Anderson on NPR

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Amtrakfflyer, Dec 2, 2019.

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  1. Dec 3, 2019 #26

    Devil's Advocate

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    Despite earning no salary he remains eligible for bonuses that can exceed the median American income by an order of magnitude. Which sounds like a lot to us but probably doesn't mean much to someone as wealthy as Anderson. It's hard to know what his primary motivation for taking the job might be, but it could include some sort of ideological agenda, the ability to direct business toward other family members, or as a favor to a friend in another industry.
     
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  2. Dec 3, 2019 #27

    seat38a

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    Last time I was on the Coast Starlight, coach passengers were shut out from lunch because the dining car was too busy with sleeping car passengers. The LSA's words not mine, which me made over the intercom.
     
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  3. Dec 3, 2019 #28

    Anderson

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    With respect to Anderson, the PIPs were being ignored and the avoidable costs were not being reported long before he took over.

    My understanding is that Amtrak did intend to implement, in particular, the Capitol Limited/Pennsylvanian through cars...but then CAF bit them in the arse with nearly a decade of equipment delays. I think they had a tentative understanding with NS, but they were waiting on equipment...and waiting...and waiting...

    Amtrak probably also has the cover of 5-7 years of intervening events between the PIP publication and Anderson taking over, including (but not limited to) a reauthorization in between times. It isn't hard for Amtrak to turn around and say "Look, we produced the PIPs but the equipment did not materialize and we got stuck dealing with other mandates that Congress threw our way and no follow-up from Congress on our proposals..." You could even make the case that the PIPs were intended primarily as groundwork for a putative next reauthorization bill as opposed to being "just" for intermediate measures and that it is Congress that ignored them.

    For example, take the Crescent PIP: There was a proposal to adjust staffing in the sleepers. However, the subsequent mandate to cut diner losses (and the related knock-on effects on staffing) as well as the lack of new equipment (to enable the three cars/two attendants operation) arguably shot this proposal in the back (since as diner crews were trimmed in like with the F&B mandate, sleeper crews had to take up some of the slack, and there was no third sleeper to distribute crew from...and more sleeper space for pax as well).

    The "avoidable cost" issue is clearly at Amtrak's feet, but (as I noted) that was a pre-Anderson problem and TBH I'm not sure that Anderson could force publication short of threatening to start firing people in the relevant office en masse until the job gets done.
     
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  4. Dec 3, 2019 #29

    jiml

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    This was a problem that used to be offset on that route by the use of PPC's, since sleeper passengers had an alternative. I remember a rather gruff greeting by the LSA in the diner "You people have your own dining car!", one day when they were packed.
     
  5. Dec 3, 2019 #30

    Rasputin

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    Is there any evidence that Anderson or any senior Amtrak managers have travelled in recent years in a long distance Amtrak train outside the NEC? (And if they have, do they ever travel in a regular coach or sleeping car and not in a private car?) I ask this question because these people seem to be out of touch with the reality of Amtrak long distance operations.
     
  6. Dec 3, 2019 #31

    Amtrakfflyer

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    He rode a short distance on the Coast Starlight shortly after taking over and ordered PPC parked almost immediately. A token ride here or there as far as I know. Not even sure if any overnight segments.
     
  7. Dec 3, 2019 #32

    Seaboard92

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    Amtrak has sidelined most of the office car fleet they have. The only active cars that I’m aware of are Pacific Bend, American View, the Metroliner conference Car, and Corridor Clipper. I believe everything else is out of service.

    My bet for the person in his ear is Stephen Gardner.
     
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  8. Dec 3, 2019 #33

    Maglev

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    The lies are indeed very disconcerting... But the thread title is a bit misleading (edit: the thread title has been changed), as is the account of Anderson's comment. He says the are "seven passengers on and off" on that stretch of the route.

    I was encouraged to hear that he sees the need to replace the Superliners, but with better maintenance the existing fleet could be serviceable for many years. It is my understanding that Superliners are an order of magnitude faster to maintain than "heritage" cars, and I hope if Amtrak replaces them they are snatched up by a private operator.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  9. Dec 3, 2019 #34

    crescent-zephyr

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    The quote from the article is -

    “That’s a lot of money for a route that sees seven daily passengers, he says.“
     
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  10. Dec 3, 2019 #35

    Rasputin

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    For Amtrak these passengers must be akin to the seven deadly sins.

    "We have to find these seven passengers and get them on a plane, pronto."
     
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  11. Dec 3, 2019 #36

    PRR 60

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    The article puts the "seven passengers a day" quote out of context. He was asked about his plan for long distance service and specifically about the plan to sever the Southwest Chief. He response regarding the Southwest Chief was,

    "Well, we think the network needs to morph. On that particular route, we have over 100 million dollars of investment that has to go into that route because we operate over a railroad that is no longer maintained by Burlington Northern Santa Fe and it is an antiquated piece of track. So, if we’re going to have the same safety standards and quality standards, that’s just a lot of money to put into a stretch of a railroad that has, I think, seven people a day that get on or off on that little stretch."
     
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  12. Dec 3, 2019 #37

    tricia

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    How many people on the SWC need to travel over "that little stretch" to get to other destinations on the route?
     
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  13. Dec 3, 2019 #38

    Amtrakfflyer

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    Either way he’s ignorant to the through traffic that is on the train whether it be lax-kci, lax-chi and connecting back east. If the route was severed service from the entire east coast, east of Chicago to California would cease to exist.

    And if he’s going to throw around numbers he needs to do better then add qualifiers like “I think” to his answers. He’s crooked at best plain and simple.
     
  14. Dec 3, 2019 #39

    rickycourtney

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    Here's my best stab at that math... buckle up, because there are some creative calculations ahead.

    Amtrak proposed busing between Dodge City, KS and Albuquerque, NM. That would have eliminated rail service to seven stations, here they are with their FY2018 ridership:
    Lamy 9,731
    Las Vegas 4,630
    Raton 7,392
    Trinidad 5,635
    La Junta 7,373
    Lamar 1,588
    Garden City 7,056
    ------------------
    Total 43,405 (total passenger ons/offs)
    Divide by ÷ 730 (365 days x 2 trains per day)
    ------------------
    Total 59.5 (average passenger ons/offs, per train, per day)
    Divide by ÷ 7 (stations)
    ------------------
    Grand total 8.5 (average passenger ons/offs, per train, per station, per day)

    So does 8.5 count as "I think, seven people a day"?

    No matter what, this figure ignores the fact there are passengers who are on the train, who do not get on or off at those stations, as it travels across that area.
     
  15. Dec 3, 2019 #40

    chrsjrcj

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    Why would you divide the stations and number of trains a day over the route? Anderson said 7 people a day use the stations on the route, when reality is closer to a total of 60 people a day use all the stations on the route. Granted, 60 isn't a large amount either, but it is certainly larger than 7.

    And of course, as others have mentioned, it completely ignores passengers traveling through the route. And no, most of those people aren't traveling LA to Chicago, but they are travelling Flagstaff to Kansas City, Albuquerque to Galesburg, etc.
     
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  16. Dec 4, 2019 #41

    Barb Stout

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    Not to mention that there are people in ABQ who want to travel east. If you include passengers that get on in ABQ to go east, then these numbers will markedly increase. The times I have gone east from ABQ, I would say there were 20-40 people getting on. And when we did, there were a lot of passengers already on the train who were continuing to go east. A bus bridge would totally change my travel calculus as I often get carsick when traveling as a passenger through mountains, which somehow doesn't happen when I'm traveling on the train.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2019
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  17. Dec 4, 2019 #42

    TheTuck

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    Exactly. Unfortunately Anderson and his cronies chose not to understand this. Instead they looked at the PPC's as only an independent entity, which by itself was a money pit. Selective interpretation of data numbers, whether it be financial or ridership is a hallmark of this leadership team.
     
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  18. Dec 4, 2019 #43

    rickycourtney

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    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    Like I said, it was a "creative calculation."
    My only (lousy) explanation is that he was purposefully looking for a low number, so that's why he did this "average passenger ons/offs, per train, per station, per day" number.

    I will also point out that if you narrow the list of excluded stations, there's a way to get to 7.
     
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  19. Dec 4, 2019 #44

    fairviewroad

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    In FY2018, just 2,006 Amtrak passengers used the North Philadelphia station and just 3,673 Amtrak passengers used the Cornwells Heights station. That's an average of 5.5 and 10.1 passengers per day, respectively.

    Clearly, it's time for a bus bridge between PHL and Trenton.
     
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  20. Dec 4, 2019 #45

    Mystic River Dragon

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    :D

    That's because they are either taking SEPTA from one of those stations or relaxing in comfort at 30th Street and taking Amtrak from there.:D Or they are waiting in the general miserableness of TRE, but probably for SEPTA again so they can get out of there and back to Philly:eek::rolleyes::D:).

    Actually, there already is a bus from TRE to Philly on NJ Transit. It wanders around for hours as far as I can tell before it shows up in Philly.:rolleyes:

    On a more serious note (and to put myself back on the topic), stations that have commuter rail (like SEPTA) where the Amtrak numbers are lower because people are taking commuter rail don't seem to have gotten factored into this argument. Should they be? Or not relevant for most places where fewer people are taking Amtrak?
     
  21. Dec 6, 2019 #46

    neroden

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    Anderson is making a big hoo-hah about Congress mandating that they break even on F&B (which was mandated long before he took over) and about Congress waying that Amtrak should be run like a for-profit business (which was mandated since Amtrak was formed). These were also both ignored before Anderson arrived.

    If he were still ignoring these, I would be unsurprised that he was ignoring the avoidable costs reporting mandate. But if he's going to make a lot of noise about following the law, he doesn't get to pick and choose which laws to follow -- that makes it look like his talk about "following the law" is a fake, hypocritical excuse, which I believe it is.

    I understand that Anderson may not have been aware of the PIPs, which is why I specifically sent a letter bringing the LSL PIP to his attention. Since then, he has no excuse.

    When the final set of PIPs was released, we were hearing scuttlebutt that the team creating them had been fired and that Amtrak had no intention of implementing the rest of them -- that was when Amtrak stopped attempting to implement the PIPs. Amtrak made precisely no attempts to implement the LSL PIP, and it was absolutely full of good advice which still applies.

    BTW, the person in the best position to kill that team at that time was Stephen Gardner.

    Anderson did hire a new CFO last June. Perhaps we should suggest to her that she should do exactly that.

    The thing is, avoidable costs are the only rational basis for business decisions. Practically everything Mr. Anderson has said about the profitability or costs of particular train routes or groups of them is flat-out false from a business decision point of view, because he's using fake allocated costs which are garbage. He's proposing idiotic business decisions because he does not have the avoidable costs data which he needs in order to make business decisions. If he were a competent businessman (I'm concluding he isn't), he would have been demanding the avoidable costs information for his own use as a top priority already.

    (Bluntly, if I were put in charge of Amtrak, my *top priority* would be getting a functioning avoidable-costs / variable-costs accounting system so that I actually knew where the money was going. Second priority would be replacing ARROW with something written in a maintainable language. Fighting for on-time performance could probably be done at the same time, but anything involving money-related decisions could not be done properly without fixing the accounting system first, so that would come before any service changes... unless the service changes had full variable-cost-accounting studies attached, like the PIPs did.)
     
  22. Dec 7, 2019 #47

    west point

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    Allocated costs and avoidable is a rabbit hole that Amtrak and Anderson has not fully understood. In the airline business allocated costs and avoidable costs are fairly close to the same. If Delta schedules extra sections during holiday times the Airplane, crew, fuel, extra agent time, ground handler times, ATC, and most other costs follow allocated costs very close. Even every extra passenger on an airplane will increase the fuel consumption.

    The only real cost figure that ever slipped out of Amtrak's classified files was a figure of about $4.00 / mile operating cost of a passenger car. So for a 1000 mile trip $4000 in revenue would cover its costs. Did not say if that included an OBS person or not. That would mean ~ 20 passengers to met that cost to operate the car. That does make the Crescent look bad south of Atlanta with 2 coaches and one sleeper essentially dead heading to New Orleans,

    If Amtrak is applying all allocated costs to the avoidable costs then there is there costs are skewed. Now reservation costs are allocated how. Is it by passenger mile traveled or by reservation ? If my LD 1000 mile on line reservation allocation is 5 times my 200 mile on line NEC reservation something is wrong. The same for agent assisted. Now if average agent time for LD and SD is allocated separately then that would be more fair. Then we have as well agent time and baggage time for LD, SD, and corridor allocations.

    The performance improvement plans ( PIP ) noted that adding one extra car and filling it would bring in incremental revenue of a large amount. ( example $700,00 for another coach on the Meteor ). It does get complicated for the many stops of the LD trains and somewhat less for the shorter routes such as the NEC. Next how are station costs allocated. Just ignore the MIA snow removal. Is it by passenger or train or some other metric? Do extra passengers add to the allocation or are all passengers getting a discount ? ( Gets complicated doesn't it ) So if a station gets more passengers than say the last year it has a surplus allocation and cost allocation ? Of course extended cancellations of trains for what ever reason may skew items more.

    How crews are assigned and allocated on the NEC especially northbound out of WASH that are often late from south of WASH.

    Amtrak adds an extra section train only when all its trains are close to be booked full. Coach weight around 150,000# and 70 passengers only add approximately ~ 15,000 # . So very little fuel consumption difference for another car.is the fuel figure of 2+ gallons per mile allocated by passenger mile ?

    So
     
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  23. Dec 7, 2019 #48

    neroden

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    So, even that is wrong, it's five to ten passengers per day per station, but there are several stations even over Raton Pass proper. So it is actually 109 passengers per day from Lamy to Lamar. (There are far more in the Kansas stations from Newton west.)

    Frankly, 109 is low enough to be a problem, but why is Mr Anderson flat out lying about the numbers? He is wrong by an order of magnitude.
     
  24. Dec 7, 2019 #49

    neroden

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    I specifically sent Mr Anderson a certified letter after Stephen Gardner's lunatic bus bridge fiasco idea came to light. Among other things, I said, "if you think there aren't enough passengers over Raton Pass, reroute via Wichita, Amarillo, and Clovis.", while pointing out that a bus would lose most of the revenue while retaining all of the costs. So he has heard the suggestion.

    The Kansas stations have ridership high enough that a reroute would want to do something for them. My ideal would be a Denver-Pueblo-Garden City-Kansas City-St Louis-Chicago train... I am sure the advantages are obvious. The actual Raton Pass stations really do have too-low ridership, but Mr Anderson needs to stop exaggerating.
     
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  25. Dec 7, 2019 #50

    Willbridge

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    Surely you've seen or read Murder On the Orient Express? There is a whole lounge car full of suspects.
     

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