Amtrak moving forward to stop all, most LDT

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Amtrakfflyer, Feb 20, 2019.

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  1. Mar 23, 2019 #401

    jebr

    jebr

    jebr

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    I’m still not convinced the best way to save the long distance trains is to simply outsource them to a premium provider, likely resulting in having to charge premium prices. There might be a small market for that, but I think it’d make Amtrak even less relevant for most people than it is today.

    For me, what would be best for the long distance trains is better OTP and more frequency. Alongside that, feeder bus services can help to connect more places, making Amtrak the spine of our land transportation network and have busses serve to feed the spine. I’m on a sold-out Megabus right now and there’s quite a few younger people on board. Sure, it’s cheaper, but it’s also more reliable (the Builder has pretty poor OTP, especially eastbound, where the bus is usually on time,) it’s more frequent (4x/day vs. 1x/day,) and it serves a unique market (Madison, WI.) It’s less comfortable, but when it’s a quarter to half the price and reliable, it’s hard to justify taking the train. No premium experience can make up fully for poor OTP.
     
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  2. Mar 23, 2019 #402

    Ralph M Bohm

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    What does "LDT" stand for?
     
  3. Mar 23, 2019 #403

    dgvrengineer

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    Long Distance Train
     
  4. Mar 23, 2019 #404

    lordsigma

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    OTP needs to be the #1 priority for the LD side in the upcoming re authorization. Funding and legislation is needed to address the issue, both through enforcement mechanisms for less cooperative hosts as well as trying to entice the freight operators to be better stewards (whether that is by better financial incentives for timeliness and better base access reimbursements to the class Is or whatever.) Amtrak and the current CSX management have vastly improved their working relationship recently and the better relationship and cooperation have resulted in major OTP improvements. This was pointed out by Gardner at recent testimony. OTP for the Auto Train, Silver Meteor, and Palmetto have seen great improvements through these efforts with the Auto Train now actually meeting Amtrak's OTP standard for LD trains (the only long distance train to do so. there is certainly still room for improvement - Amtrak would like to get the Palmetto and Meteor into that category also.) This just shows that it is possible to improve OTP if Amtrak can establish more cooperative relationships with the hosts. The Lake Shore's performance on CSX territory has also reportedly seen some improvement.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2019
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  5. Mar 23, 2019 #405

    sttom

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    We do need to start pushing for a more coherent and better rail policy. If we want more corridor service, it needs to be treated like the highways are. Ohio and Indiana might not be willing to fund major improvements, but their tunes could change if the Feds were willing to underwrite 75%-90% of the capital cost and could get some of the operating costs covered. I know a lot of people get mad at the prospect of the feds underwriting the cost of "state" corridors, but still even here, not a lot of people seem to have to big of an issue with highways getting better treatment. I wouldn't care too deeply if Indiana or Ohio got funding to start or expand rail services if California was also eligible to get funding through the same process. Its kind of hard to make the argument that the state should be responsible for trains when they aren't for highways.
     
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  6. Mar 24, 2019 #406

    neroden

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    No way. I've studied the economics of freight rail. The private ownership of the infrastructure has been a frickin' disaster; it led to ripping tracks out where they shouldn't, and then realizing later that they had to put them back in, and a constant shift in traffic to trucks. The situation in the USSR, where the tracks were state-owned, was clearly better.

    Mexico has also only gotten worse when it privatized its freight rail. The promised gains never happened.

    This is because private companies generally disinvest and asset-strip, which is bad for rail service. The exception is companies owned by long-term thinkers, like BNSF in the hands of Berkshire Hathaway. They're OK.

    Companies filing quarterly reports always want to juice their quarterly profits, and avoiding maintenance or short-sighted scrapping of infrastructure always improves quarterly numbers -- in recent years, Hunter Harrison was an expert at this and damaged CN, CP, and CSX in sequence before helpfully dying.

    The infrastructure could be held by really-long-term-thinking charities or trusts, or by governments, or by really-long-term-thinking for-profit companies; but quarterly-results, stock-market-floated companies shouldn't own it. This is one reason I'm glad Brightline/Virgin Trains didn't IPO and I'm glad that the Florida East Coast railway is held by a private long-term investor group.

    I mean, I've seen governments do the same thing -- short-sighted sell-offs of public assets. Just not as often. I'd rather wrap the railroad tracks up in a dedicated trust / charity which would be *really hard* to asset-strip, legally speaking.
     
  7. Mar 24, 2019 #407

    neroden

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    It's interesting that this required Amtrak calling them out as lawbreakers and threatening them. Sometimes the way to get cooperation and a better relationship is with threats and denunciations...

     
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  8. Mar 24, 2019 #408

    lordsigma

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    Oh I’m all for that. My point was merely that when you can finally get the host railroad to play ball with you (whatever it takes to get there) you can get big improvements and that is an example.
     
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  9. Mar 24, 2019 #409

    junebug

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    RRdude You hit the nail on the head. Marketing! I agree, the staff is amazing. The scenery is amazing. It's not enough, to put up with the delays and sub-par food and lodging.

    What can *we* do? There's got to be something. There are a lot of other train lover online communities. Think of all the tourists from other countries that would want to tour the United States, if there were first class service.
     
  10. Mar 24, 2019 #410

    junebug

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    Being in Chicago the eastbound routes are not attractive to me as. A lot of routes are at night both ways. I know height is a restriction, but without a dome, it isn't that enticing. I'm sure the markets they serve are more lucrative than westbound. Would Keeping eastbound routes more interesting for leisure travelers be a sure boost of income for Amtrak?

    Someone mentioned Virgin Train... I wonder if we could get Richard Branson interested.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2019
  11. Mar 25, 2019 #411

    neroden

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    Getting the eastbound routes to frickin' run on TIME would make a big difference.
     
  12. Mar 25, 2019 #412

    west point

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    Congress should require Amtrak to identify the offending RR. No ifs and or buts. Wonder if identifying the offending NS caused NS to receive too many complaints?
     
  13. Mar 31, 2019 #413

    bretton88

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    The problem in Mexico was that the equipment had worn out and the state had no money to replace the equipment. So they decided to privatize the railroads and make it someone else's problem. Plus it also meant cash into somebody's pockets. Was it a good deal for the citizens? Nope.
     
  14. Apr 1, 2019 #414

    cirdan

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    In the USSR, the government basically told factories how to ship their goods. So they didn't go by the cheapest route or the fatest or the most efficient but by the route that central planning ordained. This is why well into the 1980 and early 1990s even, virtually all long distance freight went by rail. The other side of the medal was that charges were also set centrally and the railroads had to accept freight even if they couldn't handle it profitably.

    Such an arrangement isn't sustaineble unless the government has very deep pockets.

    There are veryx many private companies who don't asset strip. This is down to the philosophy of the company and what the shareholders want. Of course being publically traded does tend to encourage a certain type of investor, so I would say the problem here is not being private per se, but being traded.
    this
    Sadly there are plenty of examples of governments totally mismanaging railroads and running assets into the ground. Look at many African railroads for example. I don't think the mode of ownership is the actual problem but the people in charge.
     
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  15. Apr 1, 2019 #415

    jis

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    A worthwhile question to ponder in this context is "Is the Defense establishment in the US actually efficient in any meaningful way?" and "Are the private contractors that supply goods and services to the Defense Department really efficient economically or otherwise in any meaningful way?" If we could fix them somehow, how much money would become available for other uses without adversely affecting the ability of the Defense establishment to meet their primary objectives? Just wondering, perhaps appropriately in the morning of April Fool's Day, since it is probably a fool's errand anyway.
     
  16. Apr 1, 2019 #416

    cirdan

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    The problem with defence is that you never know how efficient you are or how well prepared you are until you are actually attacked. And typically by then its too late to take corrective action. I'm sure consultants can come up with all sorts of metrics, but there is no way of knowing whether they actually mean anything short of actually going to war. Politicians thus have a bias to erring on the side of caution, which means given the choice between spending a little more or a littls less, they go for the former. And after 80 years of margin stacking, it gets very difficult to go back to the bone.
     
  17. Apr 1, 2019 #417

    Amtrakfflyer

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    We are only 4.4 percent of the worlds population but effectively we spend more than the rest of the world combined on military spending. Even as a military family (wife was in Navy) I can’t wrap my head around that.

    Along the same lines we spend more than the rest of the world on healthcare as well. See a theme?

    A strong military is vitally important but let’s use some common sense. What’s the point of the military? To protect our people and our way of life? Our way of life needs to be protected from within now. Healthcare and infrastructure to start.

    That’s what really frustrates me about Amtrak and infrastructure in general. Why do people pick fights on Amtrak/infrastructure spending? It’s statiscally irrelevant on the bottom line but without a sound infrastructure our country will eventually implode.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2019
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  18. Apr 1, 2019 #418

    jis

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    There are many ways for a country to fail and collapse. Failure of military ventures is just one of them. We are in the process of experimenting with some of the other methods I am afraid. But that is beyond the scope of this thread. Sorry for having brought this up.
     
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  19. Apr 1, 2019 #419

    JustOnce

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    The DoD intentionally keeps two contractors in business on many projects for redundancy as well as to allow scaling up during war time. That's intentionally inefficient. We order nuclear subs from two contractors: GD and HII. One builds the bow sections, the other builds the stern sections. Each delivers completed submarines.
     
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