WSJ Video about Amtrak

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Rasputin, Jul 16, 2019.

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  1. Jul 16, 2019 #1

    Rasputin

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  2. Jul 16, 2019 #2

    F900ElCapitan

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    Interesting.

    It just baffles me why Amtrak management isn’t going for a combination approach. Regional trains based out of Atlanta is a great idea. But also having long distance trains (of which could effectively run with fewer stops when there are more local/regional trains) to connect the regional markets to more distant markets should be an integral part of the equation.
     
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  3. Jul 16, 2019 #3

    Paul CHI

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    One of the persons interviewed said that having Amtrak service added value to the community. I've no doubt that's true, but on the flip side communities served by Amtrak should contribute something besides just building an Amshack.
     
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  4. Jul 16, 2019 #4

    Philly Amtrak Fan

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    I certainly agree Amtrak needs both regional and LD trains. But there is only so much equipment, labor, and resources currently available to Amtrak at the moment and only so much money Amtrak can reasonably ask from the federal government. If Amtrak wants to expand some things may have to be cut. I probably don't agree with some of the cuts Anderson wants (it appears the Southwest Chief is on his hit list and he seems to like the Empire Builder where I would switch the two) but the philosophy is the same, you may have to make cuts to make progress.

    Amtrak needs to push the "expansion" and "urban markets" aspects. If Congress cares, they will do something about it. Maybe there is enough money for the rural areas and the urban areas. But more trains to Atlanta or trains at all to Columbus or Las Vegas shouldn't be prevented so five people in Thurmond, West Virginia can have a train.
     
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  5. Jul 16, 2019 #5

    NSC1109

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    I believe I had suggested such a thing a long time ago, in the “What Would You Add?” thread. Granted, a blanket solution likely won’t work for all routes, so each one of the roughly 15 would have to be looked at, but I fully believe that adjustments to the LD services to increase its efficiency could be done and have not been looked at.

    Of course, it all boils down to one thing: money. Until Amtrak is recognized as vital and necessary transportation by Congress, it will remain a political football with a less-than-certain future and carry over the status quo.
     
  6. Jul 17, 2019 #6

    F900ElCapitan

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    I agree, especially on the equipment issue. The other side of this coin is Amtrak wants most of these corridor services to be partly sponsored by the states they benefit. If they are able to follow some other states lead (Cascades, Surfliner, etc), then maybe the equipment issue will partly resolve itself. But you have a good point, there should be a minimum expectation by Amtrak as to equipment and infrastructure.
     
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  7. Jul 17, 2019 #7

    dogbert617

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    I've always wondered if communites gave funding years ago(in the 70s and 80s), and that one common company built all those Amshacks back then? I.e. Grand Forks(side note I recently remember finding photos of its old station, and too bad EB doesn't serve the old Great Northern RR downtown station anymore), Ann Arbor, Normal, IL (never mind they now have a new intermodial transit center, though the old Amshack still stands), and Hammond-Whiting, IN. Not to forget the former Midway station in St. Paul(before the move to Union Depot, was an Amshack as well. And I sense from old photos there used to be a Great Northern RR constructed station there, before that Amshack.

    As much as we criticize how ugly the Amshacks are, at least they provide an indoor place to wait. And is better than not having such a station and indoor waiting room, at all. I.e. Deming and Lordsburg in New Mexico, and Benson in Arizona where all those 3 stations have is a crappy outside shelter, with no protection from the heat if someone didn't drive you to the station to wait for that train to arrive. Not to forget Sanderson, TX (where there's no shelter building IIRC, and the former deteriorating station building now demolished), or the blah indoor shelter buildings with a limited number of seats at both Elyria, OH and Crawfordsville, IN.
     
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  8. Jul 17, 2019 #8

    slasher-fun

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    Includes interview view Stephen J. Gardner, SEVP & Chief operating and commercial officer.
     
  9. Jul 17, 2019 #9

    Barb Stout

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    I just took the SWC from ABQ to LA and back again and both times the coach car I was in was 100% was full. One of the times I was in car 12 and the other car 13 which I had assumed meant that car 12 was full, but maybe it doesn't. The LD's lose money even when they're full? There's that seasonal thing, I assume. About sixty people boarded in ABQ which looked like more than boarded in LA on the return trip.
     
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  10. Jul 17, 2019 #10

    dogbert617

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    Will have to look at this, later. I worry this is just a hit piece by someone stupidly opposed to Amtrak long distance trains, but what do I know?
     
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  11. Jul 17, 2019 #11

    Rasputin

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    This appears to be the same video that I posted yesterday only then it was titled Amtrak facing backlash from rural America. That title didn't satisfy the editors or Amtrak management so it has been replaced with the dying long distance train title.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
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  12. Jul 17, 2019 #12

    Just-Thinking-51

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    My take away was the Long Distance Train are still in trouble. Amtrak and it’s management does not know or understand the will of the Congress. This game of chicken will recur again and again, into there is a change of management.

    Gardner stated he need Billion to try this new style of railroad service, with no guarantees of results. Not a winning sales pitch in my opinion.

    Anderson, Gardner vision of Amtrak is a impossible, they should focus providing clean, safe equipment, and a uniform on-board experience.
     
  13. Jul 17, 2019 #13

    Just-Thinking-51

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  14. Jul 17, 2019 #14

    dogbert617

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    Funny you mention this, since when I took #7/27 west to Glacier National Park on Saturday, June 29th(leaving Chicago), the coach car attendant for my car(and I think other cars too?) did such an unbelievable job making sure everyone boarding, had a seat on the train. Even encouraged a mother with 2 kids to use just 2 seats, so that another passenger boarding would be able to find a seat. Also #7/27 was so unbelievably crowded, that they were reserving just about all the tables in one half of the sightseer/observation car for boarding passengers! She mentioned that usually the EB has something like 300ish passengers, but that our train had something like 400-450 passengers on board! That coach car attendant should get a raise, since she did an amazing job finding seats for everyone boarding the train so that there weren't any passengers required to stand. She worked out of the Portland crew, and she was short, and I think Asian? Have to say I wouldn't mind, if I saw her again in coach on a future EB train. Since I thought she was AMAZING as a coach car attendant, and wish I'd caught her name, so that I could call or email Amtrak to give her a compliment! Even to the point where she was one of the few in more recent train trips I can remember, who yelled a loud enough 'all aboard!' when the stretch stops were ending and the train was about to depart. Is it only me, or does it seem like I don't hear as many Amtrak employees yell out all aboard when the train is departing from stretch stops, vs. years ago? Thankfully I do keep a very close eye and look for signs at stretch stops that those are ending, so that I've never been left behind.

    Thankfully coming back on July 4 (and arriving in Chi. 7/5), #8/28 wasn't overcrowded at all, and I even saw at least a few empty seats in just about all the coaches. For the record I rode coach going west (sleeper was too costly to upgrade to that way), and sleeper coming back.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
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  15. Jul 17, 2019 #15

    slasher-fun

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    Yup, missed your thread, thanks to the admins for the merging.
     
  16. Jul 17, 2019 #16

    saxman

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    Perhaps we need to take a look at RPA's fact sheets again. "The Dying LD Trains." Ugh. 2018 LD ridership did drop a little, but looking back to 2012, ridership is relatively steady. It's made even better improvement since the early aughts. Some is probably due to late trains. The economy is doing well so the freights railroads are busy. Amenities being cut is another reason for ridership drop. So the notion that LD trains are dying is mostly self-inflicted I'm afraid.

    Take a look at the other fact sheets from the RPA website. You can select any route, any station and see it's ridership, revenue, and most popular city pairs. It's all in a easy to read format. If you're in Newton, KS, you can see that the most popular destination from there is Chicago followed by Los Angeles. Hmm, those are both overnight long distance rides. These are stats you can use to tell your elected officials too.

    Lastly, I think it's great the Amtrak is looking at adding corridors. I've been wishing this for years, but it seemed Amtrak just wanted to stay in survival mode and was afraid to ask for money to expand the system. It looks like the New Orleans-Mobile train might actually happen. But how much of hassle is it going to be when states aren't willing to pay for their corridors? Indiana, anyone? I also wonder how much of a fight the host railroads will put up.
     
  17. Jul 17, 2019 #17

    Larry H.

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    I just found it on You Tube. I find the Steven fellow to be exactly what we don't need at Amtrak. Someone who seems intent on destroying the long distance network. How do these people end up in jobs of power when they don't have the traveling publics best interest. Oddly the film show now passé diners with real steaks and food, and trains that must be 20 cars long with three engines.. I wish that were true, but I don't think it is!
     
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  18. Jul 17, 2019 #18

    Rasputin

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    I agree with your assessment of Mr. Gardner but at the present dining cars are still operating on many trains. In May I had a steak each night on the Crescent and they were very good. This evidently won't be lasting much longer.
     
  19. Jul 18, 2019 #19

    billl

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    Saw the video...couple of points.

    First...Does Gardner think the freight railroads will let Amtrak run multiple frequency trips on routes that currently have no passenger service at all? Atlanta - Knoxville for example. Is NS going to be, all of a sudden, this great partner when it comes to corridor services out of Atlanta? Hell, right now NS won't even let them cut off cars at Peachtree station. Have any of these issues even been discussed with the host freight railroads? Gardner seems to think that by eliminating the LD trains, the host railroads will have no issues at all with new regional service. Good luck with that!

    Second...Let's say you do eliminate all the LD trains and are just left with the NEC and the state supported corridors. You still have huge capital expenses with the NEC. What are the Congress people going to say when Amtrak shows up wanting money for the NEC after cutting all the LD trains? I thought you said you were going to be self sufficient without the LD trains? I don't think so! You cut my train, don't look at me for support of the NEC.

    Maybe Gardner knows more than I do (I am sure he does), but I don't see how this is going to all work out.
     
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  20. Jul 18, 2019 #20

    Just-Thinking-51

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    Some of the video shots were of the Americans Oriental Express.

    With out checking, I recall Gardner was one of the people who wrote the 750 mile rule, and other PIRRA rules. How he left congress and join Amtrak, is unknown. But certain parties take the long game approach.
     
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  21. Jul 18, 2019 #21

    NES28

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    Amtrak is absolutely correct that the main opportunity for passenger rail growth is in the regional corridors which, as Brightline/Virgin says, are "too short to fly but too long to drive". But, as Brightline/Virgin are implementing, the best such routes will support/require much more frequent service than the Class I freights can be expected to permit on routes which carry any significant number of their own trains. Many routes will require construction of dedicated passenger rail alignments or, at least, major capacity increases, which will require large amounts of government funding to build. The many corridors which cross state lines will be particularly hard to finance in a system that requires the states to take the lead in these matters. While the better routes will be able to cover all/most operating cost from fares, many will not. We need to be advocates for more federal and state funding support for these projects.

    Noting the specific recent references to the potential for an Atlanta hub, I agree that it has a lot of potential, but development of these corridors is going to be hard as long as there is a Republican administration in Georgia and DC.
     
  22. Jul 18, 2019 #22

    HGSCS

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    The video definitely didn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling for the future of long distance trains. Hopefully development of corridors does not come at the expense of long distance trains. There is room for both.
     
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  23. Jul 18, 2019 #23

    iliketrains

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    Stephen Gardner mentions a Dallas-Houston route as example of a potential strong regional service. He does not mean a word of it because a true Japanese style bullet train is practically a done deal for the route. Amtrak could not and wouldn't even attempt to compete with the forthcoming service. Why use this route as an example? Maybe because if this regional emphasis somehow miraculously gets passed he won't be obligated to ensure there is a Dallas-Houston route. I really think he and Anderson have no good intentions for Amtrak.

    The reality is that train service must be subsidized like all other transportation in this country and the world. The government has spent billions subsidizing highways, airlines, and auto industry but hints that is wasteful to spend money on Amtrak. Amtrak is not a necessary evil but a neccessary investment in our infrastructure and resources.
     
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  24. Jul 18, 2019 #24

    NSC1109

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    Agreed that Amtrak needs to be treated like essential public transportation and that steady and dedicated funds are needed for it, but I don’t agree with the DFW-HOU bullet train but. People are all up in arms about Cali HSR and the delays involved and that’s about as friendly as you can get in terms of a populous. Conservative Texas going for it? I’m not hopeful.
     
  25. Jul 18, 2019 #25

    Just-Thinking-51

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    I know the focus this week has been the ham-fisted rollout of reduced dining options from Amtrak—and rest assured we will be issuing a firm response in the next few days—but I also wanted to point out a video posted by the Wall Street Journal. I think a lot of people probably stopped at the bad headline. And that’s a shame, because if you take time to watch the video there’s a lot of positive information that we managed to get into the video through our conversations with a pair of WSJ reporters.

    The series was sparked by an extended conversation Sean and I had with the Journal’s Ted Mann earlier this year. The resulting story (Amtrak Has Lost Money for Decades. A Former Airline CEO Thinks He Can Fix It.) was pretty mixed. It *did* include many of our talking points and research items, including:
    • Even though end-to-end ridership on Amtrak routes over 750 miles is relatively low, they say the train represents the only practical long-distance travel option for some residents of small rural communities poorly served by airlines—and a huge part of those local economies.
    • The rail passengers group has estimated that the Southwest Chief, which runs between Chicago and Los Angeles, creates $180 million in annual economic benefits, or roughly three times what Amtrak pays to run the train each year.
    Even so, beyond that we were relatively disappointed in Ted’s piece. It failed to dig into whether shifting costs off of Amtrak’s balance sheet and onto states, commuter railroads, and local communities has any unintended downsides, or the difference between covering the cost of operations on the NEC and the cost of covering operations and capital depreciation on host railroad infrastructure for long-distance routes.

    That’s why I was pleased to see our time with Mann actually pay off in another way, via a referral to his colleague Jason Bellini and this WSJ video:

    [​IMG]
    I had a very good and detailed conversation with Bellini, and I don’t mind saying that I managed to turn him around almost a full 180 degrees. I didn’t do this through my masterful oratory, but by doing something I wish I could do to every single Amtrak critic I meet: I got him on a train.

    I suggested that he travel on the Crescent to get a sense of the diversity of Amtrak passengers—diverse in every sense of the word, from age to race to financial background. I was able to introduce them to John Robert Smith, and told them to get off in Meridian with the former Mayor to see the economic-development benefits of rail, up close. And John Robert did his usual fantastic job of knocking down Gardner's arguments, and looking very sympathetic as he did so.

    I promise we did not arrange to have that 100-year-old woman boarding the train at the 3:29mark of the video… but it sure made the point, didn't it?

    This video shows why people choose the train. It also shows the people for whom the train is the only option. Make sure to check out:
    • The woman who’s too old to drive at 3:55, and needs Amtrak to stay mobile;
    • The exchange at 4:29 where John Robert demolishes the fallacy that since no one rides the train end-to-end you can cut out the middle without any cost to passengers;
    • Getting off at Meridian at 5:47, and profiling the benefits to local communities of intercity rail service.
    As we plan our line of attack in response to Amtrak’s most recent unforced error with F&B, I wanted to let you know that your Rail Passengers staff is working hard to tell the stories of these Americans. Even when it requires going deep into enemy territory.

    Now, let’s get these people onboard.

    Best,

    JIM M.

    JIM MATHEWS
    President & CEO
    Rail Passengers Association/NARP

     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2019

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