Discussion in 'Amtrak’s Future: Member Ideas and Discussion' started by Tokkyu40, Nov 7, 2014.
Run it down the FEC. Open up a whole new market in Florida.
Brightline has to agree. They have first dibs on FECR and of course they jointly own dispatching with FECR.
What are the chances that Brightline would ever expand (beyond Florida)?
SInce they are also trying to build in Nevada/Cal - I would say chances are good
Maybe Branson will offer to buy Amtrak
Remember Branson is a marketing face of VTUSA. He has very little financial involvement in VTUSA. He does not even have the means to buy VTUSA, let alone anything else. Besides it is not his style even if he had the means. There are very few Virgin branded outfits that are majority owned by Branson. VTUSA in financial terms is mostly a SoftBank/Fortress operation, and they have expressed no interest in selling it. It is still a real estate play, and the Las Vegas operation should be viewed in that context. It is unlikely that VTUSA will be running Amtrak trains to Las Vegas either.
I would be fine with a VTUSA/Amtrak partnership, at least Congress would quadruple the subsidy since they like flushing money into the pockets of private companies for substandard services.
My blatant sarcasm aside, the Starlight would also be a prime candidate for a second daily round trip if the schedule was set 12 hours off from the existing schedule. The Starlight does connect 5 major urban areas that only has it and some buses connecting them all to each other.
I would be fine with a VTUSA/Amtrak partnership in select areas too. However, it is noteworthy that it is VTUSA that has carefully chosen not to go there as a considered decision so far. Could that change in the future? Of course. But until it does, it is what it is. They so far do not appear to believe that there will be any significant reason to believe they will have a huge transfer traffic to/from Amtrak in any of their currently proposed systems to justify the cost of entanglements like through ticketing etc. It is an attitude similar to the one followed successfully by Southwest Airlines.
There are many routes that could be established or enhanced with additional trains ... in this thread we have mentioned quite a number of them.
However, it is not only Amtrak that needs to "decide" that these additional trains are a good thing. As long as the freight lines who own the tracks don't want to deal with scheduling additional passenger trains, there won't be any.
You are absolutely right. And furthermore, even if they permit additional trains, if they do not yield sufficient dispatching decision control to make those trains run reliably, the Corridors will continue to suffer from reliability issues that will negatively impact their performance.
Passenger railroading is very serious business, and one cannot expect to build corridors like in Eurasia as an afterthought of a freight railroad landlord. VTUSA understands this. It is worth understanding in how many ways their approach purely from an operations point of view is different from the many proposed corridors elsewhere, and how it is similar to what Amtrak does on the NEC. Also get a better understanding of why the successful California corridors are successful. Neroden says often that rail corridors need to be acquired to provide good service. There is much truth in that.
The funny thing is, more and more people are realizing that something needs to be done. They can see that building more and more, wider and wider roads is NOT fixing the problem, that is is only making the problem worse - but, still, they do not want to invest in rail as an alternative.
When I hear of Amtrak/private operator partnership's...
I can't help but think of: Auto Train Corp., American European Express, Iowa Pacific (Pullman Rail Journeys'), etc.
Not very encouraging history, there....
Apparently VTUSA has noticed that too?
Another issue with VTUSA expanding is the right of way. The freight railways hardly like dealing with the states and Amtrak. A private company that may or may not be competing for money would be a harder sell. If UP doesn't want the a state paying to upgrade their tracks and run extra trains for a service they have some entanglement with already, why would they want the added complication from another private company?
Very true. But fortunately that has zero relevance for the Las Vegas service, since VTUSA will be building its own track initially between Victorville and Las Vegas, and eventually as it seems likely, to Palmdale/Lancaster to connect to Metrolink (and later with California HSR). UP will not be in the picture at all.
They'll be better off. You own the tracks, you don't have to deal with all the crap from the freights, getting held up or not being able to run trains on ideal schedules. Why do you think Amtrak runs more trains along the NEC than the rest of the country? If Amtrak wants to run more trains, they need to either build or buy more tracks. If the freights are calling the shots, good luck.
All it really takes is a state willing to throw around it's power of eminent domain. And honestly, some states should with how intransigent the railways tend to be. They might even play ball better if they know the state is willing to just unwillingly buy the land from them.
Don't know if states can exercise such 'eminent domain' power on an interstate railway that affects interstate commerce...I believe that would be up to the Feds...and if a state did attempt that, the railway might seek to appeal to the Feds for protection. Not sure how that would all play out...
Yeah, it can get interesting if the condemnation leads to cutting off interstate freight traffic for example.
However, just to pick a random example, if NY State were to use condemnation merely to get an easement on the unused portion of the CSX Water Level route ROW that does not otherwise interfere with the tracks they have in place, (or in an extreme case if they were not really using those tracks for any interstate traffic that was impossible to reroute over another route anyway) I think they would be hard pressed to make a case against such using the Commerce Clause.
The problem of course is that it would then probably be hard to make effective use of said property when you have to go through possible adversarial proceedings each time you have to build a flyover or anything else along the route. It is apparent that when CSX realized they really had little use justifying denying use to others they willingly leased their property for public use. So the trick is to convince them that it will be cheaper for them to give up the property for public use while retaining usage rights. In any case it is important to wrest dispatching control, even if they foolishly wish to continue maintaining the tracks.
Just for the fun of it read about the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co. v. City of Chicago case, in which "the court held that the eminent domain provisions of the Fifth Amendment were incorporated in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and thus were now binding on the states". Before that the states could do whatever, and the just compensation thing applied to the federal government alone apparently. Funnily, they also thought that $1 was just compensation for the railroad too!. Justice Brewer in a minority opinion disagreed. Supreme Court is a weird place and has been for a long long time I guess.
NY state could probably get the unused portion of the Water Level Route at a very reasonable price if they would agree to eliminate the real estate taxes on all of the route in NY. My understanding is very high state taxes are a big reason RR's remove as many tracks and structures as possible in NY.
I recall reading how Matt Rose of BNSF recommended that tracks designed for passenger service be built adjacent to existing tracks that would handle freight.The Richmond to Raleigh S line resurrection is something that CSX would love to see as something to remove as much Amtrak as possible from the A line. I wonder as to the possibility of restoring the S line between Savannah and Jacksonville. That would get 3 Amtrak trains off the A line, as well as making extending the Palmetto to JAX easier.
A threat of eminent domain just needs to get the railways to think that a long, expensive legal procedure might happen and that it's preferable to settle out of court than to fight with a state. Most cases settle out anyways and I doubt a railway will want a precedent setting case on its hands when it could just come to a fairer deal like what was mentioned above about using adjacent land for it's own right of way but at a fairer to the state deal. As it stands, the railways don't really need to be honest.
I purposely used NY State as an example because there is a good chance that the AG of New York might venture into such a territory against the freight railroads. In states like Florida, Indiana or Ohio, until there is significant change in the political leadership, such a move by an AG is well beyond a long shot.
It is probably easier to convince the railroad that it will be cheaper for them overall to cede control to a state agency, like CSX has done in New York, or even in Florida, rather than using Eminent Domain. That being a less adversarial approach has greater chance of producing something constructive quicker, rather than being stuck forever in court proceedings. But still, the state has to bring money to the table to pay for the purchase since Eminent Domain does not mean you can get it for free. A long term lease involves bringing much less money to the table up front, which could make it more palatable even for the state.
As we have seen in the past, Eminent Domain can get very messy and can sit in courts for decades. Witness how long it took NJDOT to wrest control of the Lackawanna Cutoff ROW using Eminent Domain, that too when absolutely nothing operated on it and it was not even owned by a railroad anymore! Of course after acquiring it NJDOT has basically sat on its haunches mostly doing nothing with it for even many more decades, but that is a different matter.
Now that you mention it, I think I do remember why it was cut back to JAX. I believe there was a crew base at Tampa that management to close. That is why it was cut back to JAX. They were willing to give up something like $45 million in revenue to save $15 million in expenses.
Another modest proposal would be to re-route the Crescent thru Richmond-Raleigh-Greensboro then back to it's regular route to Charlotte.
Actually it was not cut back to JAX in 2004. It was cut back all the way to SAV in late 2004. Before that it had lost its Sleeper and Diner while it still continued to run to MIA via TPA under the Palmetto moniker starting sometime in 2002. Palmetto ran to JAX starting 1988 before it was extended through Florida first as Palmetto (1994) with full Sleeper and Diner to TPA and then after complete discontinuance for a year or so as part of the Clinton cutbacks in 1995, it was restored as Silver Palm (1996) to MIA via TPA, essentially a renamed TPA section of the Silver Star.
One of the reasons for the cutback starting 2002 as I seem to recall was equipment shortage with withdrawal of most of the Heritage fleet except Diners and Baggage cars.
Would you be able to provide a credible citation to the source of the $45 million and $15 million numbers? I am just curious where you got that from. Did they actually have the equipment available at that point to try to capture that revenue without losing even larger pile of revenue somewhere else?
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