Senate hearing on "Amtrak: Next Steps for Passenger Rail"

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by TiBike, Jun 29, 2019.

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  1. Jul 12, 2019 at 12:33 AM #51

    Thirdrail7

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    Thirdrail7

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    Woo says it doesn't? The senators that basically say they want their train think otherwise. How can you determine what is valuable to someone else? Those same senators probably think that paying $450 million (that's almost a half of billion dollars, Tibike) for a scant 8 miles of constant tension catenary was not a good use of funds and wasn't a good value for the funds.

    That is largely because Amtrak INVESTED in them. If you added to the experience (adding additional service to feed the lines, adding capacity for thruway connections, upgraded the equipment) like they do for the corridors, perhaps it would work better. There is a reason the eastern LD trains perform better than their western counterparts. Their equipment is newer and the line typically overlaps with a regional service. It is part of a multi service venture.

    Additionally, why does Amtrak need to be billed as "mass market?" Who said Amtrak is mass market? Even the corridors carry a small percentage of the overall transportation system. If they receive new equipment, the goal should be to supplement the existing network.

    Furthermore, the states have shown very little interest in initiating new service. Indeed, they may cut service.

    Again, what Anderson wants is largely irrelevant. It boils down to what Congress is willing to fund and support. If they tell him to operate the LD netwrk, that is what will happen.

    Just like when Sen Blumenthal rolled up on him regarding the cut Veterans Discount.


    RA: We're not moving fast enough for you. You want it back.
    Sen Blumenthal: I think the Veteran's want it back.
    RA: I got it. I got.
    SB. Yea...I'm glad you got it.
     
  2. Jul 12, 2019 at 4:25 AM #52

    TiBike

    TiBike

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    Passenger numbers say long distance trains aren't providing as much value as corridor, or corridor-like, service, by about ten to one, and that gap is growing. Dollars say that too: economically, profit is the measure of value added.

    You're right to call me out on "mass market" – that was a lazy choice of words. What I meant was a service designed for and marketed to a broader potential market – people making shorter trips on corridors. More people served equals more public policy value.

    That doesn't mean ignoring smaller populations and smaller communities, but that's not the same thing as saying that the high capacity, relatively inflexible transportation service that trains offer should go where its use can be maximised, and lower capacity, flexible service, such as buses, should be used where its utility to passengers can be maximised.

    There's nothing wrong with congressmen trying to get a bigger slice of the existing pie for constituents. But that's simple politics, not value based debate. Anderson made that point in his exchange with senator Gardner at 1:14:06 on the video:

    Gardner: Mr. Anderson, if I can get your commitment to work with Mr. Souby and the Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico interests as well, to resolve these issues and make this work for the Southwest Chief and the states involved?

    Anderson: That would be great, I'm glad to hear that it's worth $180 million to the states, so then they can get their matches up for us to be able to do the work that needs to be done to keep this operation underway.

    It was Anderson who rolled Blumenthal on the veterans discount. Blumenthal started out by pushing for a veterans discount, and Anderson's response was to say Amtrak would be rolling out a discount for retired military, which is nowhere near the same thing. Blumenthal accepted that, or at least didn't object, and started pushing Anderson on timing. That was what the exchange you quoted was about, not the veterans discount.

    Yes, the NEC got the investment in the past, and results reflect it. That choice – whether government subsidies or capital investment, it's always a choice – was made because that's where the greatest value, public policy and economic, could be created.
     
  3. Jul 12, 2019 at 5:10 AM #53

    jis

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    Passenger miles though says a somewhat different story. Then the question arises why is passenger boarding unequivocally more important than passenger miles. And so the beat goes on. One may be very certain in ones mind that ones own view is the only valid one. But in the bigger picture that may not be so.
     
  4. Jul 12, 2019 at 1:40 PM #54

    Amtrakfflyer

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    Anderson still has to get rid of the 750 rule to get most of his corridor plan in place as it is. I get the feeling he’s inclined to try to play the Trump administrations “let the States pay for it” game though. That won’t end well.
     
  5. Jul 12, 2019 at 4:07 PM #55

    TiBike

    TiBike

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    Passenger miles may be useful as a business metric, but it's people that matter from a public policy perspective. A retiree who spends three days coming to Sacramento from Chicago is no better served and no more deserving than a worker who commutes 15 miles from Davis one morning. Both are happy voters, both are able to make a trip that fulfils their needs. If the trip ratio is 10 to 1, so is the social value. When you factor in the net economic value of the trips, the difference becomes that much greater. Using limited public transportation resources to provide transportation service in the most efficient way possible – high capacity resources for high capacity trips, low capacity resources for low capacity trips – is good public policy. Using high capacity public transportation resources to provide low capacity entertainment service is not.
     
  6. Jul 12, 2019 at 6:10 PM #56

    Philly Amtrak Fan

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    The one argument that could be in favor of passenger miles would seem to be a larger fare (more money). But fares are also dependent on demand and Acela fares are pretty high and I imagine they are higher per mile than LD fares. Also, you have to consider the cost of transporting the passenger the extra miles. I'd rather transport 10 passengers from New York to Washington than 1 from Chicago to Seattle (roughly the same number of passenger miles). Even if the one CHI-SEA passenger pays the same fare as the 10 NYP-WAS passengers combined, he costs a lot more to transport.
     

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