Amtrak Corridor Expansion Laundry List

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Anderson, Aug 4, 2019.

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

  1. Aug 4, 2019 #1

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,206
    Location:
    Virginia
    "Random" is sort of the only way to describe the list of proposals I ran into at an event a month or two back in Richmond. Some of this is down to state coordination issues, but...well, I'll just transcribe from my notes from a presentation by Joe McHugh:

    Ethan Allen to Burlington: FY21
    Springfield Line: MA extension expected FY19/20
    Downeaster: Rockland extension being looked at seasonally, date TBD

    Hiawathas:
    -Current state subsidy is sitting <$500k/yr, and Amtrak has added Horizons
    -Milwaukee-Chicago: 3x/daily trains to be added, may tip line into the black (Note: I don't have a timetable indicated on this)
    -MSP Train #2: $45m in WI Gov's budget, $45m from MN. Total cost in the ballpark of $100m.

    Quad Cities: 2x/day, timetable TBD
    Northern Lights Express (MSP-Duluth):
    -To operate from Target Field station (Ed. note: Don't ask me why not from SPUD, makes no sense to me if the CHI-MSP train is terminating at SPUD)
    -Good support, timeline TBD
    Rockford Service: Expensive, possibly troubled (Ed. note: You don't say?), lower priority than Quad Cities
    Chicago-Columbus project: Issues in Indiana (Ed. note: No ****, Sherlock)
    Illini/Saluki extension to Memphis:
    -Being spearheaded by Todd Stennis
    -A tentative timetable was given for the trains; all I got is that the Saluki would arrive in Memphis at 1845 and the Illini at 0250. (Note: Translating these to the NB trains, that suggests a Saluki departure at around 0230 and an Illini departure at 1115 give or take half an hour. That's one good day train and one horrid timetable but it would make for an interesting corridor. Per my recollection, they're apparently having some luck selling Tennessee on this.)
    Detroit-Toronto: Preliminary work on this, $1.8bn cost estimate. (Note: Per discussion elsewhere, this makes more sense to me now than it did then...apparently there are issues between Ontario and VIA, so it sounds like some truly odd politics are at play here.)

    Heartland Flyer to Newton:
    -Amtrak offered to run at timetable speed without preference
    -BNSF has been blowing hot and cold
    -There's talk of a possible traffic study
    -Cost frankly unknown

    Piedmonts: 4th train estimated FY2020, with three more later (Note: I think these were in addition to SEHSR but I'm not sure)
    SEHSR: S-line would cut time by 90 minutes Richmond-Raleigh
    Mobile:
    -CRISSI Grant
    -2x/day planned, hope to start service within 18 months
    -Talk of using the Wisconsin Talgos here (Note: But we've all heard that before, haven't we?)

    Front Range (Colorado):
    -Work just getting started
    -Estimated $1bn price tag

    Surfliners:
    -1x train to be added in 2019, 1x to be added 2020, 3x to be added later
    -Estimate of 125k riders/yr to be added with each train
    -Coachella service is on CA's list, but...
    -UP "doesn't want hippies on their tracks"
    -Odd note that I think I have here: Amtrak had internal debate about the state/not-state status of the Surfliners (I think) and there have been issues handling upkeep charges with the legislature. The note is slightly unclear, however.

    ===== ===== ===== ===== =====

    So, I don't know what to make of a bunch of this. It does sound like there's a decent amount of stuff in the offering in the next 2-3 years. LD stuff wasn't "on deck" (it is no longer Joe's bag now).
     
    dogbert617, Ziv and Just-Thinking-51 like this.
  2. Aug 4, 2019 #2

    Palmland

    Palmland

    Palmland

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    May 26, 2006
    Messages:
    647
    Location:
    Carolinas
    Interesting, I’m surprised not much about southeast eg. 2nd Roanoke train, AtLanta-Charlotte, Charlotte-NEC, Florida in connection with Brightline, NC DOT plans.
     
  3. Aug 4, 2019 #3

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,206
    Location:
    Virginia
    Roanoke/Lynchburg got handled separately. Basically, NS is being a PITA. SEHSR is sort-of in limbo as some of the damned study process trundles along. And I think that in Florida, Amtrak is trying to stick its fingers in its ears and shout "LALALALA!" as loudly as they can since either Brightline will succeed or it will fail. If it fails, Amtrak doesn't have a problem while if it succeeds Amtrak is so far up the infamous creek within FL that paddles won't help. [1]

    [1] To quote a friend, on dropping me off at ORL after we'd ridden on Brightline a few days earlier in reference to Amtrak station staff refusing to check a bag half an hour before train arrival (but the Conductor having no problem with doing so trainside): "Man, they don't have their **** together."
     
  4. Aug 4, 2019 #4

    tricia

    tricia

    tricia

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2011
    Messages:
    832
    Location:
    Spring Creek, NC
    Could you fill in a little context for this? Whose laundry list is it?
     
  5. Aug 4, 2019 #5

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,206
    Location:
    Virginia
    It was a list of projects given at a presentation by Joe McHugh.
     
  6. Aug 4, 2019 #6

    sttom

    s

    sttom

    Lead Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2019
    Messages:
    260
    I see the extension to the Capitol Corridor and expansion into the Sacramento Valley aren't mention, I'm assuming they're completely dead?

    I also know Washington is studying the prospect of a corridor line from Seattle to the Tri-Cities area.
     
  7. Aug 4, 2019 #7

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,206
    Location:
    Virginia
    (1) I think that Capitol Corridor expansions are running into pushback from UP.
    (2) I know of the Seattle-Tri-Cities project. I don't know what all of the issues are, but I suspect it just isn't far enough along on the WA end. There was probably some pruning of super-early-stage projects lest the list look too fantastical.
     
  8. Aug 4, 2019 #8

    Just-Thinking-51

    Just-Thinking-51

    Just-Thinking-51

    Conductor AU Lifetime Supporter AU Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2009
    Messages:
    1,740
    Location:
    USA
    For the record who is Joe...

    Define Tri-Cities for those of us on the right coast.
     
  9. Aug 4, 2019 #9

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,206
    Location:
    Virginia
    (1) Joe McHugh is currently the VP of Corridor Development (or a very similar title if I've mangled it).
    (2) Pasco/Richland/Kennewick, WA. It is in the SE part of the state. I've heard different versions of this project over the years.
     
    dogbert617 likes this.
  10. Aug 4, 2019 #10

    seat38a

    s

    seat38a

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2014
    Messages:
    1,914
    Location:
    Orange County California
    So that would mean like 17 trains a day for the Surfliner? Pretty much makes it an hourly train at that point between LA and San Diego. How many NER's are there currently between NYP and DC?
     
  11. Aug 4, 2019 #11

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,206
    Location:
    Virginia
    18 Regionals, but I'd throw the Vermonter and Palmetto in as "honorary Regionals" (the Palmetto got merged with a Regional while the Vermonter more-or-less follows a Regional schedule, etc. So call it 20 all told. Of course, that's supplemented by 16 (soon to be 17 and probably over 20 by the end of FY21) Acelas.

    I think the goal is something along the lines of "clock" service (give or take) LAX-SAN. From 0600-2200 that would give 17 trains. Mind, there might be an extra around rush hour traded for a one-hour gap in the middle of the afternoon or something...but it seems like a reasonable goal to aim for.
     
  12. Aug 4, 2019 #12

    jis

    jis

    jis

    Conductor AU Lifetime Supporter Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Messages:
    24,743
    Location:
    Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
    So how is Joe going to operate a Talgo into Raleigh's high level platform? Did he mention Talgo for NC? If not who did?

    Amtrak may have a role in the Gulf Coast Service in Florida if it comes to pass. Also, all the full blown out VTUSA developments in Florida are at least ten years away. A lot of water can flow down the St. Johns between now and then. But if things flow the way they are now, Amtrak will have only extremely minimal role in Corridors in Florida. Amtrak's idea of "Corridor" is also apparently quite different from VTUSA's idea both operationally and in terms of services provided, as Anderson, you have alluded to several times.

    At present we can only list things that are unlikely to happen in Florida regarding Amtrak and VTUSA:

    1. Amtrak using Miami Central, infinitesimal probability. Heck they can't even get their rear end into MIC at Miami International Airport, where there is a facility waiting for them. Admittedly there are a few issues, but they don;t seem to be interested in fixing them and instead just sit in the industrial wasteland in Hialeah disconnected from everything.

    2. Amtrak running on FECR slightly higher but still minute probability.

    3. Amtrak/VTUSA interchange station in Orlando, only if Amtrak stops at the SunRail/VTUSA interchange station that is planned, though through ticketing remains quite iffy. Of course no one will stop someone who buys two tickets and transfers.

    4. Will Amtrak move to the proposed Convention Center Station in JAX that VTUSA is eyeing as their JAX terminal? Who knows? They'll need to pay rent and it will involve a backup move, so probably not.
     
  13. Aug 4, 2019 #13

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,206
    Location:
    Virginia
    The Talgos are being looked at for New Orleans-Mobile service, not NC service.

    Given Anderson's attitudes, on #4 I could offer a very worrying possibility that Amtrak tries to "throw in the towel" on everything south of JAX except the Auto Train. Given the SWC situation, I could see it, particularly if (as I expect) Brightline basically takes Amtrak's intrastate traffic numbers out back and shoots them (I fully expect the Orlando-Miami and Tampa-Miami Amtrak ridership to drop to zero at that point). Another possibility (probably more likely) would be termination at Orlando with servicing moved to the Auto Train facility (although they'd need to move folks in who could handle Viewliners/Amfleets, of course). Please don't take these suggestions for being something that I think is smart...but it is the sort of thing I think we could all see attempted with the current folks in charge.

    As to moving stations in Jacksonville...well, if Amtrak could ditch the use of their current station (and staff) in exchange for a rental agreement with VTUSA, I suspect that Anderson would go for it. With a 30-minute advance check-in for baggage and existing staffing practices at VTUSA, it seems quite likely that Amtrak would come out well ahead on such an arrangement while VTUSA wouldn't even have to add staff to handle the trains (since at 30 minutes advance check-in, they could get the Amtrak bags out to the train between their trains).
     
  14. Aug 4, 2019 #14

    jis

    jis

    jis

    Conductor AU Lifetime Supporter Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Messages:
    24,743
    Location:
    Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
    Yeah, I suspect that even if Amtrak reduces service in Florida, they will maintain Orlando as their Florida terminal. Without it, they will basically lose most of the ridership they have south of the Carolinas, and it would be very hard to justify running two Sleeper trains to JAX.

    I agree that Amtrak will not be able to compete with clockface hourly schedule with superior shore and on board service of VTUSA with their unreliable twice daily service. If they really intend to not even fulfill their original purpose of serving as the national long distance service provider then I think Amtrak should be dissolved completely and a better way found to provide world quality 21st century corridor services, instead of stringing along a dinosaur. You do not require a national outfit to provide disconnected corridor services. It carries a lot of unnecessary overhead at that point.
     
  15. Aug 4, 2019 #15

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,206
    Location:
    Virginia
    I guess the question would be whether or not they start getting a lot of "leakage" from a (theoretical) VTUSA service from JAX. My best guess is that such a service would take about four hours to West Palm Beach (the highway distance Jacksonville-West Palm is 284 miles and West Palm-Cocoa is designated as 110 MPH running in the plans) and around 5:10 to 5:20 to Miami (based on the time to WPB plus current times WPB-MIA). That compares with 7:13 and 9:05 on the Meteor today. Even if you have to wait an hour or hour and a half for a train at Jacksonville, as long as the station is decent (which if existing VTUSA stations are any indication it will be fine) you're coming out about 90 minutes ahead for WPB and over two hours ahead for Miami...

    ...and if Amtrak doesn't get its head out of its arse in a few ways, you'll have better food on Virgin and a far better station on the south end.
     
    dogbert617 likes this.
  16. Aug 4, 2019 #16

    jis

    jis

    jis

    Conductor AU Lifetime Supporter Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Messages:
    24,743
    Location:
    Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
    I think that will work for someone in WPB wanting to go to places in the Carolinas and Georgia. I can't see why someone going to Washington DC would go through such trouble though. It is one thing to get on a train and stay on all the way to wherever. It is an entirely different thing to put together an itinerary involving transfers which involves dealing with two reservation systems etc. If Amtrak is able to make arrangements with VTUSA allowing Amtrak to issue those tickets that would make such a thing more feasible I think. Without it, it is almost a crap shoot. Specially southbound, depending on how Amtrak is doing on OTP one might even have to change ones ticket on VTUSA.

    I also think that the Florida contingent in Congress will find it less compelling to support Amtrak appropriations in the hypothetical situation we are postulating, which could harm Amtrak overall.
     
  17. Aug 4, 2019 #17

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,206
    Location:
    Virginia
    Fair point on NB vs SB, and I suspect some of this will also come down to questions of day-of-travel pricing and load factors (as well as relative Amtrak pricing). My guess is that, at least near rollout, VTUSA's pricing would be such that it would not be senseless and sold-out trains would be pretty rare (so the risk would be marginal at worst as long as you're not traveling on Thanksgiving Wednesday or something similar). Once service reaches the end of ramp-up that might be another story entirely...

    ...but at the same time, by then the damage might already be done in Amtrak's eyes and I could see them trying to work out a codeshare/through-ticketing arrangement of some sort so they could drop South Florida without quite the negative consequences they'd take otherwise.
     
    jis likes this.
  18. Aug 4, 2019 #18

    sttom

    s

    sttom

    Lead Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2019
    Messages:
    260
    The Richland/Kennewick area in Southeastern Washington.
     
  19. Aug 4, 2019 #19

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,206
    Location:
    Virginia
    So, I just did some number-crunching on the South Florida situation (as of 2018 per RPA's data):
    Code:
    Station Riders  %>JAX   #>JAX
    WPB     52,572  24.9%   13,090
    DLB     13,643  17.2%    2,346
    DFB     21,895  19.8%    4,335
    FTL     40,249  35.5%   14,288
    HOL     22,348  24.8%    5,542
    MIA     63,500  44.6%   28,321
                            67,922
                            93/day in each direction
    
    What stands out here is that if VTUSA could "pocket" those riders, that's probably an extra $5-10m in ticket revenue (depending on the mix of ticket prices and what-not) to go straight to the bottom line without having to wait for ramp-up. If they're running reasonably frequent service to JAX, then at least at the start it would make sense for them to "do a deal" even if they have to keep some space free on the next two trains to account for late Amtrak trains...but given the patterns I discerned about VTUSA ticket sales (a huge number being day-of) this doesn't seem to be too logistically nightmarish. Even stipulating that 80% of sleeper pax are out-of-state (18,911*0.8=15,129) comes to only about 20 pax/day. If you ticket the sleeper pax through in Select and everyone else in Smart, that's around 20 Select seats/day in each direction spread across two trains to start with (with SB overflow scattered across another 2-4) and about 75 pax/day in Smart across two trains. If they're running 7-car trains this seems feasible to cover for, particularly if the deal requires Amtrak to notify them as far in advance as possible once a connection is blown (which will probably give Virgin the ability to move those pax around before last-minute sales would cause issues [1]).

    [1] The Star hits JAX around 0630 and the Meteor around 0900. If Amtrak has to inform Virgin four hours out that there's an issue, they'd be telling Virgin at 0230 for the Star and 0500 for the Meteor...before most folks will be poking at same-day sales for tickets likely departing around 0800 and 1000, respectively, from JAX...and add four hours to that for Palm Beach. Frankly, that seems eminently doable given the buying behaviors I observed last fall.

    Edit: And of course, the elephant in the room is that even if VTUSA didn't step in for the LD pax, ridership to/from South Florida (214,207) is less than one-third out-of-state (with a very large slug coming from Orlando, Tampa, and stations in that area that VTUSA is set to cover). If intrastate traffic drops by half, that's a loss of almost 75k riders/year...and at that point I'm not sure how viable service down there would still be. FWIW I think ridership there is about to go crashing with the diner cuts as it stands, so I wouldn't be surprised to see everything stacking up to whack intrastate Amtrak ridership to these stations by 75%.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2019
  20. Aug 4, 2019 #20

    jis

    jis

    jis

    Conductor AU Lifetime Supporter Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Messages:
    24,743
    Location:
    Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
    I don't think there will be any logistical problem. I think all problems involving interworking with Amtrak in the past has been egotistic problems, and unwillingness on the part of Amtrak to cooperate, when they view that what they consider to be their cookie is being eaten by someone else.

    My suspicion is that VTUSA will be unwilling to make significant changes to their ticketing/reservation systems or operating procedures. Anything that can be done without requiring major changes they would be fine with. But JAX service is more than ten years away is the impression I got talking to Rusty when I met him at the FECRS Convention a month or two back.

    I think a first inkling of how things will go can be gotten at Orlando to see if Amtrak makes any accommodation to interchange with VTUSA at Meadow Woods station, and if they do, what if any, arrangements they and VTUSA are willing to make to enhance convenience for the customers. This of course has the additional twist that such an interchange would possibly drain off passengers from Amtrak on the Orlando - Tampa leg, LD passengers who might have otherwise carried on with Amtrak. I don't know to what extent this might become an issue, but potentially Amtrak could simply make VTUSA a Thruway service and get rid of the Tampa Thruway bus. I am not sure what would be the fate of the Silver service to Tampa at that point.

    BTW, is Joe still talking about an Amtrak LAX - Las Vegas service?
     
  21. Aug 4, 2019 #21

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,206
    Location:
    Virginia
    Not as far as I can tell. Hell, I don't think I've heard anything on a possible Amtrak service LAX-Vegas in any form since reviving the Desert Wind got dismissed in the Zephyr's PIP almost a decade ago. I think there may be an acceptance that, if nothing else, if they can get the funding then VTUSA has them dead to rights on that front (and if they can't, Amtrak's odds aren't great).

    Edit: And the "logistical" issue was more a matter of handling the need for mass reaccommodations if Amtrak is running late. Moving 40-50 people around is obviously different than moving, say, 250.
     
  22. Aug 4, 2019 #22

    jis

    jis

    jis

    Conductor AU Lifetime Supporter Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Messages:
    24,743
    Location:
    Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
    It is hard to compete against a complete new rail infrastructure construction by someone who will also have total control of dispatching. VTUSA is likely to have that eventually to Palmdale. After that it will be interesting to see what arrangements they make with MetroLink. But still it is dispatching by a passenger outfit and not some 20th century fossil of a freight railroad.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2019
  23. Aug 4, 2019 #23

    NSC1109

    N

    NSC1109

    Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2016
    Messages:
    236
    Location:
    MI
    Few things to note:

    Supposedly MDOT has been trying to push for more Wolverines as well as additional pairs for the PM and Blue Water yet none of those were mentioned by Mr. VP.

    Nothing in Ohio?

    Extensions to Memphis sound interesting. If TN sees good service on that end then that could potentially be the first step in putting Nashville and Louisville back on the network.

    Talgos for the Gulf Coast....I assume those would be the two sets that have been sitting in Beech Grove for the last several years?

    Detroit-Toronto: Are we talking a train originating in DET or one running CHI-TOR? Because the latter would be one long corridor, even if you did minimize stops on the AML ago major cities (KAL, BTL (req. for crew change), JXN, ARB, DER, DET). MapQuest puts the highway drive at 520 miles via Detroit and Windsor vs 237 miles (comparable to many corridors) starting in Detroit.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2019
  24. Aug 4, 2019 #24

    jis

    jis

    jis

    Conductor AU Lifetime Supporter Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Messages:
    24,743
    Location:
    Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
    I would presume that the Talgos would be for the NOL - Mobile service, since the service to Florida has such a long running time that it will most likely involve a night or pretty bad times at either or both NOL and Orlando. And not clear that Talgos with their current spartan accommodation in the two parked sets would be appropriate for an overnight train. But hey, maybe that is the new improved Amtrak direction. Personally I have no problem with a Coach only overnight train. Afterall the Pioneer started in that form AFAIR.
     
  25. Aug 4, 2019 #25

    JayPea

    JayPea

    JayPea

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2006
    Messages:
    3,801
    Location:
    Colfax, WA (CFX)
    In addition to the Tri-Cities, some studies have been done that would extend the corridor to Spokane, with the idea of giving Spokane daytime rail service.
     
    Ziv, sttom and Just-Thinking-51 like this.

Share This Page

arrow_white