Auto Train Expansion/Changes?

Discussion in 'Amtrak’s Future: Member Ideas and Discussion' started by lordsigma, Aug 15, 2019.

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  1. Sep 14, 2019 #26

    ehbowen

    ehbowen

    ehbowen

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    OK. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that an Auto Train terminal in New Jersey could support a profitable operation with business from Boston/Connecticut, New York State, and much of the Philadelphia traffic. Now, what happens to the Lorton operation now that its only business is snowbirds from Washington DC and Baltimore? If you shut it down, do you think that the Maryland/DC customers are now going to drive NORTH to New Jersey to catch a train going south? If not, then we lose their business permanently...and the entire operation is weakened.

    Time to talk about a New Jersey A-T terminal when A-T is consistently running with and filling up two separate sections every day.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2019
  2. Sep 14, 2019 #27

    west point

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    ehbowen. Now some sanity to the proposal to expand A-T to a north Jersey terminal.
    [QUOTE="ehbowen,

    Time to talk about a New Jersey A-T terminal when A-T is consistently running with and filling up two separate sections every day.[/QUOTE]
     
  3. Sep 14, 2019 #28

    jiml

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    A NJ/NY State Auto Train would be attractive to a large contingent of snowbirds not previously considered - Canadians. A very large number of retired Canadians (and upstate New Yorkers) spend a good part of the winter in Florida. We used to fly down, but huge increases in the cost of car rentals (FL used to be cheapest in US) now make it much more practical to drive - even with a couple of extra hotel nights enroute. I longingly price out the Auto Train every year, but the drive to Lorton is 2 days from here in winter. By the time one gets there the weather is already better and it's just as easy to drive the rest of the way. I wouldn't take anything away from the current Auto Train, but one from upstate NY (Albany, Syracuse?) would attract riders from there, Vermont, Ontario and Quebec. Utica, NY, comes to mind as a location that may have space for a facility with the appropriate rail connections to pull it off.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2019
  4. Sep 14, 2019 #29

    jis

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    Basically the difference in fare that can be charged for a NJ origination vs. Lorton origination at the North end will have to pay for an additional consist and its maintenance, maybe 4 more T&E crew set and at least 1 maybe 2 more OBS set plus additional terminal costs.

    The further north you move the north terminal the more consists and crew become necessary.
     
  5. Sep 14, 2019 #30

    jiml

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    Understood. An upstate train would also have to build in a NJ stop in proximity to NYC to add that market, which would underscore your analysis. Properly planned however, it has the potential to be more successful than the current one - particularly in winter.
     
  6. Sep 14, 2019 #31

    sttom

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    I never said to eliminate the current service for the prospect of starting a New Jersey to Florida service. Shutting down the existing service would make as much sense as shutting down the California Zephyr and replacing it with an Auto Train between Oakland and Salt Lake City. The present Auto Train does very well for itself, why would expanding the capacity (assuming there was equipment) kill the business of the DC train? By that logic the Silver Service should only have one train instead of the 3 that presently run between the Northeast and the south.
     
  7. Sep 14, 2019 #32

    jis

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    As usual it is a case of spirit may be willing but the flesh is very weak. Given the unfulfilled need for resources to even run the existing system and the general shortage of resources even to address those, it would appear to be quite unlikely that a venture like an additional Auto-Train would be taken up now. Unless of course some private outfit decides to make a go of it. Here is the opportunity for the entrepreneurs among us to take their ideas from the pages of AU and go and make it happen perhaps?
     
  8. Sep 14, 2019 #33

    jiml

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    It's always fun spending other people's money.
     
  9. Sep 14, 2019 #34

    sttom

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    Taxes don't fund public spending at the national level in the US, taxes justifies our money's existence and tamps down on inflation. This is the reason why Dick Cheney could say "deficits don't matter" and why Congress went along with it.
     
  10. Sep 15, 2019 #35

    Seaboard92

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    Your forgetting another method. What if the upstate New York-Sanford auto train made Lorton a receive/discharge only stop. Thus making it an easy switch to back into a cut of autoracks, and even easier to cut it off.

    The only issue if I remember is in the topography of the area because of a creek on the north end. As to make it efficient one would need to run a switch in off the north end of the Auto Train facility.

    Honestly it shouldn’t take more than ten minutes to do that. We have added multiple PVs in under ten minutes. Where the consist had to back in to us.
     
  11. Sep 15, 2019 #36

    jis

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    You expect Amtrak which routines takes half an hour to change an engine to shuffle a train in 10 minutes? You are a rank optimist I must say. :D
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2019
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  12. Sep 15, 2019 #37

    Qapla

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    If the auto train could start in upper state NY at a location that would make it easier for the residents there and in Canada use the rain - and then go to lorton to join the auto train that now runs ... then, in either Savannah or Jacksonville make another stop to service south Georgia and north Florida including the panhandle and then terminate in Sanford as it does now ...

    I don't think the people who ride the train would complain about the extra stops since driving to and from Sandford and Lorton already precludes that the people who use this train are in a hurry and an hour or so delay would not be significant.

    Also, the train would not need to run all the way to Miami - Sandford could remain the terminus since snowbirds occupy Florida from the Villages (just south of Ocala) all the way through Orlando to both Tampa and Miami

    The larger problem would be the owners of the tracks - they may not want to adjust their schedule to allow for the auto train to run at a slightly different time slot as well as making room for it on the tracks in upper state NY.

    Another issue would be rolling stock - in addition to the cost of building loading facilities.
     
  13. Sep 15, 2019 #38

    jebr

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    An hour added to the timetable may not make or break every passenger, but it might change some. It also cuts into the layover time at the endpoints, making it harder to recover from delays. That would probably cause more issues than the hour in the timetable, honestly.

    I also just don't see the success of the Auto Train being easily duplicated, especially at a price point that's basically break-even. The Auto Train has pretty much every factor going for it: a trip that's at least somewhat common, a very large catchment area that doesn't require people to go "out of their way" to get on it, and an endpoint in Florida that has traffic where having your own car is extremely helpful or a huge cost savings. The second one is, in my opinion, the reason that the Auto Train does so well here, and would be hard to replicate elsewhere. Lorton basically is "on the way" for the entire northeast seaboard to get to Orlando and further south, arguably all the way up through Maine. Sure, the further up you go the less likely it is someone will take it, but it's at least positioned so it doesn't feel like you're having to go out of your way to use it. Mix that with the snowbird population as a core customer base (where a rental car is impractical as a substitute) and the math starts working out fairly well. Remove any one of those factors, and I don't think you'd have a terribly successful train.
     
  14. Sep 15, 2019 #39

    west point

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    Any A-T originating north of WASH is going to run into the present Long Bridge train limit. Until the additional bridge is built CSX is going to be reluctant to allow any additional AMTRAK or VRE trains to pass over Long Bridge. As VRE has hinted it is looking to add another frequency which is being resisted by CSX. Once construction has started on the additional bridge then more service can be looked at. However construction is forecast to take 5 years. Also the 4 tracking of the rest of the WASH - Richmond has started with a favorable ruling but we can probably expect that to take 7 - 10 years in the future.

    Expand the capacity of Lorton to allow for a 2nd daily train when enough rolling stock equipment is available seems a first baby step. The second train could be run as a on demand 2nd section. Then start looking for another terminal further north but remember 3 complete train sets will be needed for daily A-T service. Less than daily service for present AMTRAK service IMHO is futile.
     
  15. Sep 15, 2019 #40

    jiml

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    The current Auto Train seems to be working, although I've never really understood what keeps it viable from May to October. My thought would be a separate seasonal train running from upstate NY to Sanford, bypassing Lorton. In an ideal world, or until new equipment was acquired, it would be comprised of "surplus" (yes I know - what surplus?) Superliners less-needed on western routes in winter. To start it would run 3 times a week to offset equipment shortages and balance space and staffing in Sanford.

    I chose Utica, NY, for the starting point. While this may seem like an odd choice, it has a few things in its favor. First, it is a large operating Amtrak station with extra platforms used for excursion trains. Secondly, it is adjacent to the still partially-operational yard and maintenance facility of NYS&W, which could be suitable for rehab or expansion. Finally, it is within one day's drive of Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Toronto, Kingston and Montreal. That's a fairly large population base to draw from.

    The train would head south on NYS&W tracks to a stop in New Jersey (via NS/CNY trackage rights) close enough to NYC and Philadelphia, plus nearby points in New Jersey. From there it would head south to join the current route somewhere south of Lorton and away from the congestion of Washington. (I haven't figured that part out yet.) Other than refueling/maintenance enroute there would be no other stops.

    I've already conceded equipment is a problem. Go ahead with all the other reasons this won't work, including speed restrictions, bridge clearances (although assume anything an auto-rack can clear is fair game), participating railways, connecting tracks, etc.
     

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