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No more charters & special moves: 3/28 Memo fr Anderson

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I know this is a hot topic, but how much money does Amtrak lose, as well as annoy or alienate customers when a PV move delays the train? Then a late train only gets later and later. I've been on several trips where a private car has cost us only 30-60 minutes but also one where we left 2+ hours late from the origin that was never made up. If Amtrak could run their service with fewer delays (that they can control) it seems *that* would be better for the bottom line instead of pulling special cars around to get a few more dollars. Chronically late trains are bad for PR.

 

If I had the money, I'd love a private car and to pay Amtrak to tow me around, so I can see why many people are upset. It just needs to be done where Amtrak's primary customers are not inconvenienced. I take OTP very seriously. :)

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The issue is, and always has been, that the Class Is are more than capable of stabbing a train for 2+ hours on their own, so it isn't clear to me how this is actually going to help OTP. I still have to wonder why Amtrak isn't able to go into their data and kick out PV moves from their calculations (especially since "Amtrak delays" include not only this but time lost to slow passenger boarding/offloading (this shows up more often than you'd think, since a lot of stops are timetabled with "simultaneous" arrival and departure, which means that if the train arrives on time it often leaves late, especially if there's even a small crowd), engine issues, and the occasional "conductor had to call the cops" stop). So, even taking OTP seriously I am hard-pressed to see this having any material impact on the overall OTP situation.

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a lot of stops are timetabled with "simultaneous" arrival and departure, which means that if the train arrives on time it often leaves late

 

 

This is not true. Virtuall all stops have separate scheduled arrival and departure times, with most small stops given at least 2-3 minutes of scheduled dwell time. What Amtrak doesn't do is publish the arrival time, so when you look at the schedule (often even in Arrow), you are only seeing the departure time (or you only see the arrival time in cases of discharge-only stops). But internally when the schedule is built, there are separate arrival and departure times for essentially all stops.

 

If a train leaves a station on time and encounters no enroute delay, it will typically arrive at least 1-2 minutes "early" at the next station. This is its real scheduled arrival time, even though it isn't published anywhere.

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I thought that stations that show only a time of departure..... Ah I see Trogdor already made the point that I was about to make... Thanks.

 

What he describes is the general practice all over the world, not just in the US, as far as stations for which only a departure time is shown in the public time table.

 

Indian Railways actually shares arrival and departure times for all stations where the train stops, and passing time for all stations where it does not. IR online time tables are hence a gold mine for railfans.

 

They also share full information about diversion routes when a train is diverted off its regular route with similar details, which frankly amazes me. Wonders of across the board computerization of upto date train dispatch planning data.

 

It is another matter that still there are trains that run many hours late. But even that is accurately reflected not only for a specific run but also in average delay for that service at each stop, which could help a customer plan based on something more realistic than what the timetable says!! This of coruse also leads to IR being dinged by the public for lying about delays too :D since the lie is also carefully recorded for everyone to see compared to actual arrival and departure times. I guess it is hard to get over habits formed in less transparent times. ;)

Edited by jis

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"The issue is, and always has been, that the Class Is are more than capable of stabbing a train for 2+ hours on their own"

 

Other than the empire builder a few years ago (a unique situation) I don't know of any class i's regularly delaying Amtrak long distance trains.

 

My last long distance Amtrak trip earlier this year was on the silver star... We were on time into Tampa, 20 minutes late leaving because of adding a private car. We were further delayed with track work near Kissimmee (sun rail construction). CSX kep us moving very well. and that's CSX... Ha.

 

I was in the cafe car (im a lounge lizard after all!) in Tampa and personally saw multiple passengers enter the cafe car and ask the cafe attendant why there was a delay and the answer was "we are adding a private car."

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Don't forget the NS meltdown on the Water Level Route when they were introducing their automatic dispatching software or something like that. ;) That lasted for quite a while as I recall. Long enough for me to get caught in it four times and almost miss a Chicago connection twice.

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Other than the empire builder a few years ago (a unique situation) I don't know of any class i's regularly delaying Amtrak long distance trains.

 

 

You must be new here...

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Other than the empire builder a few years ago (a unique situation) I don't know of any class i's regularly delaying Amtrak long distance trains.

 

You must be new here...

been riding Amtrak for 20+ years. Are there any recent, regularly occurring issues?

 

The NS deal on the water level rohte is another one... But again that was a situation that got fixed.

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Well to talk about another country Germany manages to run a very fluid railroad despite having multiple charters running per day.

 

In their app they will show you the dwell for each station but not like Ir with stations the train doesn't stop at. Nor with any information about diversions.

 

But what I found unique this last summer they were closing a stretch of double track with a tunnel built in the late 1800s because they opened a new tunnel nearby. The line sees upwards of four ICE frequencies, four Inter City frequencies, four Regional Express frequencies, and four regional Bahn frequencies an hour without counting freight. So that's sixteen passenger trains in an hour and I would say about four freights an hour.

 

Yet they still managed to on the last weekend without the new line open run sixteen steam train charters, and hourly photo freights up the line. None of which had any affect on any of the scheduled trains. Everything ran smoothly and ontime despite the addition of sixteen steam passenger trains and the photo freight.

 

So it is very much possible to run charters and not interfere with normal operations. On select days in Germany there can be up to ten different steam excursions happening across the country.

 

My personal favorite was an engine I was firing across Thüringen that my mother was riding. She had to have an excursion ticket, and a Deutsche Bahn ticket to ride. The excursion ticket was basically guaranteeing the space on the train. While the Deutsche Bahn fare was to cover the actual travel.

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Other than the empire builder a few years ago (a unique situation) I don't know of any class i's regularly delaying Amtrak long distance trains.

 

You must be new here...

been riding Amtrak for 20+ years. Are there any recent, regularly occurring issues?

 

The NS deal on the water level rohte is another one... But again that was a situation that got fixed.

 

The Cardinal and I believe at one time the Coast Starlight had issues as well. The Builder has had multiple OTP "episodes" over the years, too, and I think the Silvers were having a bad time of it last year...and of course, this is just getting into "regular" issues. Oh, and let's not forget the Crescent's OTP as of late (which is, IIRC, partly the fault of CSX fouling a line in Atlanta).

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Seaboard...

 

My understanding from the letter is that Amtrak is canceling charters because it strains the core business (takes equipment and crew away from regular trains). Not that it delays Amtrak trains.

 

Indeed in 2016 the reason given for #261 operating solo with no Amtrak diesel (I was on cloud 9 when I heard this news!) was lack of availble diesels. So it seems to make sense a charter needing multiple diesels and Amtrak cars could be an issue.

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At least I know for a fact that in order to run the Autumn Express, it required pulling equipment out of regular passenger use, requiring substitution with other limited capacity equipment on the NEC thus reducing overall capacity offered. So there is some truth to Charters and Specials having an impact on regular operations to the detriment of regular customers. Suffice it to say that the Autumn Express actually fulfills a specific request from the Congress as I understand it.

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I believe there was one year when NCTM was running their fall trip and the Autumn Express were running that they subbed Acelas in for Regional trains.

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I find it difficult to believe that yanking out a P42 or two from regular rotation does not negatively affect reliability of regular operations either, specially given a situation of shortage that forces some trains that ought to be operating with two units to operate with one instead in general.

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If the group is large enough, like the game geeks on the CZ, you just take an existing train and crew. Does this mean that chartering an existing train route is no longer available? Actually, few if any extra crew or equipment are needed.

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Nothing is completely off the table as far as I can tell. The escape clause that each will be individually evaluated and decided upon pretty much covers it I think. Although the bias is clear from the general tone of the instructions and what has followed in terms of actual actions since then. So we'll just have to wait and see how things unfold.

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Just add/remove the private cars at the origin or destination stations. No work at intermediate stops. A few years ago I was on the WB Sunset and we were late, yes, probably due to a Class 1 issue, but I do not recall the reason. But I do remember we were making up time and actually got to Tucson on time. Then it all evaporated as Amtrak added a private car, it took too long for whatever reason, and we lost our place in the long freight train queue. Late arrival into LAX.

 

It's really not fair nor the way to treat the many other passengers on the train. If that's one of Anderson's reasons then I have to applaud him for trying to clean it up.

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larail.com has a notice up on their site. Also looks like the online purchase feature for public trips has been removed. In my experience, riding Amtrak trains which involved private railcars, has involved delaying the train I was on due to failing equipment on the private car, or all services aboard the train pretty much coming to a complete halt because of having to kill power to the train to attach the car. Last December on the CS, we had to stop because something from the private car attached in Oakland was dragging on the tracks. On the SWC in ABQ, adding the Tioga Pass had us on the train without power for about 45 minutes in July. This compounded the already delayed service in the dining car and added to passengers frustration aboard the train since we had no AC.

 

I was thinking of trying one of the trips run by larail.com this year but I guess thats a no go now.

Actually, if you scroll down, the public trips schedule is still there. That said, it doesn't look good based on a FB post I saw by Bill Hatrick (Overland Trail) and an email received from John Caestecker (Silver Splendor). The San Diego to San Luis Obispo corridor (LOSSAN/Pacific Surfliner) has stopped PV moves. On perhaps a last trip, two LA Rail cars (Silver Splendor and Pacific Sands) departed LA on the Sunset Limited last night (3/30). Don't know the details of that move.

 

Right but if you click on book now for the Santa Barbara Vino train, it doesn't take you anywhere.

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At least I know for a fact that in order to run the Autumn Express, it required pulling equipment out of regular passenger use, requiring substitution with other limited capacity equipment on the NEC thus reducing overall capacity offered. So there is some truth to Charters and Specials having an impact on regular operations to the detriment of regular customers. Suffice it to say that the Autumn Express actually fulfills a specific request from the Congress as I understand it.

IIRC the Autumn Express also runs at a relatively slow time of the year (IIRC that part of September/October is only behind January/February in terms of slower ridership), so it's less disruptive than it might be, and it doesn't do too bad on the revenue front (IIRC they've had to add frequencies in previous years to deal with demand, and I highly doubt they'd do that on a money-loser).

 

Edit: Also, IIRC the LA By Rail trips were almost always LAX-SBA, LAX-SAN (I can't recall if there was an LAX-SLO trip or two thrown in), with one or two LAX-Bay Area ones as well. Now, I understand that's there's a sort of lack of trains that originate at LAX going north right now (going south, that should not be an issue), but at least in LAX there's also the fact that Amtrak has a full yard...so it's not like this involves praying that the Class I of your choosing has their act together to do the switch.

Edited by Anderson

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There's been a few reported instances lately where the Amtrak crews in lax were having trouble switching. As far as knowing where It's cut in, and how to switch a car in while passengers are boarding and alighting from the main part of the consist.

 

My source: one of my former contracts.

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Just add/remove the private cars at the origin or destination stations. No work at intermediate stops. A few years ago I was on the WB Sunset and we were late, yes, probably due to a Class 1 issue, but I do not recall the reason. But I do remember we were making up time and actually got to Tucson on time. Then it all evaporated as Amtrak added a private car, it took too long for whatever reason, and we lost our place in the long freight train queue. Late arrival into LAX.

 

It's really not fair nor the way to treat the many other passengers on the train. If that's one of Anderson's reasons then I have to applaud him for trying to clean it up.

 

How about working out the bugs so that adding equipment doesn't delay the train? That seems like a better idea. I'd be interested in knowing how many private cars delayed trains versus Amtrak's own switching equipment delayed the trains.

 

 

At least I know for a fact that in order to run the Autumn Express, it required pulling equipment out of regular passenger use, requiring substitution with other limited capacity equipment on the NEC thus reducing overall capacity offered. So there is some truth to Charters and Specials having an impact on regular operations to the detriment of regular customers. Suffice it to say that the Autumn Express actually fulfills a specific request from the Congress as I understand it.

IIRC the Autumn Express also runs at a relatively slow time of the year (IIRC that part of September/October is only behind January/February in terms of slower ridership), so it's less disruptive than it might be, and it doesn't do too bad on the revenue front (IIRC they've had to add frequencies in previous years to deal with demand, and I highly doubt they'd do that on a money-loser).

 

 

The Autumn Express usually occurs around late OCT/early NOV and occurs while other specials are running. While it may not be the actually busiest times, you are approaching THE busiest time of year. We've lost quite a few Amfleets since this first special operated. The equipment has to be positioned and prepped for the bare bones shop count tolerance for Thanksgiving.

 

I see a petition has formed. Perhaps Mr. Anderson is an evil genius. I will elaborate in the CEO thread.

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"Allocated cost accounting" is garbage of the worst sort and anyone using it is a brain-damaged idiot -- yes, potentially including Mr. Anderson.

 

That said, if this is primarily about eliminating:

(1) Special moves where Amtrak runs a one-off train on a route they don't own, requiring complex negotiations, employee assignments, etc;

(2) Special moves where Amtrak connects or disconnects cars at an unusual location (i.e. not Albany or Denver, but somewhere where they aren't usually doing complicated stuff);

 

Then it's just about getting operations working, and makes sense.

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The situation that will be most curious to me to see how it plays out is how they will handle St. Paul. Back when the station move was made from the Midway station to Union Depot, Amtrak shortened the station stop from 40+ minutes to under 20 minutes, but didn't adjust the overall runtime of the train or (as far as I remember) the calling times of the neighboring station stops. My understanding was that they kept the time in to allow for switching activities near the old Midway station (both private cars and potentially a cutoff coach MSP - CHI. I don't think I've ever seen the cutoff coach used in revenue service since the move to MSP, so I wonder if they'll just keep the padding but not allow any switching movements at MSP, if they'll reduce padding and not allow switching movements at MSP, or if they'll allow switching movements at MSP despite not having 30 minutes of dwell in the timetable.

Well, the St. Paul station has enough facilities to handle an add/drop on site. There is one train each way per day, and they're not scheduled to be in the station at the same time -- and there are two very long platform tracks *plus* additional sidings. I never thought it made any sense to keep adding/dropping at Midway.

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Regarding Class Is delaying Amtrak, CSX's delays on the Empire Corridor are constant. While Amtrak has had its own problems too, CSX is usually lackadaisical about dispatching, and routinely directs Amtrak behind freights or on lower-speed sidings.

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Since when is a PV considered a "Charter" or "Special" Train?


Maybe I'm being too literal here, but I don't see the connection.

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