Amtrak launching nonstop NYC-DC Acela

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by frequentflyer, Jul 25, 2019.

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  1. Aug 5, 2019 #51

    jis

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    Given how often I have found a seat at Philly while I couldn' at Metropark on southbound Acelas, I tend to agree with you that there is likely a problem between New York and Philly.
     
  2. Aug 6, 2019 #52

    west point

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    You are probably well informed by your observations. We would expect that it will be even more pronounced in the future. When the Constant tension CAT is finished a reduced running time between Trenton and Newark may enable a schedule reduction NYP <> PHL. The French SCNF actually had to add some short distance TGVs between Paris and locations less than 1 hours for new commuters to Paris. This new train may allow for more NYP and WASH - WIL passenger commuters for PHL on the ACELAs bracketing this new ACELA .
     
  3. Aug 6, 2019 #53

    Mystic River Dragon

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    The observations about the NYP-PHL leg makes sense. When I've boarded a Regional at Trenton during the morning rush hour, there often have not been any seats in coach, because a lot of people use it as commuter rail between Philly and New York. So I can see the same thing happening with the Acelas.
     
  4. Aug 7, 2019 #54

    Anderson

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    On that basis, my thinking is that if they want to limit this issue, we're back to the idea of adding in BAL, BWI, and/or NCR (on the south end, at least) if they need to add a stop or two down the line (and when/if they're able to pull some time out of the timetable). Of course, it would probably make more sense to simply cut the posted time down instead...but both options seem viable.
     
  5. Aug 8, 2019 #55

    neroden

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    If you (Amtrak) are finding your seats filled between PHL and NYP, your only rational choice is to start running short hauls from NYP to PHL to take the pressure off. Not adding long hauls which skip PHL. I mean, this is basic math. Perhaps there should be an NYP-PHL nonstop.
     
  6. Aug 8, 2019 #56

    ScouseAndy

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    If NYP-PHL supply meets current demand what would then gain by adding an additional train between them? If NYP-WAS demand outstrips current supply then it makes sense to provide additional supply.

    Alternately even if NYP-PHL demand isn't meet, given the finite resources available to Amtrak, If these resources can yield more profit by being utilised on a direct NYP-WAS compared to a direct NYP-PHL service then it makes perfect sense to run to WAS then PHL
     
  7. Aug 8, 2019 #57

    Anderson

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    @neroden While that is logical, that also presumes the availability of equipment and slots. Both constraints are at issue...equipment can be dealt with in the form of an order for new cars over the next few years, but particularly at peak hours Amtrak can only run so many trains through the Hudson tunnels. Moreover, if both markets can be supported (and PHL-WAS and the intermediate pairs can still support a train without as much through business) you achieve the same objective by pushing through pax to the express train and moving local pax to the stopping service.

    In some respects, this feels like the equivalent of saying that the New York Central shouldn't have run the Twentieth Century Limited or that the ACL/SAL shouldn't have run their Northeast-Florida express trains, they should have laid on a few more multi-stop trains when the endpoint market was big enough to accommodate the express service. In both cases, the cachet of non-stop/express service can be a significant selling point.

    It is also worth noting that there have been mentions of alteration to the soft product (e.g. F&B). While I am definitely worried about this, I'd also note that up in F running something like this allows you to do some things as far as coordinating the service differently if everyone has the same destination (or, in theory, has one of a very small number of closely-timed city pairs to work with). On the new trains, it might let you serve marginally more pax with the same number of crew since the ordering would all happen in a coordinated pattern (rather than having to add orders as pax board and hurriedly feed pax who have earlier stops).
     
  8. Aug 8, 2019 #58

    jis

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    Amtrak VP of NEC service is on record saying that with the arrival of Acela 21 (yes that if the Amtrak name of the new sets for now), Amtrak will offer regular non stop service from New York to both Washington and Boston. There is also a hint that these trains will have a modified and upgraded soft product beyond the stopping service. Seems to me like they want to create an equivalent of Nozomi service on the Tokaido Shinkansen in Japan, while stopping Acelas take the role of Hikaris, for those familiar with that line.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
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  9. Aug 8, 2019 #59

    Devil's Advocate

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    How about we update the NEC to Hikari speeds first and leave the Nozomi experience for later? :cool:
     
  10. Aug 8, 2019 #60

    jis

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    Well, if they can do a good improved soft product, I would not necessarily bemoan the lack of Hikari speed necessarily. The speed thing on the NEC is way beyond anything that they can easily do, if ever.
     
  11. Aug 8, 2019 #61

    Devil's Advocate

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    Is it harder than building a mountain tunneling maglev line? Because that's where premium Nozomi style express service is already heading. I get where you're coming from but comparing Amtrak to Japan is so disparate that it sidetracks my focus. :(
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
  12. Aug 8, 2019 #62

    jis

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    Sorry for confusing you. I will try to be more careful the next time and say something like they are trying to create a non stop Duronto brand beyond Rajdhanis as in India.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
  13. Aug 8, 2019 #63

    west point

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    At one time AMTAK did have a lot of NYP <> PHL trips known as clockers. That was when there was fewer services on to WASH. NJT was supposed to substitute but NJT quickly started to terminate at Trenton requiring those who wanted to go on to PHL to change at TRE to SEPTA.
     
  14. Aug 8, 2019 #64

    Devil's Advocate

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    Touche! Upon further reflection you could make a strong case for Amtrak's slow and winding NEC needing premium cabins to a much greater extent than JRE's Tokaido.

    [​IMG]
     
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  15. Aug 12, 2019 #65

    Thirdrail7

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    The hope is to remove some of the through passengers off the adjacent trains to provide space for the intermediate travel on the adjacent trains. I don't believe they are planning for these express trains to approach capacity particularly with a huge suburban market.

    The concern I have is equipment availability. You'll need 17 sets to operate weekday service. This was an issue before and was one of the reasons they killed it before. It was one of first trains canceled if equipment issues occurred.

    I'm not sure things have gotten better, although the interior refresh program is just about completed.
     
  16. Aug 13, 2019 #66

    neroden

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    Think harder. If NYP-WAS demand outstripped supply and NYP-PHL demand didn't, you'd see empty seats from NYP to PHL which got filled from PHL-WAS. Instead you see full seats from NYP-PHL which are empty from PHL-WAS. This says that you need NYP-PHL short hauls to take the NYP-PHL customers (which will then open up seats on the NYP-PHL-WAS train).

    Mathematically that's impossible. Literally impossible. I won't leave it as an exercise to the reader; I'll explain:

    First of all, the costs are obviously higher to run from NYP-WAS than from NYP-PHL.

    As for the revenues -- whatever revenue you were hoping to make for NYP-WAS, you can instead raise ticket prices on NYP-PHL to collect the same (or more) revenue. If this price increase reduces NYP-PHL ridership, *then you opened up seats for NYP-WAS* and you get your NYP-WAS revenue. You end up with more profit.

    I do financial analysis for a living.

    It is true that if you have enough non-stop customers (I don't think there are enough) you can achieve the objective by running a non-stop. If you have unbalanced ridership where NYP-PHL is stronger than PHL-WAS (which you do), the nonstop will exacerbate that unbalanced situation on the other trains. Eventually some of the other trains will be running with low enough ridership from PHL-WAS that you'll want to cut them back to short turns from NYP-PHL, and you end up with the NYP-PHL short turns again.

    And that may be the only purpose of this: advertising.

    When the endpoint market for the Twentieth Century Limited dropped, the first thing the NY Central did was to have more intermediate stops. The limited-stops trains outlived the no-stop trains by decades. The Twentieth Century Limited, in its heyday, existed alongside a bewildering array of locals, limiteds, and semi-expresses departing many times per hour. And it *can't* exist without that sort of extremely high demand. While the NEC does have its MBTA, Metro-North, NJT, SEPTA, and MARC locals and limiteds and its Amtrak limiteds, semi-expresses and expresses, I don't actually think there's enough demand there to support a NYP-WAS non-stop on top of it. OK, I think there is enough to support an NYP-PHL nonstop, but the Washington leg is much, much weaker.

    Thinking of it as a marketing scheme, I expect them to run non-stop just long enough to get a bunch of positive publicity in the newspapers. Because "non-stop" gets more marketing hoopla than "one stop".

    Then, because I believe the endpoint market is *not* large enough to fill the train, they will quietly start stopping at Philadelphia. I believe that the market for a one-stop *is* large enough to fill the train, so that's probably what they'll stick with...

    FYI. In order to fill one non-stop train each way every day, I calculate that they'd have to take roughly *30%* of the existing Acela NYP-WAS ridership onto that train. (And, BTW, Acela ridership has been dropping the past two years.) That... might be possible? But given that people will take the train which is on the most convenient schedule, it seems highly unlikely. The train will run underfull until they add an intermediate stop. Add enough intermediate stops and you can take a more reasonable 20% or 15% of the ridership and fill up.

    I suppose Amtrak is trying to capture people who were taking the airline shuttles. That is a pretty small group at this point. I cannot find current numbers for shuttle ridership. Some people are actually plane-lovers. I believe the number who can be captured is not enough to fill a train (namely, for a nonstop in each direction, 221,920 per year)
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2019
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  17. Aug 13, 2019 #67

    Thirdrail7

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    That's a darn good analysis, Neroden and the bottom line is this train is to make room for the intermediate markets (think MET-PHL/ MET-BAL, WIL-MET/ BWI-NWK as examples) that are squeezed out during that time.

    It is also advertising the potential and setting up for one thing that is overlooked.

    There is a great deal of service on the NEC. You have the Keystones, NYP-WAS regionals, BOS-WAS regionals, Virginia Regionals and the LD trains plying the NEC.

    When the all of the new Acela21 are fully in service, you may find that some of the existing regional trains are no more. You may find an Acela21 filling that slot.
     
  18. Aug 13, 2019 #68

    Anderson

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    I will say that I think there might be enough demand for the non-stop...during the absolute peak hour(s).

    The only reasons I would be doubtful about slashing Regionals and adding Acela21s in their place are capacity and cost: IIRC the Acela21s have a cap of about 400 seats (with the potential to expand to something in the mid-500s). A ten-car Regional has a capacity of 638, and cutting Acela21 fares into the ballpark of the advance-purchase bucket for the Regionals would have a bad impact on perceived value.
     
  19. Aug 13, 2019 #69

    PVD

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    When we look at whether NYP to PHL or NYP to WAS is favorable, we have to consider what the set does on the turn. From WAS it can resume its regular route, that might be financially favorable to the PHL to NYP turn.
     
  20. Aug 13, 2019 #70

    JustOnce

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    I think advertising the potential is a key factor here in them doing this. I've already seen Facebook advertisements for the new service. Even if this train runs mostly empty, pulls a set from regular service, or loses money it accomplishes several things:
    a.) It gets people thinking about the shorter times and means they may consider Acela when they might otherwise wouldn't. Even if they go to book the non-stop and it's full or at the wrong time, they might still be willing to book a ride on Amtrak now that they've actually reached the Amtrak reservation page.
    b.) Don't underestimate the lobbying factor of this move. Amtrak just reduced the official shortest time between NY and WAS cutting even closer to the shuttle flight times. And Amtrak hasn't completed work on raising speeds in NJ past 135 mph or fielded 160-mph capable equipment yet. Once that happens there's an even shorter time (probably not much though). But now Amtrak can go to Congress and say we're even more competitive with airlines here's what it will cost to reduce the schedule further and start lobbying for NEC 2.0*, the Baltimore Tunnels, Elizabeth Curve elimination, etc.

    My view: let it be a loss-leader and serve as a flagship train and marketing bullet point.

    *=if we can't get Gateway funding lined up, I realize NEC 2.0 is a pipe dream.
     
  21. Aug 13, 2019 #71

    jis

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    Elizabeth Curve elimination ... Heh heh. Considering how much that will cost, it will be a phenomenal waste of money given other more pressing matters.

    Gateway Tunnel by itself does not actually do much for real NEC 2.0, absent a whole slew of other things in NJ. It will not increase the speed of anything one iota. It will just reduce risk of infrastructure failure and decongest some allowing more reliable scheduling.

    To get real HSR through NJ what needs to happen is a straighter two track underground ROW starting from around County Interlocking all the way to New York. This appears in the Tier I EIS as an alternative. Places like Japan, Europe and China have stomach for such. I doubt the US does. But it will among other things, eliminate the Elizabeth Curve and the more impactful Metuchen/Metropark Curves too.
     
  22. Aug 13, 2019 #72

    ScouseAndy

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    Your assumption that NYP-PHL is more profitable then NYP-WAS is flawed as you are ignoring the costs of running it to WAS empty for its next trip back North.

    Amtrak have a finite number of trains, currently one or more is full between NYP and PHL and then with a low loading the rest of the trip. The train needs to complete its run to WAS in order for its next run back to NYP/BOS. By cutting PHL stop (among others) amtrak will be believimg it can create more revenue by having more seats filled all the way on a trip that train needs to make. Seats which are currently being blocked by short haul customers.

    This also excludes the amount of free publicity Amtrak will get from announcing none stop services from NYP to the capital. That will create custom and drive revenue on its own.

    Unless you believe that Amtrak resources would be better utilised being sat in PHL until the next peak period service back to NYP when it can run with a profitable number of passengers?
     
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  23. Aug 13, 2019 #73

    jis

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    I think PVD got it right. It depends on what overall links you are able to use for a set. Just like neroden used an assumption ScouseAndy used another assumption in so far as links go. Those are certainly not the only two possibilities, and depending on specific offered capacity goals one would go about designing a link for best utilization of equipment. It is hard to make an argument this way or that on the basis of which is more or less profitable voerall without knowing much much more about what the overall scheme is.
     
  24. Aug 13, 2019 #74

    west point

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    A thought. There will be 3 Acela trips originating at NYP weekdays within 1 hour. That means there will be 3 Acela sets arriving WASH within less than 2 hours. That give Amtrak a better chance of not having to cancel or delay an Acela leaving at maybe 1100 - 1300 ? Having an extra Acela at WASH certainly means better chance of maintain all Acela sets and if one of the early departures to WASH has a minor problem that will give time to correct a problem before the afternoon rush including the north bound non stop.
    The flip side does mean it will be more likely an Acela trip from NYP or BOS might not make the NYP - WASH leg.
     
  25. Aug 13, 2019 #75

    Acela150

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    Am I the only one who doesn't want to be the engineer on these trips? 2 and a 1/2 hours with no stops to use the bathroom? I'll pass.
     

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