized for their crucial role.

You can make a borderline argument for the LSL/Florida trains, since they run through relatively consistent population centers. I would say that given adequate investment they could be a meaningful option. As it is they are of limited value, perhaps a regional jet's worth of passengers for most city pairs.

 

Actually I suppose you could make a semi wild guess--per the NARP the LSL served 44,000 people at Buffalo in 2017. The third highest ridership pair on the train was BUF-CHI, so say a significant plurality of that 44,000 went to CHI, maybe 15,000. If each one is a single boarding or alighting then the actual number of people who used the train was 7,500, or slightly more than 20 daily. Per the DOT, there were 637 people flying on the route daily in Q3 2017--is that each way or total? Not sure. But clearly Amtrak's effect in the market is negligible. Even if I am misinterpreting the data *both* ways and 40 people are taking the train each way daily and 315 flying each way daily, it's only barely better than negligible at 11% of the market. And that doesn't even include bus/personal vehicle travel.

 

Edit: Using BTS data, there were about 880 passengers flying between Buffalo and ORD+MDW daily in 2017 total.

 

Ironically, the LSL's highest ridership pair is ALB-NYP; those travelers would be better served if it was eliminated completely and replaced with an Empire Service frequency that reliably departed ALB on time east/southbound.

Edited by keelhauled

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That's best described as BS analysis. The existing ridership is of course determined by the *lack of service* and by the *schedule sabotage* by the freight railroads. It does not represent a cap on the size of the market. We know that if you double the number of trains per day from one to two, you double the ridership; we also know that if the trains run consistently on time, you nearly double the ridership. We have case studies for this stuff.

 

The LSL's highest ridership is on the tracks which are controlled by passenger operators, where it doesn't usually get sabotaged, and IMO that's all there is to it. That's always going to be all there is to it.

 

If you were to suggest that Amtrak's priority should be to acquire its own tracks on important routes... well, actually, I agree. I think that should be top priority. BOS-ALB may look like a pretty weak route -- and frankly, on fundamentals it is -- but get it completely out of the hands of CSX and it would thrive.

Edited by neroden

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I don't disagree on any particular point in theory. Although I would rather see Amtrak get new trackage, ideally within existing right of way where possible. Otherwise even if the tracks are publicly owned you will still have to find a place to stuff at least current amounts of freight traffic plus expanded passenger service, sou you will be building new trackage anyway. Might as well cut out the middle step. Virginia is doing the opposite of this with the RF&P upgrades, which hopefully will not come back to bite them, but we shall see.

 

But I just don't see that happening. If you're telling me that the political will is there for what would be the largest government of takeover of private assets since probably World War I, I think you're out of your mind. Similarly I see no chance at all that the upstate New York high speed rail, which tracks pretty well with my preferred new trackage in existing right of way, will ever see significant money allocated to it, even if it manages to limp out of the study phase. There is not even support to adequately maintain the existing NEC, and you think that there is a prayer of even greater monetary investment in what's right now a largely paper network? Perhaps in another generation the politics will swing, but by then the system will have likely run itself into the ground and we will be probably a century removed from a credible intercity network. I don't know how you come back from that kind of inertia.

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I don't disagree on any particular point in theory. Although I would rather see Amtrak get new trackage, ideally within existing right of way where possible. Otherwise even if the tracks are publicly owned you will still have to find a place to stuff at least current amounts of freight traffic plus expanded passenger service, sou you will be building new trackage anyway. Might as well cut out the middle step. Virginia is doing the opposite of this with the RF&P upgrades, which hopefully will not come back to bite them, but we shall see.

I agree substantially. The key thing in Virginia is that the state is failing to get any ownership. They've built "passenger bypass" tracks around Acca Yard three times so far to my knowledge and they've been stolen for freight use each time, because the state government of Virginia is too dumb to get an ownership interest.

 

Contrast Massachusetts, which will soon own nearly all the trackage in the state.

 

But I just don't see that happening. If you're telling me that the political will is there for what would be the largest government of takeover of private assets since probably World War I, I think you're out of your mind.

The political will is accumulating and it will happen -- only in certain states, mind you. I don't think we'll see Wyoming or Georgia buying tracks any time soon. But I think the examples of Massachusetts and California are sufficient to prove that this is happening, one state at a time.

 

New York is mainly gummed up by the State Senate gerrymandering, which causes the government to be well behind the desires of the population. It'll break loose (on many issues, not just rail) in 2022 if not earlier. I was not hopeful for NY until the long-term lease of the Albany-Poughkeepsie tracks -- that showed that even a recalcitrant government was slowly bending in the necessary direction.

 

Perhaps in another generation the politics will swing, but by then the system will have likely run itself into the ground and we will be probably a century removed from a credible intercity network.

It's happening at different times in different parts of the country. The politics has already swung in Massachusetts and California, in my opinion, and in Vermont and Maine (though those states really don't have much money). New York and Pennsylvania will follow, along with other states which I haven't identified yet (Colorado?). By the time the trend really gets going in Florida or Louisiana, those states may be underwater, certainly.

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