Draft Appropriations bill

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by tonys96, Jun 18, 2013.

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

  1. Jul 10, 2013 #26

    gmushial

    gmushial

    gmushial

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2013
    Messages:
    852
    Location:
    RDD
    The sad point is: that the Mica's and the other congress-thingies were elected, ie, they didn't appoint themselves... to supposedly represent the will of their constituents. But as I've posted before, Amtrak needs more customers/patroness that have had a positive experience and are willing to let their "representatives" know that this anti-Amtrak attitude is unacceptable... and hence why my suggestion of, and maybe combined with National Train Day, some type of once, twice a year promo where wantabe Amtrakers can ride anywhere for $50 (or some number like that, and constrained to 24hrs etc, ie, can't give away the store just to get new customers). It seems that the Amtrak population is aging and ever becoming smaller... and if there isn't new blood to reverse it, the Mica-thingies of the world will win and America will be without a LD passenger rail system. :(
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 10, 2013
  2. Jul 10, 2013 #27

    The Davy Crockett

    T

    The Davy Crockett

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    3,313
    Location:
    ALX
    A look here at Mica's top 20 political campain committee and Leadership PAC contributors for 2013-2014 is interesting, as it includes NS (Tied at #1 with 2 others), Berkshire Hathaway - owner of BNSF (Tied at #5 with 7 others), and tied at #15 with 13 others: KCS, Aircraft Pilot & Owners Assoc., Nat. Assoc. of Truck Stop Operators, American Trucking Assns., American Assoc. of Airport Executives, American Bus Assn., Ford Motor Co.

    I somehow don't think any of these groups would mind if Amtrak got decimated....
     
  3. Jul 10, 2013 #28

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,206
    Location:
    Virginia
    If the Amtrak population is aging/becoming smaller, then how is ridership still rising? Yes, growth has been slower this year, but we've also had more "issues" on the NEC than usual (Sandy, etc.) while capacity is becoming an issue in many places. It's not an issue of a shrinking base, but a relatively small starting point for that base.
    When you look at the generally pro/anti-Amtrak voting records, I know there's a strong (albeit imperfect) correlation with Amtrak service (and likely a stronger one with corridor services). So you don't get many anti-Amtrak votes along the NEC because of the commuter services that would be impacted.

    Thinking about it, probably the biggest danger from PRIIA isn't that corridors get cut (though that is a risk, with very few exceptions there is either the political climate or the ridership to sustain the corridors) but that by eliminating the funding from Amtrak-at-large, for a quick example you get a lot of CA reps who don't have to worry too much about the San Joaquins or Surfliners being affected by an Amtrak cut.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 10, 2013
  4. Jul 10, 2013 #29

    gmushial

    gmushial

    gmushial

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2013
    Messages:
    852
    Location:
    RDD
    My impression, from riding Amtrak (LD) and from reading the postings here: the largest audience of potential Amtrak riders are the AARP community. So, yup, they are getting older and fewer.. and given the current apparent trajectory, they're not being replaced by younger (new AARP) members. Why is the ridership slowing increasing - more market forces at play than just an isomorphic economy and customer pool, ie, the economy has been slowly improving since March 2008, and as such, more people are willing to spend on travel as their situation or comfort levels have improved. ... but again, to my point: my supposition is that for Amtrak to not only survive but prosper (is one allowed to use Amtrak and prosper in the same sentence??)... a younger segment of the population needs to be introduced and become familiar and comfortable with its services.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 10, 2013
  5. Jul 10, 2013 #30

    Ryan

    Ryan

    Ryan

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2008
    Messages:
    16,857
    Location:
    OTN
    Anecdotes != Data.

    There's a large number of us youngsters that are on board (pun intended).

    (I'm 34. Anderson is like 12 or something. :D ).
     
  6. Jul 10, 2013 #31

    AmtrakBlue

    AmtrakBlue

    AmtrakBlue

    Conductor Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    May 6, 2011
    Messages:
    11,127
    Location:
    Delaware
    You mean Johnny is older than Anderson!?! :D
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 10, 2013
  7. Jul 10, 2013 #32

    gmushial

    gmushial

    gmushial

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2013
    Messages:
    852
    Location:
    RDD
    One would like to think there is better data... but I don't remember giving my age ever while buying tickets... maybe others have had to and as such they have better data... but short of that, the best data I have is what I see [LD trains, not NEC]... and comments here. Does anyone have access or have seen better ridership demographics? ... I think what I've seen on the trains has been bimodal, a lesser mode at 30 something; the much larger mode at 60 something.
     
  8. Jul 11, 2013 #33

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,206
    Location:
    Virginia
    I'm 26...but I also know that there's evidence of changing behavior. Anecdotally, the crowds are trending younger in coach (at least), especially on the corridors, and especially with the addition of wifi (which is a major selling point for a lot of folks my age). I know the sleepers trend older, but at the same time the "retired" crowd is likely to keep growing for quite a while (remember, those born in 1948 are now turning 65, and the baby boom doesn't trail off for quite a while...IIRC, you had high birth rates into at least the late 50s, probably the early 60s).

    Basically, you've had three sources of growth. One is retirees. The second is younger people who either don't have cars or who opt not to drive (there's significant evidence of this particular trend, ranging from per capita vehicle-miles driven to drivers license statistics). The third has been the business crowd in the NEC, where Amtrak has managed to more or less collapse several air markets (Philly-New York is basically dead, Washington-New York has fallen off massively, and Boston-New York has taken some major lumps and has mainly been restricted by Amtrak's issues with MNRR).
     
  9. Jul 11, 2013 #34

    gmushial

    gmushial

    gmushial

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2013
    Messages:
    852
    Location:
    RDD
    Thanks for the reply. The only point I might disagree with is: the boomers, although retiring, many many are doing do so in not terribly great financial condition (spent too much during their working years, and saved too little) - this is why so many talk about never retiring and working until they die. W/re the younger people - I think I alluded to and have noticed that second mode in terms of the demographics I've seen. Hopefully more get the train bug and Amtrak can build on that.
     
  10. Jul 11, 2013 #35

    afigg

    a

    afigg

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    Messages:
    5,896
    Location:
    Virginia
    Amtrak marketing certainly has access to ridership demographic data. They get info not just from market surveys, but also from those who pay with credit or debit cards. BTW, there is ridership demographic data in the PRIIA Performance Improvement Reports for the LD trains.

    I would expect the LD train ridership to skew towards older for the sleeper passengers, younger for the coach passengers. But that does not mean that the sleeper passenger base is in danger of dying off, just that people transition from spending the night in coach to getting a sleeper room when they get older and have more time and money.

    On the NEC and eastern corridor trains, the passengers cover a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Given the increase in system wide ridership over the past 10 years, the average age of the Amtrak passenger may well have gone down a little.

    If you are fretting about seeing mostly older passengers, there are a number underlying trends that bode well for the continued restoration of intercity passenger trains such as:

    1) the growth of rail local transit ridership and transit system expansions. More people are taking commuter trains, light rail, heavy rail metro, even streetcars than they did 10 years ago. We also have cities such as LA, DC, NYC, Salt Lake, Denver, Dallas, etc, building new rail transit lines or big transit projects. In LA, if I recall a recent news article correctly, they are about to have 5 rail lines or extensions under construction.

    2) In many eastern cities and some in the Midwest, there has been a return to population growth in the city itself after decades of stagnation or outright decline. Much of the population growth in DC, Philly, NYC comes from younger 20 to 30 year olds moving to the city over living in the outer suburbs. Many of those younger folk are more inclined to take local transit and yes even Amtrak over driving.

    3) The age of cheap oil is over. That has wide ranging ramifications that will take many years to be accepted.
     
  11. Jul 11, 2013 #36

    The Davy Crockett

    T

    The Davy Crockett

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    3,313
    Location:
    ALX
    Here is some food for thought from an artcile in Politco entitled "Bill Shuster Facing PAC Attack in Pennsylvania:"

    Really? Does that sound like the John Mica you know? :huh:

    In regards to Bill Shuster, this is what he is up against. His primary opponent just says simply "Let the private sector take care of transportation and we don't need to raise taxes." IMHO, with such rhetoric, it is easy to see how Amtrak can get thrown under the bus. One can use it as a red herring - to get the foxes off his campaign trail. Also, for convenience, here is a link to The Madison Project's website. From the article:

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 11, 2013
  12. Jul 11, 2013 #37

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,206
    Location:
    Virginia
    #1 and #2 are big points, and I think there's a corollary to them in that even out west and in the south, there are downtown areas that got gutted back in the 60s-80s that are rebounding (or, in some cases, that just never stopped growing) and/or transitioning back from office parks to mixed-use areas. I'm thinking all of the development in parts of Oakland/Emeryville as a key example of this, but you're seeing this in places like Dallas as well.

    The oil point is largely true (we're not going to see 1980s-90s fuel prices anytime soon), but prices these days are, from what I can tell, only somewhat over what they were in the early 50s. However, commodities are something of an odd hat in that the relative prices of things bounce around (i.e. the price of oil in terms of bushels of grain or ounces of gold), we've actually got gas taxes now, etc.
     
  13. Jul 11, 2013 #38

    tonys96

    tonys96

    tonys96

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2011
    Messages:
    1,333
    Location:
    Texas
    I will respectfully disagree with the notion that the ridership skews older, and can only base it on my own observations, so I will be speaking solely of the Texas Eagle and Heartland Flyer. These are the two routes that we frequent.

    My observations are that the ridership demographic is a large portion my age group and slightly older (I am 58) and an equally large portion younger than about 35 or so. There are very few riders in the middle of these two groups.

    I think that is caused by those my age having more free time to schedule Amtrak (since we all know having time is paramount) and the younger folks being more cost/environmentally conscious. I attribute the lack of riders between 35 and my age to them being raised on car and plane travel and being comfortable with it. And to them not even being aware of train travel out here in Texas and Oklahoma.

    But I am heartened by the large number of younger families I see on the Eagle and Flyer, and I have been seeing a bigger portion of young couples taking these trains too. That does bode well for the future after folks like me and my g/f have gone on to ride a celestial train.
     
  14. Jul 11, 2013 #39

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,206
    Location:
    Virginia
    I'll also say that I think Amtrak's survey data (the stuff cited in the PIPs) suffers from some response bias (i.e. older people actually turn the blasted things in). In my times in coach, the average age does not seem to be in the 50s, though I can plausibly see this on at least the Florida trains (thanks to the number of snowbirds into their 70s and 80s on those trains).

    With that said, I don't think the idea of "retiring to Florida" is about to go away anytime soon.
     
  15. Jul 11, 2013 #40

    RobertB

    RobertB

    RobertB

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2011
    Messages:
    88
    Location:
    Union Station, Dallas
    Well, I did my part, I guess. I talked my 19-year-old daughter into taking the train from AUS-DAL. She could go to Austin with a friend and take the train back, or drive both ways. Even at the current bucket, Amtrak came out cheaper than driving both ways. So chalk up another one for the "building a habit" demographic!
     
  16. Jul 11, 2013 #41

    afigg

    a

    afigg

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    Messages:
    5,896
    Location:
    Virginia
    Chairman Shuster may face a primary challenge, but I don't know if it is that serious a challenge. For one, he has what is effectively a family seat. Also, as Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, he is going to get a lot of campaign donations from corporations and interest groups from many parts of the transportation and construction industry, whether they agree with his positions or not. Just an automatic thing for the industry to do.
    As for Horowitz's attack on raising gas taxes, that may not get much traction in PA with its crumbling infrastructure. Both the Republican controlled State Senate and House voted to raise the PA state gas tax back in June, but the deal fell apart at the last minute before the July 1 deadline because of disagreements on how much, how to allocate the new revenues, and because the transportation funding got entangled in changing how PA sells liquor & beer. Shuster is likely to beat off the primary challenger. As a side note, I suspect the Dems may be able to pick up a few House seats in PA and VA in the mid-term elections, despite the Republican gerrymandering, in part because of the Tea party.
     
  17. Jul 11, 2013 #42

    afigg

    a

    afigg

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    Messages:
    5,896
    Location:
    Virginia
    A marketing firm should adjust, or least try to adjust, response bias in surveys. Besides, with most people paying electronically, that means the marketing dept gets home addresses and a lot of other customer data. Which provides pretty good clues to income brackets, professions, travel patterns, and indirectly age ranges. In the electronic and internet age, the marketing dept should have a pretty good grasp of the basic demographic breakdown of the customer base for the different corridors and LD trains. Would be interesting to see the basic data, but there is no reason for Amtrak to make it public and thus share in-depth data with the bus companies and the airlines.
    Would expect the Silvers to skew to an older average age and demographic because of the number of retirees traveling to or living in Florida.
     
  18. Jul 11, 2013 #43

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,206
    Location:
    Virginia
    I'm not so sure about VA. Looking at our list, I don't see a challenge in any seat but VA-2 gaining that much traction. VA-9 was one of those "outlier" seats that the Dems were holding in no small part on the basis of inertia, and it's probably going to stay GOP for a while. VA-5 "ought" to be a modestly safe GOP seat IIRC; the Dems picked it up in no small part because Goode basically forgot to campaign. VA-2, on the other hand, is a "swingy" seat that's likely to come down to either waves (I don't see a wave building at the moment) or campaigns (which depends a lot on competent candidates and staff).

    PA may be another story, but PA has a lot more CDs and variety to work with.
     
  19. Jul 12, 2013 #44

    jebr

    jebr

    jebr

    Conductor Staff Member Administator Moderator

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2012
    Messages:
    3,611
    Location:
    "The Last Great City of the East," St. Paul, MN
    I can attest to this. Even my sister, who is much less into public transit than I am, mentioned that she may not take a car now when she goes down to college in a month. She can take Amtrak down to college, walk/public transit/ZipCar (I mentioned ZipCar to her) around town when need be, and take Amtrak (or carpool) to come back. Even though she grew up in a driving culture and has a driver's license, she doesn't see a huge need for it at least while at college.
     
  20. Jul 12, 2013 #45

    afigg

    a

    afigg

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    Messages:
    5,896
    Location:
    Virginia
    You may be right. I was thinking in part of the effect of the growing Gov. McDonnell scandal along with the population changes taking place in VA, but any effect from the scandal is likely to be gone in VA by the 2014 mid-terms. But I don't want to divert this thread of into VA or PA politics, except to note that I am grateful that the McDonnell scandal held off until after he got the transportation funding increase bill through the VA legislature. It may be an overly complicated and flawed bill in how it raises revenue, but it will provide a fair amount of additional funds for passenger rail, transit, and I hope, well thought out road improvement projects (Ok, that last part is probably way too optimistic).

    Virginia passing its tax increase for transportation funds helped to break the years long deadlock in Maryland on raising gas taxes, so MD now will have more money available for transit and rail. Besides the Purple and Red line light rail projects, MARC is already getting a $100 million boost in FY14 for service expansion. Which in turn means that MD will be in a position to contribute more for NEC projects in future years in MD.

    Tying this chain of thought back to the topic of this thread, the probable deadlock in Congress on providing adequate funding for Amtrak may lead to more states stepping up and providing state funds for intercity rail upgrade projects. The New England and Mid-Atlantic states, Illinois and a couple of others in the Midwest, California, WA, OR would be the main candidates for digging into their transportation budgets to find more money for Amtrak and other rail projects. The amounts won't be what they would be with a major federal HSIPR program, but enough for some Amtrak service expansion and trip time reductions. For example, VA: service to Roanoke, MD: NEC upgrades such as 4th track between western Baltimore to New Carrolton, MA: Inland Route, VT: Ethan Allen extended to Burlington.
     
  21. Jul 12, 2013 #46

    RobertB

    RobertB

    RobertB

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2011
    Messages:
    88
    Location:
    Union Station, Dallas
    You know, that's probably not the worst thing that could happen...
     
  22. Jul 12, 2013 #47

    jis

    jis

    jis

    Conductor AU Lifetime Supporter Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Messages:
    24,743
    Location:
    Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
    The question for us in NJ is whether our big guy will see the logic of increasing gas tax to replenish the TTF, and furthermore if he will have the testicular fortitude to make it happen. The current indications are that he won't.
     
  23. Jul 12, 2013 #48

    gmushial

    gmushial

    gmushial

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2013
    Messages:
    852
    Location:
    RDD
    Since Mica only won by 59-41 in the 2012 election, even though he is deep in the pockets of CSX, just maybe the Florida voters will wake up; likewise, maybe some help from outside of the district will help whoever runs against him. Beyond that his politburo-esque fact-free rhetoric is more appropriate at a football game than in congress.
     
  24. Jul 12, 2013 #49

    jis

    jis

    jis

    Conductor AU Lifetime Supporter Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Messages:
    24,743
    Location:
    Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
    What has Mica exactly done that would upset the common Florida Joe? 59-41 is a pretty large margin to overcome.
     
  25. Jul 13, 2013 #50

    afigg

    a

    afigg

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    Messages:
    5,896
    Location:
    Virginia
    So long as Gov. Christie has 2016 Presidential ambitions, he is not going to propose increasing the gas tax in NJ. He has made rather blatant political moves in recent months on social issues and moving the special Senate election to mid-October to improve his chances in the Republican primaries.

    With Wyoming having increased its gas excise tax earlier this year, NJ with a 14.5 cents per gallon gas tax is now 49th out of the 50 states in the effective state gas tax rate (http://taxfoundation.org/article/state-gasoline-tax-rates-2009-2013). While the state has two major tolled roads (NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway), it is odd how the state has let its gas tax fall so far below the other mid-Atlantic states while it has a lot of roads and a dense transportation infrastructure to maintain. But NJ still does not allow self serve gas stations, so there are obviously powerful interest groups blocking changes to the gas tax and how gas stations are run. On the other hand, I saw a news article on NJ Transit passing its FY2014 budget which includes $600 million in capital funding for NEC projects over the next 5 years.

    Among the eastern states, VA, MD, Vermont have either increased their gas tax and/or raised other taxes & fees to increase funds available for transportation. The MA legislature has passed a gas and other tax increases which is supposed to increase annual transportation funding by $800 million by 2018, but Gov. Patrick wants a change to deal with future shortfalls if MA Turnpike tolls go away as scheduled in 2017. If the PA can reach an agreement on a gas tax increase this fall, most of the Mid-Atlantic to New England states will be in a position to provide more funding for passenger rail projects and the NEC if they choose to do so.
     

Share This Page

arrow_white