Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Amtrakfflyer, Feb 20, 2019.
Why is the zephyr worth saving vs. others? Just cause it has good scenery?
If we're talking about keeping a "flagship" western LD train, that would be it.
I will say that it has probably the best corridor of any of the western trains. Chicago to Denver seems quite popular, and is well-timed. I don't think any of the other trains have a similar corridor.
I really hope that that's not what we're talking about. :unsure:
The Empire Builder has pretty massive support because it's the only long haul transit option for many of the communities it serves. It is also exceptionally busy.
My question about the mileage rule is could a long distance route be "reclassified" as a corridor and get supplemental shorter distance trains since the LD itself would be traveling the whole distance of the line?
Or if Amtrak created a "Heartland" Corridor from Kansas City to Houston, how many trains would actually have to run from end to end to fit into the law?
As for dealing with it, pushing to get rid of it is how the negotiations would have to go in a political setting. We can talk about what a compromise would be, but negotiations tend to go more hard line for the sake of getting what you can get. A decent compromise would be allowing Amtrak to run between two urban areas of 1 million people or around an area of ~2 million people without having to sell the service to respective state governments to get enough money to keep the system going. Assuming Amtrak could get a stable enough funding source and that is a fight on its own.
SWC has extensive support. Beyond the recently-obvious political support in western Kansas,
-- Albuquerque and Flagstaff strongly support the train
-- It's the fastest LA-East connection, and arguably the only reasonable one (no, the Sunset isn't reasonable)
-- It's got strong Kansas City - Chicago traffic, and is heavily backed throughout there
It *also* has a lot of support in Wichita, which wishes the train actually stopped there.
Empire Builder has fanatical support from end to end, and every station punches above its weight (more ridership than you'd expect from population). It is most threatened by the likelihood of losing the track from Seattle to Everett to the sea; the Portland side is more secure but less popular.
CZ is wildly successful from Chicago to Denver, from Denver to the ski areas (Grand Junction), and from Reno to Sacramento and the Bay Area. Where it *isn't* so successful is Reno to Salt Lake and Salt Lake to Grand Junction. I've made proposals for improving Salt Lake to Denver, which require more money to run more trains (run the CZ through Boulder, Loveland, Fort Collins, Cheyenne, Laramie, and Ogden, *reducing* travel time while increasing online traffic; run a separate ski train from Denver to Grand Junction daily). I don't see any reasonable way to improve Reno to Salt Lake, which is almost as empty as El Paso to San Antonio. There should be a Bay Area - Denver route, though, so Reno-Salt Lake has to remain.
EB has (Fargo-)Minneapolis-Milwaukee-Chicago. Should be Minneapolis-Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago, but damn ex-Governor Walker, that crook. Also has Spokane-Seattle.
SWC has Chicago-Kansas City-(Lawrence-Topeka).
Sunset Limited's got nothin'. Houston-New Orleans could be but underperforms badly (probably because three-a-week... but given that the whole section of route is gonna be underwater soon, I wouldn't put much investment into it).
Obviously the Coast Starlight has corridors actually *operating* along most of its length, excepting the California-Oregon connection and a ridiculous gap between San Luis Obispo and San Jose (which is a perfectly good corridor).
The Texas Eagle is also essentially 100% reasonable corridors, all the way from Chicago to San Antonio, but now we're not in the West any more. And all the trains east of there are corridor candidates all the way along, no exceptions.
All three of them seem to have a popular CHI corridor, the CZ has CHI-DEN, the SWC has CHI-KCY, and the EB has CHI-MSP.
As for the timing, for the entire route the Chief would get you from CHI to California way faster than the Zephyr. It gets you to LAX early in the morning vs. late afternoon into EMY for the CZ. You'd almost get to the Bay Area as fast taking the SWC/CS as you would taking the CZ (especially if you wanted to go to San Jose). I would be hard pressed if I had to choose one between the CZ and SWC to keep. It would be easier if there was a way to have service between SLC and LAX (Desert Wind) to branch off the CZ, then the CZ would be the easy choice to keep DEN (and SLC).
Is it that busy west of Minneapolis (and east of Spokane)?
Yep. It really is. (OK, not on THANKSGIVING DAY when I travelled on a near-empty train, but on the other trips I've been on.)
The vast majority of the intermediate-stop traffic is coach, I'd say. Not a rich clientele.
ANYway, the only transcontinental train where it would make real logical sense to break it into two trains -- for better timekeeping -- would be the CZ. Splitting the route up, of course, at Denver, where over half the passengers on the train turn over. Also separating the UP-dispatched portion from the BNSF-dispatched portion to create greater accountability. Denver's got excellent facilities for putting up delayed travellers in hotels to make the connection, as well.
Unfortunately, it would require the restoration of a maintenance base in Denver. It could only happen in concert with Denver establishing enough corridor routes to make it worth building such a base. Which Denver should do but hasn't been doing.
I don’t know if you can call that a corridor. Chicago to Denver is an 18+ hour ride.
Yeah - I would generally think of a corridor as a route that can be completed end to end in a single day, without any overnight segments. So CHI-DEN would not be a corridor, though DEN-GJT and CHI-KCY would be. The main reason to split into corridors that would seem logical would be to eliminate overnight segments and the associated bad call times (and also the need for sleepers/diners) - and I think that’s what Anderson was getting at.
The issue is you can’t really turn every LD train into productive corridors end to end (maybe some of the eastern ones like the LSL, but not the western ones), and you need multiple frequencies to allow for cross-corridor connections. As such, you’d probably be looking at cuts somewhere in the LD network offset by increased corridor service, either along part of that route or elsewhere. I don’t see an issue with that, though I don’t want to see it as an excuse to cut service without gaining anything in return (and want any changes to be a net positive for ridership). If they were to do that, I’d hope they at least maintained a high service level on the LD trains that remain (ie no “contemporary dining”), and made adjustments to preserve as many connections as possible (such as reinstating the Desert Wind for LAX service as a section of the CZ if the SWC got the axe).
Didn’t Chicago to LA on the CZ/DW take like 80 hours? Because I don’t see how that would be an effective replacement for the Chief...
Not at all, it was pretty comparable in time to the CZ.
Back in 1994, you left CHI two hours earlier and arrived in LAX seven hours later. It's a nine hour longer trip but this is nine hours out of a two day trip and nowhere near 80 hours (over three days long).
IMO, Anderson's vision of increasing corridor service at the cost of long distance service is a pipe dream. Amtrak can do what it wants on the NEC but Anderson needs to explain how Amtrak is going to achieve this with the freight railroads who own the track. Has anyone even asked them? The private railroads don't even want what Amtrak has right now. Also breaking up the LD network into corridors will require billions of infrastructure investment to build end stations capable of corridor service and the freight railroads ( and some states) own most of the property. On the Western trains there are numerous places where there is only one track. How do you have frequent corridor service on a single track? More passing sidings perhaps but with busy freight traffic ??? I'd love to have Anderson's reply to these questions. I'll wager that this whole plan is just a ruse to discontinue the LD trains and that few if any corridor trains will ever result.
One thing that could make the CZ more of a cruise type train could be re-establishing its original route on the ex WP from Salt Lake City to Oakland through the Feather River Canyon. Could that be possible?
Where in the testimony (or elsewhere) is the “at the cost of LD service” actually documented as a part of Anderson’s vision?
Ah, I see what happened. Wikipedia lists the journey time as 48h 30m, which I thought just meant LA to Ogden, so I added the 32 hours it took from Chicago to Ogden, and got 80 hours. Thanks!
If memory serves, service to Oakland would require miles of backwards street running for the train to be serviced, which is less than ideal.
EDIT: Yep, found the thread.
Note that I am not advocating for having just one flagship western route with cuts to the rest, I could just see it being proposed based on comments made in the past and some of what was in the food and beverage proposal. There does seem to be an interest in a “Canadian” like experience in the RFP. When I read that in the RFP I theorized that their vision may include having just one long distance adventure train with super premium service to try to “keep the rail fans happy” while corridorizing elsewhere else.
I don’t think it would be The only train still with sleepers But maybe the only trans con one. But I could see them keeping an overnighter in some other spots in a “new Amtrak”. For example I could see a Florida setup proposed with a day and night route paired with an intra-Florida train. Like the Palmetto by day maybe terminating in Jacksonville, the existing Meteor at night, and maybe the conversion of the star into a Florida corridor and a corridor in the Carolinas where the star currently ventures to the west. Auto Train would probably stick around as well as part of that.
Again In conclusion I don’t necessarily see all overnight and sleepers go in an Anderson Amtrak 2.0, but it would surely look a lot different than today’s national network. Again this is just all theories and trying to think from their point of view I could be way off.
The Oakland mention in his message really is a red herring I think. It could just as well terminate at Emeryville. The WP Feather River Canyon route will still get back to the CZ route by Sacramento. I think his point was running it through the Feather River Canyon rather than necessarily terminating in Oakland.
On the subject of infrastructure improvements, we do need to take into consideration that the federal government essentially taxed the railroads to build the interstate highways and airports. There could be an easy argument to be made that something is owed to the railroads for this and paying for infrastructure improvements is part of it. Even if it is through some sort of loan subsidy or guarantee. But that gets us to the point of we need a nation wide transit policy, but that would make a bigger mess out of things.
There are rather, some locations that could possibly be interested in putting up for more corridor service if Amtrak was proactive about it. Colorado has shown to be fairly transit friendly and the state if given a plan could possibly come up with the money for a Cheyenne to Pueblo route. Or possibly service between Eastern Idaho and Salt Lake City given that there are large Mormon populations there, you win them over and the politics will sort itself out.
Not to mention out here in California, Newsom might want to work on getting some areas new or increased corridor service as a way to distract from his, pardon the pun, train wreck of comments on the high speed rail project. The point being is that this is the shake up in Amtrak that we could need and if their leadership acts more proactively and markets better rail service to states and partners with them, we could get better service out of it. With things being so up in the air, and us living in interesting times, things could go well or bad. It just depends on who is the most noisy.
Jis you are correct. My main point is having the CZ use its original route through the Feather River Canyon. I believe there is more scenery here than the current route over Donner Pass. I am not sure how much freight traffic UP runs over this line.
From what has been mentioned in the past, the Feather River Route is fair more crowded than Donner Pass. There was once a proposal for California to run trains from the Bay Area to Reno via the Feather River route and it wasn't pursued because 1) it would be longer timewise 2) there are fewer people 3) UP said "NO!" more strongly than adding capacity over Donner Pass.
So would this hypothetical reroute mean losing the Sierras?
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