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Brian_tampa

Brightline takes over XPress West!

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I do not have a specific source other than general knowledge of how Amtrak was setup at its inception and what I have read over the decades regarding the rate that Amtrak pays the host railroads. When I talk about compensation, it is not just about obtaining the right to operate X number of trains each way per day on a route for X dollars per train.

 

The money that Amtrak pays the railroads doesn't makie any of them rich. The only reason they tolerate Amtrak in the first place is because the law says they have to.

 

If you want any of the big freight railroads to voluntarily accept and welcome passenger trains, you need to pay them quite a bit more.

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The only practical way to run a reliable higher speed passenger system on a big freight railroad ROW is to negotiate with them to put down an additional track or two on their ROW as AAF is doing with FECR.And of course that costs more money that Amtrak can practically get until something changes. So here we are where we are.

Speaking of Palmdale to Los Angeles basin routing of CAHSR ... http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-high-speed-rail-palmdale-burbank-20180919-story.html#

Doesn't UP own the Antelope Valley line?

No. LAUS to Burbank Jct, and thence to Lancaster of the Antelope Valley Line is owned by SCAX with UP retaining trackage rights. So Brightline would mostly have to deal with SCAX.

The Coast Line beyond Burbank Jct is owned by UP with SCAX and Amtrak trackage rights. But that would not be part of a Palmdale to LAUS route before the CAHSR is constructed down (well, mostly under) the grapevine.

Edited by jis

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I do not have a specific source other than general knowledge of how Amtrak was setup at its inception and what I have read over the decades regarding the rate that Amtrak pays the host railroads. When I talk about compensation, it is not just about obtaining the right to operate X number of trains each way per day on a route for X dollars per train.

 

The money that Amtrak pays the railroads doesn't makie any of them rich. The only reason they tolerate Amtrak in the first place is because the law says they have to.

 

If you want any of the big freight railroads to voluntarily accept and welcome passenger trains, you need to pay them quite a bit more.

Agreed. By law the Class Is have to let Amtrak use the tracks, and the amount payed just has to offset costs directly resulting from Amtrak's use of the tracks. So the frights don't have to be paid enough to fully compensate for the complications of dispatching and scheduling trains. There's no doubt in my mind that if it weren't required to by law, Amtrak would not be able to use those tracks.

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Well, and it seems probable that some investments could get a better runtime than Amtrak presently has Los Angeles-San Bernadino, too. I think 4.5 hours Union Station to Las Vegas might be a bit too long.

 

Practically speaking, I have to wonder what could be done on the Palmdale side of things (which implies a different catchment area).

I disagree that it would be too long. Currently to get between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, you either have to fly, take a bus, or drive. Taking the train is much more convenient than flying, much more comfortable than a bus, and of course unlike a car, you don't have to drive. So I think the convenience and comfort of the train could easily compensate for any extra running time.

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Any comparison to what Amtrak pays to use tracks vs. new startups like the Star in Minneapolis which uses BNSF?

 

In this situation it doesn't even matter, because Amtrak paying more money doesn't automatically raise the speed limit on a line. That would be a whole nother significant investment.

 

I wasn't assuming that Brightline would want to use the route of the chief. But that route actually exists, which makes it slightly more appealing than a route that may or may not get built. (Yes I realize the theoretical x train route to vegas may or may not get built itself).

 

Obviously, if a more favorable line is available, that would be a logical choice to use.

 

Hey, if all goes well Brightline could end up being the operator of the surfliners and run through trains vegas to San Diego. No way to know without a crystal ball.

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I agree with cpotisch that 4.5 hours would not be too long, especially if the train ride is promoted as part of the vacation experience to the casinos. Base the trains on the current Brightline model, including a lounge at each end (with free food) for passengers in the premium cars, plus modern, clean, comfortable seats for all passengers, and maybe a café on the train with good-quality food.

 

The time would fly by, especially when you compare it to the same amount of time one has to put up with on the Northeast Regional for a trip between, say, Philly and central Connecticut.

 

crescent-zephyr, never mind Brightline running the Surfliners--I want them to take over the NEC! :P

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Currently to get between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, you either have to fly, take a bus, or drive.

Practically correct, but technically incorrect. One can always take the Southwest Chief to Kingman, then the Commuter Services [dba Amtrak Thruway Express] shuttle to Vegas. Then back again, if one so desires.

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Currently to get between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, you either have to fly, take a bus, or drive.

Practically correct, but technically incorrect. One can always take the Southwest Chief to Kingman, then the Commuter Services [dba Amtrak Thruway Express] shuttle to Vegas. Then back again, if one so desires.

That includes a bus ride, doesn't it?

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Currently to get between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, you either have to fly, take a bus, or drive.

Practically correct, but technically incorrect. One can always take the Southwest Chief to Kingman, then the Commuter Services [dba Amtrak Thruway Express] shuttle to Vegas. Then back again, if one so desires.

 

That includes a bus ride, doesn't it?

 

 

It's actually an airport-style shuttle van (one large, one small). Though it sounds miserable on the surface, I've found it to be quite comfortable (though cozy) and the time passes pretty fast [faster if one has a smartphone or other electronic device]. Plus, the employees of the company which operates the shuttle are very low-key and accomodating.

 

Since posting my original comment, I notice that booking such a trip eastbound directly is not possible from any station west of KNG, so one would have to travel to a station past KNG and do a western version of the Toledo Shuffle.

Edited by RSG

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Well, and it seems probable that some investments could get a better runtime than Amtrak presently has Los Angeles-San Bernadino, too. I think 4.5 hours Union Station to Las Vegas might be a bit too long.

 

Practically speaking, I have to wonder what could be done on the Palmdale side of things (which implies a different catchment area).

I disagree that it would be too long. Currently to get between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, you either have to fly, take a bus, or drive. Taking the train is much more convenient than flying, much more comfortable than a bus, and of course unlike a car, you don't have to drive. So I think the convenience and comfort of the train could easily compensate for any extra running time.

 

 

To compete on time, a train has to be significantly faster than friving. This is because driving time is measured door to door whereas train times don't include the time it gets to and from the station at either end, plus any waiting time at the station. You typically don't turn up at a sttaion with second to spare, so to make the comparison totally fair, that has to be accounted for too.

 

This goes for airlines too.

 

Now, personally I believe that trains have other advantages besides speed, and that there are plenty of people who wopuld take the train even if it took longer, as long as that excess time stayed within reason. For example because the time you spend on a train can be used productively whereas driving time is essentialyl wasted time. But if you are going to compete on speed alone, then you need to compare like to likes, and that means the train must be faster than driving to be equal, and must be a lot faste rto be faster.

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My read is that for a train to be operationally self-sufficient, it doesn't need to be significantly faster than driving, but it needs to be at least competitive with "pure" drivetime. Getting into the 60 MPH average speed range is often sufficient. However, it also:
-Needs to be reliable (and indeed, a slightly slower train can win out if traffic conditions tend to create very large error bars around travel time)

-Generally needs some level of frequency (since I can presumably drive at any point during the day, but a low-frequency train not only constrains my outbound trip, it also necessarily constrains my return)

"Productive time" versus "wasted time" is another consideration (though its application vs flying is harder to calculate, since if you can fly through security and then board late you might get 30-45 minutes of useful time in the terminal as well as mid-flight).

Of note, the US tends to use a three-hour rule in calculating how long people are willing to take on the train (vs flying). Japan uses a four-hour rule. I tend to think that after a pretty good amount of the post-9/11 nonsense we're probably closer to three and a half hours (particularly on connection-required routes, which add an additional time burden [and hassle] to flying).

The big issue in this case is the sheer size of the LA basin (and with it, the distances required to get to LAX [or BUR or LGB, though only B6 flies direct to LAS from either of those two]).

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Well, and it seems probable that some investments could get a better runtime than Amtrak presently has Los Angeles-San Bernadino, too. I think 4.5 hours Union Station to Las Vegas might be a bit too long.

 

Practically speaking, I have to wonder what could be done on the Palmdale side of things (which implies a different catchment area).

I disagree that it would be too long. Currently to get between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, you either have to fly, take a bus, or drive. Taking the train is much more convenient than flying, much more comfortable than a bus, and of course unlike a car, you don't have to drive. So I think the convenience and comfort of the train could easily compensate for any extra running time.

 

 

To compete on time, a train has to be significantly faster than friving. This is because driving time is measured door to door whereas train times don't include the time it gets to and from the station at either end, plus any waiting time at the station. You typically don't turn up at a sttaion with second to spare, so to make the comparison totally fair, that has to be accounted for too.

 

This goes for airlines too.

 

Now, personally I believe that trains have other advantages besides speed, and that there are plenty of people who wopuld take the train even if it took longer, as long as that excess time stayed within reason. For example because the time you spend on a train can be used productively whereas driving time is essentialyl wasted time. But if you are going to compete on speed alone, then you need to compare like to likes, and that means the train must be faster than driving to be equal, and must be a lot faste rto be faster.

Most Amtrak trains already take longer than driving, yet people still ride. I really don't think that speed is the main factor here.

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My read is that for a train to be operationally self-sufficient, it doesn't need to be significantly faster than driving, but it needs to be at least competitive with "pure" drivetime. Getting into the 60 MPH average speed range is often sufficient. However, it also:

-Needs to be reliable (and indeed, a slightly slower train can win out if traffic conditions tend to create very large error bars around travel time)

-Generally needs some level of frequency (since I can presumably drive at any point during the day, but a low-frequency train not only constrains my outbound trip, it also necessarily constrains my return)

 

"Productive time" versus "wasted time" is another consideration (though its application vs flying is harder to calculate, since if you can fly through security and then board late you might get 30-45 minutes of useful time in the terminal as well as mid-flight).

 

Of note, the US tends to use a three-hour rule in calculating how long people are willing to take on the train (vs flying). Japan uses a four-hour rule. I tend to think that after a pretty good amount of the post-9/11 nonsense we're probably closer to three and a half hours (particularly on connection-required routes, which add an additional time burden [and hassle] to flying).

 

The big issue in this case is the sheer size of the LA basin (and with it, the distances required to get to LAX [or BUR or LGB, though only B6 flies direct to LAS from either of those two]).

Exactly. If you drive, there's really no way to get anything done. If you take the train, you can sit back or do some work, and when you arrive at your destination, you'll be much more ready for the day ahead. So even if the train takes longer, you can still effectively save time over driving. Edited by cpotisch

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I think speed is not a factor here particularly because, as I understand it, these riders are going on vacation to a casino city, not to a high-pressure corporate meeting that they feel they have to get to as soon as possible.

 

Also, I think if people are going on vacation and gambling (and perhaps drinking and overeating and in general not being in good shape when they leave), they might appreciate a nice train on the way home where all they have to do is sit down and go to sleep, rather than drive.

 

It would also depend on what the drive is like. Is it bumper-to-bumper freeway traffic? Or is it hours of desert with nothing out there except a few cows? I would think either would be a miserable drive, and the train would be better.

 

As for cost, do the hotels charge for parking? Or is it free at casinos because they want you to stay? If parking costs a lot, that is something else people hopefully would factor into whether or not to take the train.

Edited by Mystic River Dragon

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Well, and it seems probable that some investments could get a better runtime than Amtrak presently has Los Angeles-San Bernadino, too. I think 4.5 hours Union Station to Las Vegas might be a bit too long.

 

Practically speaking, I have to wonder what could be done on the Palmdale side of things (which implies a different catchment area).

I disagree that it would be too long. Currently to get between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, you either have to fly, take a bus, or drive. Taking the train is much more convenient than flying, much more comfortable than a bus, and of course unlike a car, you don't have to drive. So I think the convenience and comfort of the train could easily compensate for any extra running time.

 

 

To compete on time, a train has to be significantly faster than friving. This is because driving time is measured door to door whereas train times don't include the time it gets to and from the station at either end, plus any waiting time at the station. You typically don't turn up at a sttaion with second to spare, so to make the comparison totally fair, that has to be accounted for too.

 

This goes for airlines too.

 

Now, personally I believe that trains have other advantages besides speed, and that there are plenty of people who wopuld take the train even if it took longer, as long as that excess time stayed within reason. For example because the time you spend on a train can be used productively whereas driving time is essentialyl wasted time. But if you are going to compete on speed alone, then you need to compare like to likes, and that means the train must be faster than driving to be equal, and must be a lot faste rto be faster.

Most Amtrak trains already take longer than driving, yet people still ride. I really don't think that speed is the main factor here.

 

Yes, but Amtrak isn't picking up the tab for all of the capex on a new corridor.

 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not projecting that a LA-Vegas train won't generate ridership...I'm just thinking that it can't generate the ridership needed at over four hours' runtime to handle the debt load.

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"I think speed is not a factor here particularly because, as I understand it, these riders are going on vacation to a casino city, not to a high-pressure corporate meeting that they feel they have to get to as soon as possible."

 

Vegas is a large city. There will be vegas area residents wanting to travel to LA as well. Vegas is also a big convention town so many people do travel to vegas as part of their work.

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There's also the fact that even if time isn't an absolute consideration, it is still a relative one. Think of it this way: If you head out after work on Friday and board a 5:30 PM train, a four-and-a-half hour trip doesn't get you to Las Vegas until 10:00 PM (and probably to your hotel room until about 10:30). Yes, that can be part of the experience, but that doesn't mean that you'll be able to generate the ridership needed to cover the capex on this project. It isn't the running costs that worry me (I suspect those can probably be covered). Over $100m/yr in interest payments are the concern...though if it can, boy would that make the project massively profitable once the bonds are paid off.

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What's your other options? Driving takes just as long, flying will take the same amount of time by the time you get out to lax and allow time for security.

 

When / if high speed gets built into LA, you are probably going to beat the flying times unless you live close to an LA airport. The vegas airport is super convenient to the strip, it's practically on the strip (and should be connected by monorail...)

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Put "gambling cars" on the train, and open them up when the train crosses into Nevada. :)

By the time you cross the border into Nevada you are only 45 driving miles from Las Vegas (Primm to LV). 45 minutes at 60 MPH.

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Metro is planning to build a multi-modal transportation corridor between Palmdale and east of Victorville. That is the route that Xpresswest intended to use to connect to CA HSR at Palmdale.

 

https://www.metro.net/projects/high-desert-corridor/

 

Here is a map:

 

https://media.metro.net/projects_studies/hdc/images/map_corridor_hidesert_eng.pdf

They've already started acquiring property for this route.

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The only practical way to run a reliable higher speed passenger system on a big freight railroad ROW is to negotiate with them to put down an additional track or two on their ROW as AAF is doing with FECR.And of course that costs more money that Amtrak can practically get until something changes. So here we are where we are.

 

Speaking of Palmdale to Los Angeles basin routing of CAHSR ... http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-high-speed-rail-palmdale-burbank-20180919-story.html#

 

Doesn't UP own the Antelope Valley line?

No. LAUS to Burbank Jct, and thence to Lancaster of the Antelope Valley Line is owned by SCAX with UP retaining trackage rights. So Brightline would mostly have to deal with SCAX.

 

The Coast Line beyond Burbank Jct is owned by UP with SCAX and Amtrak trackage rights. But that would not be part of a Palmdale to LAUS route before the CAHSR is constructed down (well, mostly under) the grapevine.

 

CHSRA is not going down the Grapevine, but through Tehatchipi Pass and down to Palmdale, then mostly along State 14 and under the San Gabriels.

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I think speed is not a factor here particularly because, as I understand it, these riders are going on vacation to a casino city, not to a high-pressure corporate meeting that they feel they have to get to as soon as possible.

 

Also, I think if people are going on vacation and gambling (and perhaps drinking and overeating and in general not being in good shape when they leave), they might appreciate a nice train on the way home where all they have to do is sit down and go to sleep, rather than drive.

 

It would also depend on what the drive is like. Is it bumper-to-bumper freeway traffic? Or is it hours of desert with nothing out there except a few cows? I would think either would be a miserable drive, and the train would be better.

 

As for cost, do the hotels charge for parking? Or is it free at casinos because they want you to stay? If parking costs a lot, that is something else people hopefully would factor into whether or not to take the train.

They all charge these days, and quite bit.

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Put "gambling cars" on the train, and open them up when the train crosses into Nevada. :)

By the time you cross the border into Nevada you are only 45 driving miles from Las Vegas (Primm to LV). 45 minutes at 60 MPH.

 

 

This is a complementary project. The High Desert Corridor just getting underway. It is an Interstate Highway with rail ROW built into it. It will terminate between Victorville and Palmdale. Palmdale is the current northern terminal of Metrolink. In the future, it will be a station for the California HSR. Property acquisition has begun. XpressWest has been in talks with CHSRA about rights and interconnect. Tony Marnell, the developer of XW, made a presentation to the CHSRA Board last January. XW currently has all the FRA, EIR and ROW clearances to be begin construction, so, it they wish, they can get a running start rightaway.

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