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Positioning by NARP/RPA on LDs

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I find it fascinating that in the April 25, 2018 blog at railpassengers.org, the writer says "We support growing service along densely-populated corridors, but insist it must happen in addition to National Network service, not at the expense of rural and small town passengers."

 

The thrust of this argument is that rural and small-town America needs today's LD trains. That might be true, at least for the relatively small number of rural areas and small towns that today's LD network actually serves (not counting 1 am to 5 am). But it raises two questions for me. One, I don't recall NARP/RPA ever taking such a rural-centric perspective on LD trains. The implication is that NARP/RPA confesses today's LD network is not relevant to large cities... incontrovertible, really, in terms of the LD network's microscopic market share. The other is whether the pro-rural argument will work. On the one hand, EAS lingers on despite constant criticism that it's ineffective and expensive. On the other hand, rural and small-town America has less political clout every year as population concentrates in the major metro areas.

 

Will it fly (pardon the pun) to argue that the LD network should be preserved as-is because it reaches the hinterlands?

Edited by xyzzy

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In addition to serving rural places, Amtrak takes people to the downtown centers of many cities. If calling times were better and more frequent, and OTP more reliable, Amtrak would be a more attractive option for many travelers than either flying to an airport on the outskirts of town, or driving and fighting traffic.

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Perhaps, but the amount of money required to triple the frequency on every existing LD run would be huge. Don't hold your breath on that. And more passenger trains would worsen the OTP problem unless billions are thrown at the host railroads for additional capacity over very long stretches of track.

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In deed, the fact that Amtrak serves many rural areas that are not served by any other form of mass transportation is a good argument for LD trains. After all, there are plenty of ways to get from one metro area to another, so LD trains are certainly not a necessity to get from Chicago to New York, for instance. And don't count out the political influence of rural areas. Rural areas often have much more clout than urban areas. For instance, there are two senators for each state, regardless of population. That's a huge factor for lesser populated states. Let's face it, the real future of rail passenger service is 300-500 mile corridors. The LDs only become important when factoring in the areas not served by other means.

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The LDs also effectively serve many many overlapping 300-500 mile corridors.

 

Besides there is no evidence at all to support the hypothesis that RPA is discounting the importance of LD trains for city center to city center travel. It is only end to end travel on an LD train which is demonstrably not the majority of travelers on them anyway, that is being put in the correct perspective. The LD trains do pass through many other cities on their way and each city pair is worthy of being nurtured, even if all cannot be served at civilized times.

 

Personally, I travel by Silver Star all the time. I never travel Miami to New York, or even Miami to Washington. My usual trip is Kissimmee or Orlando to Cary or Raleigh. The other trip that I take often is Kissimmee to Tampa. Those are examples of things that RPA is trying to bring to the attention of people. The point theya re trying to make is not limited to trips from Jesup to Palatka, though those are also facilitated by the very existence of the LD trains. In addition my friend who lives in Ocala also uses Palatka or Deland to get on the Meteor. So service to such stations have many uses and users.

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> The LDs also effectively serve many many overlapping 300-500 mile corridors.

 

I suppose we could quarrel about the word "effectively". One or two trains a day that often run hours late because the trains travel 800+ miles is not very effective in my book.

 

Clearly the LD trains have on/off at many small-town stations -- if you're lucky enough to have a route running through your small town. I'll grant it's a good use of tax dollars if you're one of those folks. But I don't believe it's the best possible use of tax dollars. Get rid of the Silver Star and Silver Meteor, reallocate the equipment and operating money, and run multiple trains daily Jacksonville-Tampa, Tampa-Miami, and Jacksonville-Miami. Better bang for the buck and you'd have much better service Kissimmee-Tampa. All we have to lose here is nostalgia.

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> The LDs also effectively serve many many overlapping 300-500 mile corridors.

 

I suppose we could quarrel about the word "effectively". One or two trains a day that often run hours late because the trains travel 800+ miles is not very effective in my book.

 

Clearly the LD trains have on/off at many small-town stations -- if you're lucky enough to have a route running through your small town. I'll grant it's a good use of tax dollars if you're one of those folks. But I don't believe it's the best possible use of tax dollars. Get rid of the Silver Star and Silver Meteor, reallocate the equipment and operating money, and run multiple trains daily Jacksonville-Tampa, Tampa-Miami, and Jacksonville-Miami. Better bang for the buck and you'd have much better service Kissimmee-Tampa. All we have to lose here is nostalgia.

 

So how would anyone from Philly or New York get to Florida (or vice versa) without the Silver Meteor/Star? Sure, Florida residents will be able to travel across the state more often but they won't be able to travel out of the state. Flying isn't for everyone. I'm surprised you singled out the Silver trains being from NC as they pass right by your state and the Star serves Raleigh pretty well and the schedule for the Triangle to Florida is pretty good (overnight in both directions) and it's a 2nd train to the NEC.

 

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And don't count out the political influence of rural areas. Rural areas often have much more clout than urban areas. For instance, there are two senators for each state, regardless of population. That's a huge factor for lesser populated states.

And that's why we get the Broadway Limited canceled and the Cardinal kept.

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And don't count out the political influence of rural areas. Rural areas often have much more clout than urban areas. For instance, there are two senators for each state, regardless of population. That's a huge factor for lesser populated states.

And that's why we get the Broadway Limited canceled and the Cardinal kept.

 

 

I guess the senators/reps from Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana just didn't care about the Broadway.

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I only have two years of data, but in 2003/4 ridership on the Three Rivers was 137,234/152,842. Ridership on the Cardinal in the same years was 72,230/88,930. However, remember...the Cardinal was then as now a 3x weekly train, so per-train ridership was somewhat higher. Granted, the Three Rivers overlapped the Pennsylvanian NYP-PGH, but the bottom line still remains. The Three Rivers did somewhat better in terms of sleeper counts (and revenue). I think the underlying problem was, fundamentally, equipment more than anything (Amtrak simply never got the sleepers needed to keep all of the eastern LD trains equipped, and the Three Rivers was running an old 10-6 sleeper to the end).

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Get rid of the Silver Star and Silver Meteor, reallocate the equipment and operating money, and run multiple trains daily Jacksonville-Tampa, Tampa-Miami, and Jacksonville-Miami. Better bang for the buck and you'd have much better service Kissimmee-Tampa. All we have to lose here is nostalgia.

Get rid of the Silvers and you lose all the NEC snowbirds who take the train south for the winter. Service is skinny down there as is, and if they do what you're suggesting, there would be ZERO TRAIN SERVICE from Florida to any other state. Even those in Georgia wouldn't be able to get to Florida by train.

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On the one hand, EAS lingers on despite constant criticism that it's ineffective and expensive.

What is EAS? Edited by KmH

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I really don't read it that way. RPA isn't de-emphasizing major urban areas at all. LD trains serve those via termini and intermediate points. LD trains also serve small towns and rural areas on the same routes.

 

Given the support that rural areas, the midwest, and now the rust belt gives to conservative lawmakers (who are now in control of all branches of Federal government) it makes sense that RPA would take positions that are beneficial to those kinds of locales. That doesn't mean they couldn't care less about urban centers. It's just a political reality right now, and despite polls that indicate a Blue Wave is coming this November it would be foolish for RPA to ignore current political realities..

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Trying to run Amtrak service intra-state in Florida is at best a fool's errand, which will most likely become totally irrelevant in five or six years anyway, and until then FDOT will probably subsidize freezing hell over before it will subsidize that service, and the feds cannot subsidize it as per PRIIA 2008. Continuing to run the Silver Star and Silver Meteor is a much better use of the federal money at this time and for the foreseeable future, irrespective of what odd fantasies some might have about alternatives.

 

I think RPA is taking the exactly correct position at present given the political realities we face, notwithstanding all this hoo ha among the railfandom about converting everything to medium distance service, which BTW even Anderson has not really said explicitly or officially, and has been explicitly denied by Stadler at the Senate hearings last week. The Board Chair Coscia has also explicitly stated that the National Network will not be modified.

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The Board Chair Coscia has also explicitly stated that the National Network will not be modified.

From RPA's newsletter:

 

"Coscia reiterated Amtrak’s overall commitment to maintaining a national footprint while re-envisioning the railroad for the future".

 

If that's an explicit statement of anything, it's saying the national network will be modified. Stadler's comments were equally measured, promising nothing beyond what current law requires, which is a national multimodal system (he didn't say it that way, but he promised nothing more).

 

Repositioning Amtrak's resources to focus on corridors, while maintaining enough connectivity to provide "last resort" transportation via some mode to the very few people who have no choice but to rely on Amtrak for it, and while providing land cruise service on an unsubsidised, "williness to pay" basis would be the highest and best use of taxpayer money. For everyone except railfans.

 

At least as reported, Coscia's and Stadler's statements are 100% consistent with executing that strategy. I hope that's what Anderson is doing.

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The brainless obsession with "corridors" misses the point. There is no magic distance.

 

The Lake Shore Limited is a corridor train from Syracuse to Chicago; it just happens to be slow enough that it needs sleeper cars.

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