Amtrak moving forward to stop all, most LDT

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

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

  1. Feb 23, 2019 #101

    neroden

    n

    neroden

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2014
    Messages:
    7,227
    Location:
    Ithaca, NY
    The distances are just too short for night trains in France and Spain.  Deutsche Bahn wanted to open up maintenance windows for the track at night, which is suspected to be the reason for killing their (profitable) night trains; Austria took over most of them, but not the north-south routes.

    Eastern Europe, the entire train system is a mess, night and day trains.  Bulgaria's passenger trains are not in good shape, nor are Romania's, and Serbia's are worse.

    China, with much longer distances, of course has plenty of functional night trains.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 23, 2019
  2. Feb 23, 2019 #102

    keelhauled

    k

    keelhauled

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2014
    Messages:
    806
    Location:
    Camorr
    Well sure, but the difference comes in the funding sources, which is a separate but related discussion.  The whole point of a federal government is to make investments in the country which are blind to state borders.  The PRRIA requirements create an artificial barrier that doesn't serve the country well. There's no reason that routes crossing state boundaries should be so much harder to start than intra-state routes of comparable length.  Part of any significant passenger rail policy overhaul should be to scrap the whole state funding requirements and allow federal dollars to pay for regional trains in markets where there is significant demand for rail service.  Just as federal money is directed at highway projects of primarily regional or local benefit, so to should it be allowed to flow towards public transportation needs in addition to or in lieu of further building out highway networks. I have to believe that Amtrak will be pushing for such legislation if they are serious about trying to reorient the business further towards corridor service.

    Just as some long distance routes aren't worthy of continued funding, some existing state supported corridors probably aren't either.  I don't really see a justification for the Vermonter in the context of trying to get the most bang for the buck out of federal dollars...the single daily schedule is kind of useless and the population density isn't there to justify investing in more frequencies.  That said, there should be no prejudice against state dollars continuing to pay for service if the state's taxpayers want it.

    Anyway, I'm not entirely sure where I had planned to go with this, but I think it was something to do with my original point that eventually, hopefully sooner than later, the present route map really needs to go through a top-down overhaul to focus resources where they can be used to the benefit of the most passengers instead of this Balkanized network where there are occasional areas that function at least reasonably well, separated by vast swaths of the country with negligible or no service at all.
     
  3. Feb 23, 2019 #103

    bretton88

    b

    bretton88

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Messages:
    992
    I highly doubt that unwinding the 750 mile rule is feasible. Can you imagine all the new negotiations with the states if that occurs? I can imagine PA seeing if they can throw the keystone's back onto Amtrak's plate. Fred Frailey posted a good article about why that probably won't happen. More likely Amtrak will pursue very long corridors i.e. something like Chicago to La Junta, a retimed LSL, DC to Atlanta day train, etc. So it will be interesting to see what Amtrak pursues and what the freights will even allow.
     
  4. Feb 23, 2019 #104

    jis

    jis

    jis

    Conductor AU Lifetime Supporter Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Messages:
    24,153
    Location:
    Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
    Are interstate routes really that hard to start? It seems to me that there are more examples of state funded inter-state routes that have operated or expanded of late than any federal funded ones.

    Vermonter BTW is a state funded train off the corridor, not a federal funded train. Vermont wants to pay for both the Vermonter and the Ethan Allen. Who are we to decide whether they should like to have it run or not? Indeed at the rate things are going even a train like the SWC is slowly becoming a partly state owned train, which Amtrak will have to continue to run if they wish to get funded at all.

    I can make a fearless prediction that a top down overhaul is very unlikely to happen. Transportation is a political thing, and that means a vast number of interest groups and stake holders have to be satisfied, with the requisite horse-trading taking place, for anything to happen. So the dreamers here can just keep dreaming if that is what gets them off. :lol:
     
  5. Feb 23, 2019 #105

    JRR

    J

    JRR

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2017
    Messages:
    750
    Maybe an effort to obtain non partisan support for the passenger train operations would have a greater long term positive effect rather than the insistence that only one party can advance the ball.
     
  6. Feb 23, 2019 #106

    keelhauled

    k

    keelhauled

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2014
    Messages:
    806
    Location:
    Camorr
    For every example of state-funded trains that cross borders, (of which there is what recently--CTRail and...?), you can point to one that foundered.  Iowa killed the proposed train to Iowa City, Wisconsin killed the one to Madison, New Hampshire has stubbornly refused to consider bringing service into Manchester or Concord, etc.  There is no justification for trains that run from Charlotte north to Raleigh but not south to Atlanta except for the artificial state barriers.  They do not stop travel in the corridor, but they make it virtually impossible to use rail service to serve the travel demand because of the funding restrictions placed on potential trains.

    Perhaps you could point to where I said otherwise.

    I think that without a reorganization of Amtrak's network there is no future in which it doesn't eventually atrophy into obsolescence.  Unless some sea change occurs in the demographics of the country and the trend towards urbanization reverses itself, the network will become increasingly out of sync with transport patterns, and other solutions will evolve to serve it.  Amtrak is already losing control over the state supported corridors as more states purchase their equipment and Amtrak becomes the personnel contractor only.  They have next to no presence in developing future service anywhere--not in California (they didn't even submit a bid to operate CAHSR), not in Florida, not in Texas, not to Las Vegas.  Where is the growth supposed to come from? There are only so many trainsets sitting in DC you can stretch into Virginia.  Either the US government makes a conscious decision to invest in a passenger rail network that better serves the country, or the current one eventually dwindles into disconnected regional routes.  Perhaps some would still say Amtrak on the side of the equipment, perhaps not, it doesn't really matter either way.
     
  7. Feb 23, 2019 #107

    sttom

    s

    sttom

    Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2019
    Messages:
    203
    Even if we get half of the high speed trains that are dreamed about, and with our politics and how easily swindled politicians are by reporting about Elon Musk, overnight trains between some cities could still be worth looking into. One example could be St. Louis to Denver. I doubt there is a market between them to justify more than 2 round trip trains during the day, let alone a high speed corridor. An overnight train timed to depart at one end at night and arrive the next morning is worth looking into, especially if they get corridor service around them. 

    Taking inspiration or adapting something isn't the same as a 1 to 1 copy. Adding a few second tier overnight trains between a handful of cities wouldn't be remotely the same as anything Europe has, but could be a valuable addition if planned well. Especially if they are connecting two corridor networks to each other. Might not cause a lot of through traffic between the two, but if enough people are willing to take the train around those cities, between them would be the next step. 

    And even if existing LD trains keep running and we get more corridor services, a lot of cities will be left with LD trains and inconvenient schedules to get to the next largest city. Like Denver to Salt Lake being a midday to early morning run time or the Starlight leaving the Bay Area in the early morning for Southern California. Lets be frank, even if we had both the existing LDs and a few supplemental budget ones, they wouldn't really be competing with each other in most markets if the pricing and schedules are different or if they even run close enough together to compete. 

    And some countries are buying new cars for their sleeper services. Austria is buying Siemens cars like the states are.

     https://www.railjournal.com/rolling-stock/bb-agrees-e145bn-deal-with-siemens-for-long-distance-trains/
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 24, 2019
  8. Feb 23, 2019 #108

    jis

    jis

    jis

    Conductor AU Lifetime Supporter Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Messages:
    24,153
    Location:
    Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
    I have not said anywhere that the federal government should not increase its contribution to passenger rail. All that I said was that the state funding mechanism is useful. The details of it could be adjusted, and perhaps it should be made more like the original 403b where there was no mileage restriction. States that have a specific stake in a train in terms of money spent on it tend to provide a more stable base for trains than those that don't.

    The fact of the matter is that most of the passenger count in the country is  not on Amtrak or Amtrak operated routes. It is on commuter routes of various lengths. Indeed that is the case even in places like India and China. And it is also a fact that short-medium corridors generally don't pay for themselves unless they are high speed routes relative to the alternatives available. Amtrak will not suddenly become profitable because they discontinued a few LD trains a replaced them by a few SD trains, since most of the so called allocated cost will remain, and will get reallocated elsewhere, but have zero change in the bottom line or worse, depending on what kind of fares can be sustained on these SD trains. Experience in California and Midwest shows that the prognosis is not very good.

    Either way at the end of the day it needs to be a collaborative effort between the states and the feds and some agreement, possibly case by case if a uniform scheme cannot be worked out, has to be used for allocating proportions of the subsidy/investment needed to provide a stable framework for such operations. All other countries that run a credible passnger service do so. I am sure the US can if there is political will. Right now that is lacking.

    BTW, "for each that has succeeded others have failed" regarding state funded projects, is a silly argument, considering no new federal funded LD train has successfully started in years, beyond what was already running, in spite of many commendable plans. All died on the anvil of trackage access from private railroads, and lack of funds. Ultimately it boils down to available funds and willingness of proponents to do the footwork. There would be no Texas Eagle today without such, and SWC would probably have become Anderson's dream fragmented mess without the pushback.
     
  9. Feb 23, 2019 #109

    sttom

    s

    sttom

    Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2019
    Messages:
    203
    As for trains being expensive or the cost being "too high" if we increased Amtrak's federal funding to $5 billion per year, this would be a drop in the bucket compared to what we spend on road maintenance. California has to spend that much just to keep the roads in a state of tolerable deficiency. Not sure how much service we could get for $5 billion, but its a lot more than we could get now and more service in high population areas would be good for Amtrak. As for the political will, we just need to push for it. We spend billions on roads for very little return and people like trains if you push the subject. 
     
  10. Feb 23, 2019 #110

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,022
    Location:
    Virginia
    That would make more sense.  "Sitting in reserve because we don't have a use for it right now" makes more sense than "sitting in reserve because we have lots of [bleep] breaking all the time."
     
  11. Feb 23, 2019 #111

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,022
    Location:
    Virginia
    The "750 mile rule" is going to stay in some form, but it might be possible either (1) to get the length limit dropped (say, to 600 or 500 miles) or (2) to permit a waiver if the route involves more than two states in a significant manner.

    I do think that it would be better to bump Amtrak funding up to about $5bn/yr than to chase megaprojects, so long as a good chunk of that $5bn has to go off the NEC.  Something like $1.5bn for the NEC and $3.5bn for the rest of the system with a mandate to partner with states for upgrades.  That would give about $1.5bn/yr for things like Richmond-to-DC, the Sunset East, etc.  But this would also likely require Amtrak to act more like a government agency than a corporation, too...
     
  12. Feb 23, 2019 #112

    thully

    t

    thully

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2011
    Messages:
    552
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, MI
    I get the logic behind reorganizing the Amtrak network - many cities get poor service from the existing network (ie anywhere with middle of the night service like Cleveland or Cincinnati), and overnight trains are usually not competitive timewise with air travel (and often not money-wise, particularly if you can survive a few hours in airline coach but not overnight Amtrak coach). It seems like there would be more value in better corridors more competitive with driving/flying than some of the LD trains. Also, corridors wouldn’t have the expense of sleepers and full dining service, which could possibly free up funds for more frequencies. I see that as similar to the ridership vs coverage debate in public transit - the NEC would be the ultimate ridership route, whereas something like the Sunset Limited would be a coverage route.

    Of course, to shift funding from LD trains to corridors would require either corridors over 750 miles or changing the 750 mile rule - perhaps a compromise could be to allow federal funding for all service that crosses state lines (so intrastate routes would remain the sole responsibility of that state). There’s also trackage issues with freight railroads - ideally we’d build/acquire more tracks dedicated to passenger rail (and ideally HSR), though that would definitely take more funding (which I figure would realistically would have to wait for a new administration in Washington).

    At the same point, I could see this used as an excuse to discontinue service and replace it with nothing (or bus bridges a la SWC). I don’t want to see that happen, though would be OK if cuts were accompanied by service improvements elsewhere that seem likely to attract a net increase in ridership. There’s also the need to maintain service of some sort to rural communities, though I can see buses (or Essential Air Service) making more sense than Amtrak in some places. 

    Thats not to say I don’t like LD routes - I enjoy riding them (and actually booked a trip on the CZ this summer), and hope that at least some (particularly the more scenic routes like the CZ, EB, and CS) are preserved with sleepers/full dining, though I could see them in the future being treated more as a rail cruise like the Canadian. However, Amtrak’s primary purpose is to provide transportation, and the existing LD network is not necessarily the most efficient way to do that.
     
  13. Feb 23, 2019 #113

    crescent-zephyr

    c

    crescent-zephyr

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Messages:
    1,498
    Who’s riding coach on the Canadian as a rail cruise!? 

    It’s really starting to irritate me how people are convinced no one uses long distance trains as actual transportation. 
     
  14. Feb 23, 2019 #114

    thully

    t

    thully

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2011
    Messages:
    552
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, MI
    I was more referring to the sleeper operation on the Canadian. And I don’t doubt that many use long distance trains (including the Canadian in coach) for actual transportation. I just think it may be more efficient to turn some of these into corridors (and perhaps discontinue some service if adding service elsewhere would result in a net ridership gain). 
     
  15. Feb 24, 2019 #115

    crescent-zephyr

    c

    crescent-zephyr

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Messages:
    1,498
    Canadian in sleeper too. Obviously not prestige class but when I rode the Canadian I met several Canadians in sleeper class traveling to work in Saskatchewan, back to school after visiting family in Toronto, and traveling to work in Vancouver among others.  
     
  16. Feb 24, 2019 #116

    bretton88

    b

    bretton88

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Messages:
    992
    It's pretty expensive to ride coach in the Canadian these days too. But VIA themselves admitted the Canadian was no longer useful as actual transportation in a report they released a couple years ago.
     
  17. Feb 24, 2019 #117

    crescent-zephyr

    c

    crescent-zephyr

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Messages:
    1,498
    Have you ridden the Canadian and talked to people on board in both sleeper and coach? In my experience there were Canadians in both classes (more in coach naturally) riding for transportation.

    To me, the only people that make such claims are people who have never ridden the services, and never talked to the people riding. 
     
  18. Feb 24, 2019 #118

    lordsigma

    l

    lordsigma

    Lead Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2017
    Messages:
    457
    You’re always going to have people with a fear or big dislike of flying (myself included) which was what originally brought me to rail. I use rail for day trips as well as for travel long distances. I do enjoy the long distance rail experience but as someone who has a very hard time flying I am also using it for transportation not wanting to have to drive the whole way.
     
  19. Feb 24, 2019 #119

    neroden

    n

    neroden

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2014
    Messages:
    7,227
    Location:
    Ithaca, NY
    Yes.  New Hampshire's almost killed the Downeaster four times, Indiana keeps causing trouble for the Michigan routes, one corrupt governor in Wisconsin killed a Minnesota-Illinois project, Ohio wiped out the first iteration of the LSL (despite NY support) before Amtrak stepped in to support it nationally, and so on.  Two states are possible, three are practically impossible.
     
  20. Feb 24, 2019 #120

    neroden

    n

    neroden

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2014
    Messages:
    7,227
    Location:
    Ithaca, NY
    This sounds like a practical proposal.  And corridors over 750 miles are very reasonable (look at the LSL and CL).
     
  21. Feb 24, 2019 #121

    jis

    jis

    jis

    Conductor AU Lifetime Supporter Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Messages:
    24,153
    Location:
    Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
    But then long distance inter-state routes apparently are even more hard to start since none have started of late, and the only changes that have happened decades is shrinkage and down grades of service, under the current and previous regimes of Amtrak.

    I agree that it involves considerable horse trading, and if one of the states refuses to participate then the other state(s) may have to pick up the tab. But that is not very unusual, specially when we are talking of access to a big magnet metropolis, e.g. Chicago, New York or Philly.

    But until the National LD system is made a priority area of growth collectively by Congress, I don;t see the LD network growing at all. Federal money is not going to become easier unless something else gives somewhere else in the budget.
     
  22. Feb 24, 2019 #122

    neroden

    n

    neroden

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2014
    Messages:
    7,227
    Location:
    Ithaca, NY
    Not disagreeing.  A policy change so that Amtrak is ordered to support interstate routes (hell, "routes crossing three or more states" would be fine) might point things in a different direction.
     
  23. Feb 24, 2019 #123

    pennyk

    pennyk

    pennyk

    Conductor Staff Member Administator Moderator Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2009
    Messages:
    8,806
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    MODERATOR NOTE:

    Please remember the "no politics" rule.  Political posts and the responses thereto were removed.  Thank you for your cooperation.
     
  24. Feb 25, 2019 #124

    west point

    w

    west point

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2015
    Messages:
    1,791
    A problem with the 750 mile rule is that only one state can have a route entirely in its borders.
     
  25. Feb 25, 2019 #125

    William W.

    W

    William W.

    Lead Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2014
    Messages:
    476
    Location:
    Arlington, VA
    The CZ is certainly worth saving. If we're being honest, the Sunset Limited probably should have ended years ago. The Southwest Chief may die anyway with the track situation. The Empire Builder is an open question, but I'm under the impression it's popular among the members who represent the states along the route. 
     

Share This Page



arrow_white