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Anderson Speaks on Long Distance Trains

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Sounds like train offs may be coming down the pipe to me from his attitude.

 

Richard Anderson Speaks - Long Distance Trains

 

This is a partial transcript from Richard Anderson's speech at the California Rail Summit...

 

http://www.californiapassengerrailsummit.com/

 

Unidentified Questioner - I represent the President of the Rail Passengers Association an all volunteer group to represent your customers. Many of them are an older age group that really enjoy riding these long distance trains which you carefully skirted around during your presentation. Many of them spend a quite a few thousands of dollars a year on tickets. I believe in the concept of having a unique selling proposition including myself I own my own private business.

 

Passenger rail has a lot of unique selling propositions. It seems to me that you are going out of your way to destroy a lot of those like removing the [Pacific] Parlor Cars cutting back on dining car services, at the same time you havent mentioned at all about renewing the Superliner fleet and now you want to convert these trains into short haul corridors. So can we assume that this is now the end game for the Long Distance trains?

 

Actually if you dont mind we have about 1,600 route or more miles of those lines within the state of California they do represent an important service to a lot of people. Thank you.

 

Richard Anderson - Theres a place for the long distance experiential trains, but that is not what our customers are using them for. There are only 4% of the people that use the long distance or some very small part of that go end to end. I think the number is 6%? Six isnt it?

 

Only 6% of people who get on a Long Distance train travel from beginning-point to end-point. Now there is a place for that. There are some really sort of epic trips on our long-distance system the California Zephyr, the Coast Starlight that are in the some of our trains we run on the east coast that you know that experiential train has a place. But people have to understand today we the government pays every person who uses the long distance trains $145 because it costs $750 million to run those trains. That is the loss that it creates. So our responsibility is to figure out how to keep the experiential piece of the pie in place, and there is an important part of that experiential piece, in place and at the same time figure out how we discharge our mission under

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New word for me! :giggle:

ex·pe·ri·en·tial
ikˌspirēˈen(t)SH(ə)l/
adjective
  1. involving or based on experience and observation.
    "the experiential learning associated with employment"
Edited by FrensicPic

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I think part of the quote is missing.

 

That being said, nothing from the above quote makes me thinks he wants to kill off any routes. What I see is a CEO that recognizes that most passengers use the train, even long distance trains, as short-to-medium-distance trains in terms of their origin and destination points. Which, frankly, makes sense. While there's certainly a lot of people (especially railfans and Amtrak advocates, which are typically the most vocal about Amtrak changes) that take longer-than-750-mile trips on Amtrak, the vast majority of passengers see Amtrak as merely a convenient transportation mode for their trips that are too long to drive (or too undesirable to drive) but too short to justify flying. He probably also has in the back of his head that while railfans will complain loudly about whatever changes occur, they'll likely come back anyways, so it's not worth doing something just to cater to that audience unless it's profitable in and of itself.

 

There's certainly the chance for some trainoffs on portions of routes that are both extremely underutilized and have little political support, but I don't think that there'll be any large-scale trainoffs. I do think that it's most likely that any trainoffs would be paired with (or shortly down the road result in) some train route being added or frequency improved on a route. At least that's my (potentially naive) hope.

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I see nothing in that statement that indicates train offs. He's just pointing out what has been known for a while, most people don't ride the trains end to end. So he's trying to figure out how to make these LD trains improve service to the 94% (by his numbers) that use them for corridor service and necessary transportation.

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I am always skeptical of those that arrive at conclusions based on partial transcripts. Usually a partial transcript is associated with a specific agenda. But clearly this one was just random partial transcript since it does not even support the alleged conclusion.

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Even if we believe the partial transcript does not point to anything. Even if gloss over the fact that a lot of the cuts seem directed towards people that are traveling the longest distances. Even if we overlook the the proposed equipment caters to a shorter distance market, you can not ignore the elephant in the room:

 

 

 

Unidentified Questioner - I represent the President of the Rail Passengers Association an all volunteer group to represent your customers. Many of them are an older age group that really enjoy riding these long distance trains which you carefully skirted around during your presentation.

Actually if you dont mind we have about 1,600 route or more miles of those lines within the state of California they do represent an important service to a lot of people.

 

Where is the dialogue regarding Long Distance trains? I brought it up months ago:

 

T


 

This is the bottom line. We have corporate changes occurring. Now, I can say with certainty there are certain agendas (customer services, safety,discipline, cost controls) that are clearly being pursued. There are certain interests that are clearly being contemplated (seating plans, uniformity.) We will find out more after next calendar begins. I do note a few things. We have heard a great deal about infrastructure, the NEC, state supported services, and the various plans to deliver these services to the average person that is looking to go from "here to there"(hence the website debacle) This is what is to be expected when you have airline people in charge. We've been through this before and we know the deal. However, it has been unusually quiet on the Long Distance front. When you try to get answers, they are not readily available. There does not appear to be a discernible "clear path." Perhaps they are in the process of working on it right now. Our CEO wanted to upgrade cars and quickly found out how the finances work over here! Obviously, you need a pecking order! That's all well and good. However, when you start asking "what should we do with these cars," and there isn't an enthusiastic "prepare the LSL", it is worthy of note.

 

As such, Mr. Mikefromcrete, a lot of "insiders" are just speculating as well. This is why I am so interested in the numbers. If ridership hasn't suffered on the LSL and revenue hasn't suffered, they may not return the dining cars. They may say "the passengers seem to have adapted" and we can save 4 million (as an example). As much as people are willing to believe the Star was about cost control, the ball started rolling when they realized the diners were not forthcoming and there were no investments in the heritage fleet(take a look at the financial link posted above.) It was"'an experiment" that achieved(?) the financial results they allegedly desired. The winter consist plan was an "experiment." Combining a corridor train with a chronically late LD train was supposed to be an experiment. Neroden PROVED that ridership dropped after the first year but they still made it a permanent change. Apparently, the desired cost results were achieved. The remaining passengers adapted and numbers drop was obviously not enough to justify reinstating a separate train.

 

The same thing could occur with the LSL which is why I stated, it is too early to tell. Someone may like what they see. It is quite clear that costs will dictate the policy. Maybe they can shake some cost out of the OBS crews and add them to the Cardinal and Star. Maybe they won't. Maybe they'll convert them.

 

It is all speculation at this point.

 

This was clearly a hijack and I apologize. Move it where you feel it fits.

 

 

After listening to Mr. Anderson, I noticed a trend and made this query:

 

 

Has anyone heard a firm commitment to the Long Distance network from Mr. Anderson?

 

Most CEOs identified the LD as the weak link and the biggest money losers (while overlooking the NEC sucked billions upon billions over the last 30 years or so). However, they went on to stress the importance in keep the network together. If they couldn't expand it, it should at least remain as it is. Each CEO stated that self sufficiency was not feasible and although it may have been for political reasons, they agreed the national network should be preserved. Mr. Moorman believed that passenger rail is so important, he came out of retirement to help out after turning down the job.

 

I haven't heard Mr. Anderson really stress the importance of passenger rail or preserving a national network. Indeed, he seems to be taking incremental baby steps to minimize longer passengers...all without really addressing long distance trains.

 

Sometimes, there's nothing as loud as a stony silence!

 

At any rate, summer is approaching and more things have come out. Amtrak2.0 is clearly taking shape but plans for LD service may have been hindered by the funding Amtrak was granted.

 

We'll see.

Edited by Thirdrail7

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Heading into the busy season for Amtrak, Anderson and company most likely want to hang on to the high revenue this season generates before announcing major changes to the LD system. Changes for sure are coming, but the marketing staff is probably telling him timing is everything.

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For the two trains that Anderson just downgraded food service on, that number is higher than 4% (or is it 6% :rolleyes: )

 

Capitol Limited

 

Chicago to Washington is 764 miles. Passengers traveling more than 700 miles make up 27.5% of passengers on this train, the highest of any other segment. The only other LD train that comes close to that in end to end travel is the Silver Meteor which comes in at 20% (also the highest of any other segment for that train).

 

Lakeshore Limited

 

Chicago to New York is 959 miles. According to that NARP ridership document 9.2% travel the 900-999 miles, plus another 2.2% that travel the full Chicago to Boston distance. That adds up to....11.4%. Maybe throw in the 5.7% in the 800-899 mile category too (yeah I know we're talking end to end, but Chicago to Albany is 818 miles and that is very much a long distance trip). Now you're up to 17.1%.

 

Looking at all long distance trains, most are in the 9-14% range. The only laggards are the Texas Eagle if you look at the full Chicago to Los Angeles run (2.4%) though the 1000-1499 mile segment comes in at 8.7%, and the Cardinal which comes in at 4.5%.

 

Of course those numbers include stations within ~100 miles of the origin station, but I think it's pretty disingenuous for Mr. Anderson to only touch on end to end travel when we all know that a long distance train is also has numerous short distance and medium distance pairs. Now I ask, has Anderson even traveled on a LD train? I'm going to say no, but look forward to being proven wrong if it isn't the case.

 

ETA: After reading the Anderson replaces Moorman thread, I see Mr. Anderson at least rode the Capitol Limited.

Edited by chrsjrcj

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Of course you can disagree on the details and the nuances but I think it is plain to see that Anderson fundamentaly does not support the long distance network from any understanding of his framing of the context over the time he has been in office. Remember the class one freights have also made it a policy for a generation to drive away local industry work. This is where the railroad spots individual box cars, tank cars etc in favor of unit trains or intermodal. The playbook is the same. Raise rates to the customer. Provide worse service on less days then hopefully customer either switches to intermodal or trucks so you don't have to service them anymore.The class ones have been almost completely sucessful in driving away this business. I am not all doom and gloom. There are many many people who work for the railroads including Amtrak who do a great job everyday including some supervisors. Also with any business or goverment agency there should be a continual process of reform to try to provide the best service most effciently. The most bang for the buck you might say. But lets not pretend someone is a friend of the industry when they get an appropriated increase from Congress only to cut services.

Edited by amtrakpass

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His choice of the word Experimental says it all for me. Experiments are short term events, that end, and typically result in CHANGE.

 

EDIT: Mis-read the word Experiential. Not nearly as dire, IMHO.

 

I will give credit where credit is due. Andersons spin-masters are epic. The notification and wordiing used about the recent Dining Car changes are virtually perfect. It should be studied by university courses in marketing & public relations.

Edited by rrdude

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He used the word “experiential”, not “experimental”.

 

Sort of a big difference. :)

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He used the word “experiential”, not “experimental”.

Sort of a big difference. :)

OK, my bad. Too early in AM, and don’t have my readers..... FACE PALM.

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It is certainly true that most passengers do not ride LD trains from origin to destination but I would say that the percentage is higher on the NYP-CHI trains Is that trip long distance? While passengers do get on and off all routes many passengers do ride for considerable distances to many cities.

The current CEO sights losses but fails to recognize that public transportation was created to serve the American people not to make a profit Highways, airports, bridges,tunnels, even the NY City Subway all lose money. As a matter of fact every public transportation system in the USA loses money. In the beginning Amtrak only covered 21% of its operating budget. Today I believe the number is around 87% Anderson and congress should be happy about that but if further cuts are made to make the system "profitable" (such as removal of the dining cars) then its back on the roads we go

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That’s not on the current CEO, that’s on his 535 bosses up the Hill.

 

Want to change that? Convince them of your viewpoint, or work to elect representatives you agree with.

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If Mr. Anderson actually discontinues the long distance trains, he'd better have a plan for getting Amtrak to break-even pretty much instantly. I can't imagine the Honorable Senators from Colorado, Nebraska, etc. continuing to fund Amtrak if "their" trains disappear.

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Can someone explain to me why end-to-end ridership should be a focus? I wouldn't expect a high percentage of end-to-end ridership on any train, be that a city's mass transit system or an LD train that goes halfway across the country.

I mean, there is a reason that the trains stop several times between their end points. People live between big cities. People visit places other than big cities.

 

For the two trains that Anderson just downgraded food service on, that number is higher than 4% (or is it 6% :rolleyes: )

Capitol Limited

Chicago to Washington is 764 miles. Passengers traveling more than 700 miles make up 27.5% of passengers on this train, the highest of any other segment. The only other LD train that comes close to that in end to end travel is the Silver Meteor which comes in at 20% (also the highest of any other segment for that train).

Lakeshore Limited

Chicago to New York is 959 miles. According to that NARP ridership document 9.2% travel the 900-999 miles, plus another 2.2% that travel the full Chicago to Boston distance. That adds up to....11.4%. Maybe throw in the 5.7% in the 800-899 mile category too (yeah I know we're talking end to end, but Chicago to Albany is 818 miles and that is very much a long distance trip). Now you're up to 17.1%.

Looking at all long distance trains, most are in the 9-14% range. The only laggards are the Texas Eagle if you look at the full Chicago to Los Angeles run (2.4%) though the 1000-1499 mile segment comes in at 8.7%, and the Cardinal which comes in at 4.5%.

Of course those numbers include stations within ~100 miles of the origin station, but I think it's pretty disingenuous for Mr. Anderson to only touch on end to end travel when we all know that a long distance train is also has numerous short distance and medium distance pairs. Now I ask, has Anderson even traveled on a LD train? I'm going to say no, but look forward to being proven wrong if it isn't the case.

ETA: After reading the Anderson replaces Moorman thread, I see Mr. Anderson at least rode the Capitol Limited.

 

Just curious, do your numbers include people who ride straight through, or does it also include those who do stopovers, like spend a day or two in Denver on their way from Chicago to California?

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It is certainly true that most passengers do not ride LD trains from origin to destination but I would say that the percentage is higher on the NYP-CHI trains Is that trip long distance? While passengers do get on and off all routes many passengers do ride for considerable distances to many cities.

The current CEO sights losses but fails to recognize that public transportation was created to serve the American people not to make a profit Highways, airports, bridges,tunnels, even the NY City Subway all lose money. As a matter of fact every public transportation system in the USA loses money. In the beginning Amtrak only covered 21% of its operating budget. Today I believe the number is around 87% Anderson and congress should be happy about that but if further cuts are made to make the system "profitable" (such as removal of the dining cars) then its back on the roads we go

 

For FY2017, 94.7%, a record.

 

https://media.amtrak.com/2017/11/amtrak-sets-ridership-revenue-and-earnings-records/

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So if I ride the Meteor from DFB to Wilmington DE, a 24 hour trip, that doesn’t count as end to end nor does it when I go to NYP.

 

Somehow, counting only end to end in any calculation of the value of LD trains misses a large part of the ridership.

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It is certainly true that most passengers do not ride LD trains from origin to destination but I would say that the percentage is higher on the NYP-CHI trains Is that trip long distance? While passengers do get on and off all routes many passengers do ride for considerable distances to many cities.

The current CEO sights losses but fails to recognize that public transportation was created to serve the American people not to make a profit Highways, airports, bridges,tunnels, even the NY City Subway all lose money. As a matter of fact every public transportation system in the USA loses money. In the beginning Amtrak only covered 21% of its operating budget. Today I believe the number is around 87% Anderson and congress should be happy about that but if further cuts are made to make the system "profitable" (such as removal of the dining cars) then its back on the roads we go

 

For FY2017, 94.7%, a record.

 

https://media.amtrak.com/2017/11/amtrak-sets-ridership-revenue-and-earnings-records/

 

I stand corrected

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Railway Age believes Mr. Anderson wants to END long distance passenger trains. Amtrak would be better off if Wick Moorman would have stayed for a few more years.

 

 

https://www.railwayage.com/passenger/intercity/want-airline-food-take-amtrak/

 

 

Please read this article and share it.

I am afraid even for Vantuono that is an extreme piece of meandering unstructured flow of consciousness article. :wacko: Railway Age could really do with a better Chief Editor. ^_^

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Par for the course for Railway Age. There are few good industry publications. The only one which can be relied upon not to go meandering into editorial or reprint press releases is Railway Gazette, which being European comparatively infrequently covers US stories.

Edited by keelhauled

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The data that NARP(RPA) provides for long distance passengers is really telling. Somehow, someway I wish we could get away from calling the LD trains, "long distance trains." Rather they are corridor trains that overlap dozens and dozens of city pairs. The longer routes, coach seats turn over several times in its journey which means that one seat brings in a decent amount of revenue. Back when I had access to Arrow, I would look at passenger boardings for one Empire Builder trip from Chicago to Seattle and Portland. In the summer months it would be over 1500 boardings for a single run from end to end. Obviously the EB consist doesn't have 1500 seats or sleeping car berths, but it shows how much turn over of seats there is on train like the Empire Builder. Now compare that to the corridor trains. I doubt many seats get sold more than once on corridors like the Lincoln Service. Maybe the WAS to BOS trains sell their seats twice as one run makes its way up the corridor but it isn't much more than that. This doesn't even cover connections that can be made at endpoints. A huge amount of passengers make connections in Chicago for other types of services. Hopefully Anderson realizes the importance of building a network as any airline guy should.

 

Changes are indeed needed at Amtrak, as status quo and "thats the way we've always done it" is deeply ingrained in Amtrak culture. Efficiencies need to made. But I sure hope it doesn't come at the expense of losing service. Amtrak got a nice boost of money from Congress this year. Never thought I'd see that from a Republican controlled Congress, yet at the same time threats to Amtrak's map may lie within. :( Hope I'm wrong.

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Can someone explain to me why end-to-end ridership should be a focus? I wouldn't expect a high percentage of end-to-end ridership on any train, be that a city's mass transit system or an LD train that goes halfway across the country.

 

...

 

Just curious, do your numbers include people who ride straight through, or does it also include those who do stopovers, like spend a day or two in Denver on their way from Chicago to California?

I'm having trouble understanding that too. Why is end-to-end the only criteria he uses for LD travel? If I get on the 22 in FTW instead of SAS and ride it to CHI, then get on the CL and ride it to WAS, I consider it LD. Am I misunderstanding him?

Edited by Chey

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