Jump to content
Devil's Advocate

Trump Proposes 50% Cut to Amtrak Funding (2018-02-12)

Recommended Posts

 

Poor Ohio. Just enough "I don't need any functioning government" rural voters to cripple the state.

 

OFF TOPIC: There are also just enough "we don't need a functioning government" states to cripple our entire country at this point. The most exasperating aspect of this whole experiment is how distant and unlikely a practical and equitable solution seems at this point. When half the country has been so completely demonized that the other half is willing to ignore signs of foreign meddling on their behalf you know the gig is almost up.

 

 

I agree. Frankly, the country is crippled already. However, it's apparent that California is quite capable of operating on its own, and the Northeastern bloc of states should be able to operate independently as a functioning economic unit once gerrymandering is eliminated in Pennsylvania, which is probably going to happen this week. The situation is much worse for people in states whose state governments have also been wrecked.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Typical politics, but Congress rarely ever considers the budget proposed by the WH. So what the various committees in the House and Senate do is what will be critical.

Exactly. A White House budget is dead on arrival no matter whats in it. Accomplishes nothing more than causing the ill advised to panic and scream the sky is falling. We go through this same thing year after year.

 

It never gets old... :rolleyes:

 

When does Washington ever use simple Math? Everyone there creates their own form of Math to get the results they desire.

New Math :cool:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On the one hand, I want to see the federal government take less "leadership" in developing transportation policy (since that "leadership" has often meant a mix of "You will go through all of these hoops because if you do not then we won't cover 80% of the project" and "You will build what we want you to build where we want you to build it or we'll make sure you can't afford to do it"), but I'd much rather see funding levels held steady or increased while being converted to block grants. Yes, there should be a "basic national system" of highways, of passenger (and freight) rail, and of airports. But outside of those networks? The federal government should give the states a check, perhaps try to promote cooperation on some level (e.g. transit agency ticket interlining), and then generally sod off rather than forcing states to sift through a bunch of disparate "silos" to sort out funding for transit improvements and the like. Probably the best example I can think of off the top of my head? I like the various grant programs, but the fact that states have to go around and get money from all of these different grants to fund projects based on tangled criteria? That's a problem.

 

So you want to know why I'm so annoyed with this situation? I feel like you've got one party that has identified a real problem but then completely made a hash of solving it, and another which doesn't think there is a problem.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I got an idea, let's cut infrastructure to pay for infrastructure. You could see where some routes could maybe be shifted to states over time and maybe down the road that's worth exploring, but this would take a multi-year process and you wouldn't be able to halve the federal subsidies in one year. Florida as a big beneficiary of LD trains I could see playing ball and subsidizing its LD trains, and California would probably move to save the Coast Starlight. I don't see how you transition the hugely long east-west routes to the states though since you'd undoubtedly have some states that would act and others that wouldn't so the interested ones would have to foot the bill for the whole route. Already have some of that now with some of the existing state service. New Hampshire gets service from the Vermonter and Downeaster and doesn't participate in either, but we're also not talking anywhere near the subsidies with that example.

 

Florida is a big tourism state so I'd imagine a lot of ORL, MIA, and TPA passengers are passengers originate out of state. I'd want the Silver Star/Meteor being a PA resident as much as the Florida residents. Same with the SWC/CZ as I wouldn't be able to get to California without them. So those trains aren't just for Florida/California. You can tell which states aren't tourism states and which trains really are just trains that benefit specific states only and those are the ones that should be funded more by the states that benefit more from those trains.

 

That's really what I meant. Florida is a big beneficiary of the Auto Train and Silver Meteor/Star bringing tourists into the state, so I would think Florida would act to preserve those routes possibly even without interest from other state governments along the route.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Amtrak is a drop in a bucket in delivering people to Florida. Delta alone flies 16 757s a day ATL-MCO. That's about 3,000 seats on one route by one airline. Amtrak doesn't even have a thousand seats daily going into the state. The tourism industry wouldn't blink if the Silvers and Auto train went away.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In a related matter, Disney announced Big Increases in Ticket Pricing,Parking and Hotel Rates @ its,Resorts and Cruises today!😣

 

Will this hurt tourism on the Orlando/Tampa to Miami Corridor???

Edited by Bob Dylan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In a related matter, Disney announced Big Increases in Ticket Pricing,Parking and Hotel Rates @ its,Resorts and Cruises today!

 

Will this hurt tourism on the Orlando/Tampa to Miami Corridor???

Nope. Because people will keep paying. Which at this point is actually a problem for Disney. There's massive overcrowding at their parks.

 

Sent from my SM-N920P using Tapatalk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Amtrak is a drop in a bucket in delivering people to Florida. Delta alone flies 16 757s a day ATL-MCO. That's about 3,000 seats on one route by one airline. Amtrak doesn't even have a thousand seats daily going into the state. The tourism industry wouldn't blink if the Silvers and Auto train went away.

Northeast to Florida is the largest airline corridor market in the US. If Amtrak disappears from there hardly anyone will notice in Florida, unfortunately. There is close to zero chance that Florida will step up to fund LD trains to Florida at this point. With a different government in Florida things may be different.

 

What the government in Florida does support with some reluctance are local and regional corridor service around a few crowded cities. There is an outside chance that they may get around to fund the intra-Florida part of the service. An unlikely but within the realm of possibilities. Funding for LD service from outside Florida is not within the realm of possibilities at this time.

 

Note that while individual cities and towns have stepped up to support the New Orleans to Orlando service, Florida DOT is conspicuously absent from the whole effort.

 

 

In a related matter, Disney announced Big Increases in Ticket Pricing,Parking and Hotel Rates @ its,Resorts and Cruises today!

 

Will this hurt tourism on the Orlando/Tampa to Miami Corridor???

Nope. Because people will keep paying. Which at this point is actually a problem for Disney. There's massive overcrowding at their parks.

 

Sent from my SM-N920P using Tapatalk

 

Exactly. Also Disney is big but not the only thing in Orlando to make it a tourist destination either.

Edited by jis

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

Amtrak is a drop in a bucket in delivering people to Florida. Delta alone flies 16 757s a day ATL-MCO. That's about 3,000 seats on one route by one airline. Amtrak doesn't even have a thousand seats daily going into the state. The tourism industry wouldn't blink if the Silvers and Auto train went away.

Northeast to Florida is the largest airline corridor market in the US. If Amtrak disappears from there hardly anyone will notice in Florida, unfortunately. There is close to zero chance that Florida will step up to fund LD trains to Florida at this point. With a different government in Florida things may be different.

Exactly. Amtrak is functionally irrelevent in long distance transportation. The value of long distance trains is in the ability to serve people traveling overlapping segments of the route between midpoints or from mid to end points, which is not a market airliners can compete in, and if demand is sufficient can be done more efficiently than busses.

 

Which is why most advocacy efforts re the national network make me bang my head against the wall in frustration, because they tend to emphasize end to end travel, which is both a small fraction of overall ridership and the most politically vulnerable part of the whole kit and caboodle. Amtrak perennially fails at self advocacy and NARP rarely displays any initiative to veer from the Amtrak line despite being supposedly independent.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

 

Typical politics, but Congress rarely ever considers the budget proposed by the WH. So what the various committees in the House and Senate do is what will be critical.

Exactly. A White House budget is dead on arrival no matter whats in it. Accomplishes nothing more than causing the ill advised to panic and scream the sky is falling. We go through this same thing year after year.
Presidential budget proposals give us some insight into the executive branch's interest and support levels for passenger rail in general and Amtrak in particular. It also gives us a catalyst and a starting point for discussing the issue with our senators and representatives. Nothing more and nothing less. If you have an example of someone screaming or panicking then by all means please quote them here so we can set the record straight. If you do not have any such examples then please put this false narrative to rest.
Shared from Facebook, someone posted QUOTE: [book that Long Distance train trip NOW! The system will see dramatic cuts after this summer] That is absolutely an example of someone spreading what at this point is a false narrative.

I'm not sure what this is or what you expect me to do with it. Someone you cannot name said something you cannot properly quote in a location you cannot link? If you were in my shoes would this mean anything to you?

 

 

Amtrak is functionally irrelevent in long distance transportation. The value of long distance trains is in the ability to serve people traveling overlapping segments of the route between midpoints or from mid to end points, which is not a market airliners can compete in, and if demand is sufficient can be done more efficiently than busses.

End-to-end travel is indeed dominated by airlines but mid-route travel is dominated by private vehicles. Neither example makes a strong case for Amtrak on its own. In most industrialized democracies the passenger rail sales pitch revolves around improved safety and faster speeds compared to driving with improved logistics and lower environmental impact than flying. Unfortunately at the moment Amtrak's long distance network would have a heck of a time promoting their questionable safety record or their slower-than-everything speeds or their outdated particulate spewing locomotives or their poor schedule keeping or their once-a-day arrivals into barely used stations featuring few if any traveler related services or last mile connections. I'm not intending to say this is all Amtrak's fault but it's a hard sell nonetheless.

 

 

Amtrak perennially fails at self advocacy and NARP rarely displays any initiative to veer from the Amtrak line despite being supposedly independent.

On the one hand I agree that Amtrak does a terrible job at self-advocating. On the other hand they're legally restricted from overtly promoting policy awareness or requesting political support from passengers and citizens. Which to me is the strongest evidence that Amtrak was probably never intended to survive this long in the first place.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Amtrak is functionally irrelevent in long distance transportation. The value of long distance trains is in the ability to serve people traveling overlapping segments of the route between midpoints or from mid to end points, which is not a market airliners can compete in, and if demand is sufficient can be done more efficiently than busses.

End-to-end travel is indeed dominated by airlines but mid-route travel is dominated by private vehicles. Neither example makes a strong case for Amtrak on its own. In most industrialized democracies the passenger rail sales pitch revolves around improved safety and faster speeds compared to driving with improved logistics and lower environmental impact than flying. Unfortunately at the moment Amtrak's long distance network would have a hell of a time promoting their questionable safety record or their slower-than-everything speeds or their outdated particulate spewing locomotives or their flaky schedule keeping or their once-a-day arrivals into barely used stations and shacks featuring few if any traveler related services or last mile connections.

 

Yes, I should have qualified that it is a market they *can* be competitive in if there is adequate investment. At the moment it is stagnant.

 

 

Amtrak perennially fails at self advocacy and NARP rarely displays any initiative to veer from the Amtrak line despite being supposedly independent.

On the one hand I agree that Amtrak does a terrible job at self-advocating. On the other hand they're legally restricted from overtly promoting policy awareness or requesting political support from passengers and citizens.

 

In a perfect world policy promotion and advocacy organization would be NARP's role. Unfortunately they seem to see themselves as joined at the hip with Amtrak as opposed to the traveling public. They should have been holding Amtrak's feet to the fire with regards to the PIPs for example, instead of allowing them to vanish into the ether. On the other hand, Amtrak doesn't seem to have any idea what it's supposed to be doing with the long distance trains, other than running them because that's what they've always done. As far as I can tell, their advertising is somewhere between limited and nonexistent, and they have not made a case at Congress to obtain anything in the way of investment. Their annual requests are always similar to the previous year, perhaps a little larger but not enough to be meaningful. I have read fleet plans for years that lay out equipment replacement objectives for whenever funding is available, but never a reference to actually trying to locate funding. How hard can it be to add a line requesting such and such amount for Superliner replacement or Amfleet II replacement? At least try to initiate the discussion, there is nothing to lose.

 

For FY 2017, Amtrak requested $1.8 billion, $1.21 billion for the national network. For FY 2018, they requested $1.6 billion, $1.24 billion for the national network; they also requested appropriations for the next three years, increasing to $1.7 billion and $1.8 billion for FY 19 and 20. For god's sake, have some ambition. It is baffling that they can identify the problem of an aging fleet but completely ignore it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

Poor Ohio. Just enough "I don't need any functioning government" rural voters to cripple the state.

 

OFF TOPIC: There are also just enough "we don't need a functioning government" states to cripple our entire country at this point. The most exasperating aspect of this whole experiment is how distant and unlikely a practical and equitable solution seems at this point. When half the country has been so completely demonized that the other half is willing to ignore signs of foreign meddling on their behalf you know the gig is almost up.

 

 

I agree. Frankly, the country is crippled already. However, it's apparent that California is quite capable of operating on its own, and the Northeastern bloc of states should be able to operate independently as a functioning economic unit once gerrymandering is eliminated in Pennsylvania, which is probably going to happen this week. The situation is much worse for people in states whose state governments have also been wrecked.

 

The states of NY and NJ are operating at such large deficits that they might as well be bankrupt. These are blue states and residents pay exorbitant tax rates. It doesn't matter how high the taxes go here, there will still not be any money to fund the Gateway project.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Retire to Europe if you want to ride the rails in your senior years. America is much more concerned about having airports in remote locations for the elite to fly their jets into. The airport "fees" they pay hardly support the building and operation of these Govt. parking lots for them. And this isn't going to change. THIS is America.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Amtrak is nearing or at a critical point with its fleet where routes will not be able to continue due to the aging inventory. By kicking the can down the road it appears that Congress is hoping that the Amtrak thorn will just gradually disappear thus no one has blood on their hands. To me, keeping fund at the level is the same as wanting Amtrak Passenger Rail to be shut down so more cars are used, more gas consumed, etc. Congress is just a bunch of self centered egos who could care less about their constituency as long as they still get elected, get lots of free trips, and lots of media coverage to stroke their inflated egos. Amtrak needs so much capital to make the system operate long term, no one wants to address the elephant in the room..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With all of Amtrak's operating efficiencies they've recently incorporated by decimating the long distance services, if you can control the cost of manpower, replace pensions with 401(k), greatly increase advertising revenues onboard and in stations, increase opportunities for vendors by charging rent at stations (where applicable - I know most are owned by the city they are in), it's entirely possible for Amtrak to operate with half the budget AND improve the infrastructure in the NEC - but ONLY if they NEC subsidizes LD. The occasional infrastructure grant from the Feds for the NEC would be helpful, for sure.

 

I've always harped about the profitability of the Japanese railroads - particularly since privatization in the 80's. But I will also say that there is no doubt that the Bullet Trains subsidize what rural routes are left. Yes, since privatization, many under used rural routes were eliminated which was a travesty, but a financial necessity which was easily replaced with other forms of transit.

 

I hate the mentality of splitting the NEC from the rest of the network. I don't know how much Amtrak California makes (loses), but the issue is that if there is going to be an Amtrak - a NATIONAL rail system - it should be funded and operated as such: ONE entity.

 

As for Florida, I'm proud of what Brightline is doing. If they succeed, they will prove that in densely populated corridors, there is a profit to be made. I can see Brightline expanding to TPA, JAX and TAL - all without Government bureaucratic high-fives to each other. I'm honestly surprised that its the REPUBLICANS who are griping about Brightline. Brightline embodies the principles of greater personal responsibility with reduced government oversight to maximize productivity with responsibility.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, since privatization, many under used rural routes were eliminated which was a travesty, but a financial necessity which was easily replaced with other forms of transit.

 

Here's the rub about this (and why I'd be extremely hesitant to duplicate this mindset in the US): There's a decent number of LD train route stops where the train is the only form of non-private-automobile transportation outside of the local area. There's no intercity bus service along US-2 in North Dakota or Montana, for example, and many of the small towns don't even have essential air service, much less a competitive airport. I'm not sure there's really enough political will to fully subsidize buses to serve those corridors, and especially on the US-2 corridor it may not even be a better option (trains are much more reliable in the snow than buses.)

 

I'd also like to see hard numbers in how much Amtrak could make by pushing advertising more heavily - I recall hearing once that advertising is generally no more than a couple percentage points of most transit agency's budgets, and at some point too-intrusive advertising cheapens the brand and makes the product less desirable. Replacing pensions with 401(k)s is simply cutting costs by moving retirement costs to the employee, which some may be fine with but seems like a false savings to me. I don't think that Amtrak is going to be able to cut their subsidy by a substantial amount and pay for increased maintenance just by a few cuts and improvements to advertising revenue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Since Amtrak is a Railroad, it by law has to participate in the Railroad Retirement Plan for most of its employees and there is no getting away from it. Moreover, it has to pay more than just for its current and past employees due to some historical reasons.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Replacing pensions with 401(k)s is simply cutting costs by moving retirement costs to the employee, which some may be fine with but seems like a false savings to me. I don't think that Amtrak is going to be able to cut their subsidy by a substantial amount and pay for increased maintenance just by a few cuts and improvements to advertising revenue.

I don't intend for those ideas to be a save-all, but hey, I'll take the couple of points. Doesn't mean they shouldn't be doing it. As for those communities that would lose service, yes, it would be an issue. But there are literally thousands of communities across that country today that used to be served by rail that don't have busses or EAS anymore. People adapt.

 

Since Amtrak is a Railroad, it by law has to participate in the Railroad Retirement Plan for most of its employees and there is no getting away from it. Moreover, it has to pay more than just for its current and past employees due to some historical reasons.

Yet another legacy law that somehow can't get overturned or revised. The advantage of the 401(k) vs a pension is that it puts the management of one's retirement on the responsibility of the employee. The employer's cost would vary, depending on it's desire (or ability) to match a percentage of it. Sure, pensions are favored because you don't have to think about it. But I've also heard horror stories about them vaporizing when companies fail, even if they are supposed to be fail-safe. In the Stock Market, you'll have your ups and downs, but the 10 year trend is always up. Annuities have similar problems.

 

Again, I'm not saying that my ideas would save Amtrak, but I'm tired of them nicking the service before looking for alternate sources of income.

Edited by VentureForth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Yes, since privatization, many under used rural routes were eliminated which was a travesty, but a financial necessity which was easily replaced with other forms of transit.

 

 

 

. . . I'd also like to see hard numbers in how much Amtrak could make by pushing advertising more heavily - I recall hearing once that advertising is generally no more than a couple percentage points of most transit agency's budgets, and at some point too-intrusive advertising cheapens the brand and makes the product less desirable. Replacing pensions with 401(k)s is simply cutting costs by moving retirement costs to the employee, which some may be fine with but seems like a false savings to me. I don't think that Amtrak is going to be able to cut their subsidy by a substantial amount and pay for increased maintenance just by a few cuts and improvements to advertising revenue.

 

Much of the year, our best LD routes are well patronized NOW. Without a lot more modern, reliable rolling stock what would advertising for these trains accomplish? For starters, we need the kind of "infrastructure" capital spending to produce the size, frequency, and routing of passenger trains that robust advertising budgets are meant to fill! And without Federal and State mandates for passenger trains to be given priority over freight traffic where feasible, all those newcomers to train travel that advertising produces may be one-and-done.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its always up to congress to decide the budget. The Whitehouse only recommends. As for the LD routes, Amtrak needs to do a full accounting on costs vs revenue. During the spring, fall and summer months the CHI going West routes CZ, EB, SWC are heavily traveled. The potential should be there for a profitable business. The write off for the equipment should have been completed years ago, so maintenance, employees salaries/benefits, payment for track usage and fuel should be the only costs.

Privatization of passenger rail could probably do better as they would not be saddled with the costs of the pensions to retirees of the railroad lines that Amtrak took service from. Privatization has been suggested in the past but unless its done by the railroads that own the freight service, it is unlikely that it could ever be successful. I guess everyone is waiting to see how Brightline will do. .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Replacing pensions with 401(k)s is simply cutting costs by moving retirement costs to the employee, which some may be fine with but seems like a false savings to me. I don't think that Amtrak is going to be able to cut their subsidy by a substantial amount and pay for increased maintenance just by a few cuts and improvements to advertising revenue.

I don't intend for those ideas to be a save-all, but hey, I'll take the couple of points. Doesn't mean they shouldn't be doing it. As for those communities that would lose service, yes, it would be an issue. But there are literally thousands of communities across that country today that used to be served by rail that don't have busses or EAS anymore. People adapt.

 

Since Amtrak is a Railroad, it by law has to participate in the Railroad Retirement Plan for most of its employees and there is no getting away from it. Moreover, it has to pay more than just for its current and past employees due to some historical reasons.

Yet another legacy law that somehow can't get overturned or revised. The advantage of the 401(k) vs a pension is that it puts the management of one's retirement on the responsibility of the employee. The employer's cost would vary, depending on it's desire (or ability) to match a percentage of it. Sure, pensions are favored because you don't have to think about it. But I've also heard horror stories about them vaporizing when companies fail, even if they are supposed to be fail-safe. In the Stock Market, you'll have your ups and downs, but the 10 year trend is always up. Annuities have similar problems.

 

Again, I'm not saying that my ideas would save Amtrak, but I'm tired of them nicking the service before looking for alternate sources of income.

 

401K's are simply corporate rip-offs. Thanks, Republicans.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually, I am very glad we were moved to 401K retirement accounts instead of pensions. What I have available for my retirement per month, figuring living until my late 80's is over twice what the pension was/is paying employees. At the two companies I worked for in my over 40 years, we received our matching, 50% of 6% contributed, even during the bad times. Best match was four years straight at 4:1 for every dollar contributed. I will agree that some companies do zero match, but that seems to be more the exception based on feedback from family and friends across the country. Now, the pension plans are susceptible to company bankruptcy. In two cases, the Court reduced pension payouts to 20 cents per dollar the pension would be or was paying. Many friends who worked for United had to return to work because of this or sell everything they owned or both.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Corporate screwing of pensioners is one of the obscenities of this era!

 

And the fact that out Courts and Governments let it happen, and continue to happen, is one of the Shames of our Society.😣

 

Next up, do the same to those in the Social Security and Medicare/Medicare programs in the name of "Entitlement Reform". See Paul Ryan's plan!😥

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×