A Modest Proposal

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

trainman74

Conductor
Joined
Apr 7, 2011
Messages
1,595
Resurrect John S. Reed and make zombie Reed the president of Amtrak with an unlimited checkbook.
Now I'm picturing a zombie saying "TRAINS... TRAINS..." It's times like these I wish I had some artistic talent, because that would make a good cartoon.
 

WoodyinNYC

Conductor
Joined
Aug 9, 2013
Messages
1,515
As I've said elsewhere, the stimulus was mishandled with an unwillingness to cut some of the red tape to work with states which did not have everything ready to go. The definition of "shovel ready" is definitely at least somewhat flexible if you build exemptions in somewhere to the years of studies that are usually required. Engineering can't be cut, but intermediate studies can.
There's no reason that Congress couldn't allow exemptions

to the Sept 2017 deadline now. But we won't be expecting that,

will we?

Anyway, the worst thing about the Stimulus was that it was far

too small, and it was shut down far too early, so the list of worthy

but unfunded projects is distressingly long.
 

Ryan

Conductor
Joined
Apr 14, 2008
Messages
17,017
To John Bobinyec and RyanS: The man is trying to advance some possible proposals. He is not holding himself out as an expert on equipment or scheduling. It is most assuredly not your "right" to shoot him down with your infantile and neo-acerbic wit. And kudos to WoodyinNYC. You answered factually and thoughtfully.
Actually, I'm pretty sure that it is.

There's nothing wrong with pie in the sky speculation, but Barack Obama's got a better chance of getting elected to a third term than any of this has of actually happening. It literally falls apart with the first sentence. Amy doesn't have, has no plans to have, and no means to have the money to buy sufficient rolling stock.
 

Orie

Service Attendant
Joined
Sep 1, 2014
Messages
187
I think improving speeds is the "modest-est" part, although that would still take tons of money. But it would be nice to see done in sections, at least through states that support rail infrastructure.

I do have a question though.... are the height restrictions for northeast trains solely because of NYP? Or are there other parts of the NEC that have the same lower height.
Mostly. There are clearance issues in Baltimore as well, though that could be dealt with in the near-er term. However, NYP presents most of the real engineering issues if I'm not mistaken.
Is it just the Hudson river tunnels that are the problem? Perhaps when (if they ever) build the new Gateway tunnels, the problem would be solved?
 

TVRM610

Conductor
Joined
Apr 30, 2007
Messages
1,664
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I don't know of much serious spending on routes with only one

round-trip a day. The Vermonter route is getting money to cut

an hour or so out of the schedule, AND to extend the train from

Saint Empty, VT, all the way into Montreal. Guess you could count

the current Norfolk train, but it's going to go to three frequencies

when the upgrades permit. If you've heard that a lot of money is

being wasted on routes with very few trains, you may need to

change your radio dial. LOL.
Oh... any spending on rail is good in my view. I was referring to the original poster talking about the Sunset. The Sunset route is never going to be a high performing route, so why spend so much getting it faster? The only route that would make any sense on is the Chief... it has pretty fast run times, never gonna compete with air of course. But pretty fast for an Amtrak LD.

Thanks for the run down.... Glad that work is being done, will hope for the best in Virginia.

And Illinois is slowly but surely getting there.. and we have Michigan... and the Keystone... and Empire Service is getting work done too right? I mean we are getting ALOT considering this is Amtrak in 2014.
 

jebr

Conductor
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
Joined
Jan 23, 2012
Messages
3,867
I see a few good ideas, but some of the implementations seem off.

On-time performance is priority #1. Without that, almost all of these proposals are moot. Faster speeds might help this, but more than anything Amtrak needs on time performance to be 95% or better. (85% would be acceptable for intermediate stops.)

My personal priority for money spent:

1. On-time performance.

2. Make all trains daily service or better.

3. Increase capacity on existing routes.

4. Broaden the national network, preferably by having multiple services running along major corridors and then branching out from there (for example, have a few CHI - DEN trains that split in DEN to different endpoints/different routes, have a couple CHI - MSP trains that split to cover different areas, etc.)

5. Increase frequencies of those trains.

Frankly, I see #2 being the most likely to happen, followed by #3. The rest I see almost no chance of happening, which is frustrating. Because Amtrak, more than anything, needs good on-time performance.
 

Tokkyu40

Service Attendant
Joined
Oct 9, 2013
Messages
114
The problems are much of what I was looking for. There are a lot of details I don't know, particularly about the east coast. Are there double deck cars that will fit the tunnels? Superliners are TALL!
I also didn't know about the base in El Paso, which would make the LA to El Paso segment fairly strong on the Sunset. From San Antonio on it should also generate strong revenue. The only really weak point is the section in between, where you can stop at the station in Sanderson, which has a population of under 900. I'm sure Marfa will be a better destination.
I'm not looking for what we can be guaranteed right now, but what would be an improvement in the long term. The only thing possible right now is to watch the slow collapse of the system as the existing cars wear out with no replacements in sight. Just because it's possible doesn't mean I'll be beating down my representative's door demanding that it be done right now.
I agree that in the short term a reliable schedule and expanded capacity are the first priorities. A train leaving Tokyo will norm,ally arrive in Hakata within 15 seconds of its scheduled arrival. If we had more control of access we should be able to cross one little continent within an hour of the timetable.
And sacrificing some routes to save others has already been tried and the result has been to increase the losses. Only the revenue goes away, and the fixed overhead has to be spread over fewer trains.
 

Ryan

Conductor
Joined
Apr 14, 2008
Messages
17,017
Yes, MARC and NJT have bilevel cars that will fit through the tunnels, but they're kind of tight inside for LD service.

There's also no reason to use multilevels on the east coast.
 

D.P. Roberts

Conductor
Joined
Aug 16, 2006
Messages
1,316
Resurrect John S. Reed and make zombie Reed the president of Amtrak with an unlimited checkbook.
Now I'm picturing a zombie saying "TRAINS... TRAINS..." It's times like these I wish I had some artistic talent, because that would make a good cartoon.
Speaking of zombies and eating human flesh... when I read the title of this thread, I assumed that the OP was going to suggest that the dining cars could finally pay for themselves if the passengers were fed unwanted Irish babies.

It could work.
 

WoodyinNYC

Conductor
Joined
Aug 9, 2013
Messages
1,515
... If you've heard that a lot of money is being wasted on routes

with very few trains, you may need to change your radio dial. LOL.
Oh... any spending on rail is good in my view.

Thanks for the run down.... Glad that work is being done, will hope for the best in Virginia.

And Illinois is slowly but surely getting there.. and we have Michigan... and the Keystone... and Empire Service is getting work done too right?

I mean we are getting A LOT considering this is Amtrak in 2014.
The most hopeful thing I can point to is the work on the Wolverines

route Chicago-Kalamazoo-Ann Arbor-Dearborn-Detroit and on the

Lincoln services Chicago-Bloomington/Normal-Springfield-St Louis.

When a half hour to nearly an hour is chopped out of those schedules,

we can hope to see a wave of train-envy sweep across the Midwest.

When folks living in Cleveland and Toledo hear that the folks from

Detroit, Dearborn, and Ann Arbor are getting to Chicago on a fairly

fast train, they'll start to ask, Why can't we have nice trains too?

Right now that question requires too much imagination, but when

real world examples are just across the state line, people can see

for themselves.

So I'm hoping that the other parts of the long-proposed Midwest

Regional Rail Plan will come to life in a couple of years, with

Chicago-Twin Cities, Chicago-Quad Cities-Des Moines-Omaha,

Chicago-Indianapolis-Cincinnati, and most of all, Chicago-Toledo-

Cleveland-Pittsburgh getting the green light and adequate funding.

I'm talking corridor trains here, of course, but every one overlaps

long distance train routes and will benefit the LD trains.

Most of all, the next phase of upgrading the Wolverines route means

building a dedicated set of tracks for passenger trains "South of

the Lake" -- from Union Station to where the Amtrak-owned and

already upgraded tracks begin in Indiana. Seven Amtrak trains

each way (3 Wolverines, the Blue Water, the Pere Marquette,

the Capitol Ltd and the Lake Shore Ltd.) pass thru this horribly

congested segment where NS has lost control of its own schedules

as well as Amtrak's. But Michigan's DOT is working on the planning

for passenger-only tracks that would cut another 50 minutes or so

from the runs South of the Lake. Early estimates of the cost range

from $2.5 Billion to $3 Billion.

Even looking at what would be perhaps 15 Michigan roundtrips a day,

that $3 Billion seems pretty discouraging. It's a lot more affordable

if it's also a big part of new corridor service Chicago-Cleveland, with

8 or 10 daily trains, and some of those extending on to Pittsburgh.

Since we're talking mostly long distance trains in this thread, take

a look at how the Capitol Ltd and the Lake Shore could both be

transformed after the South of the Lake project is finished.

Often I hear the wish expressed for faster trains, either as, "Can't

we go 110 mph for many more miles?" OR, "At 110 mph the trip

would only take 10 hours instead of 15 hours." I prefer to look

at the speed needed to make schedules a lot better, especially

the departure and arrival times. Usually just saving two or three

hours would make a huge difference.

For example, the Capitol Ltd has to leave D.C. at 4:05 p.m. for

a scheduled arrival of 8:45 a.m.; the Lake Shore leaves NYC

at 3:40 p.m. to pull in to Union Station at 9:45 a.m. Both those

departure times are too early for most passengers, who lose

half a working afternoon or a few hours at the museums.

A 110-mph corridor service Cleveland-Chicago could chop

the time for that segment from 6 hours 45 minutes down to

about 4 hours, and the LD trains could run on these tracks

just as fast. With the saved 2 hours 45 minutes, the Capitol Ltd

could leave D.C. at 6:50 p.m. and still make that nice morning

arrival in Chicago.

This schedule would be horrible for Pittsburgh, which is now

barely tolerable with a WB arrival just before midnight, but

would arrive around 2:30 a.m. However, it would work much

better for Cleveland, departing at 5:45 a.m. (compare to the

current 4:35 a.m. out of St Louis for a 10 a.m. arrival in Chicago).

Of course, between Pittsburgh and Chicago there'd be some

corridor service during daylight hours. To serve D.C.-Pgh

we'd need a second run of the Capitol, one perhaps leaving

the capital after lunch for an evening arrival in Pittsburgh.

To make use of the saved 2 hours 45 minutes with the

Lake Shore, again the departure could be pushed back,

allowing a full afternoon of business or tourism. However,

the current departure allows tolerable times in Rochester

and Buffalo that would be lost. Again the solution could be

a second run of the Lake Shore, maybe leaving in the

morning. Note that only a small share of its passengers

now travel end to end, NYC-Chicago. Maybe arriving

in Chicago two hours earlier (METRA permitting) would

be enuff.

A Capitol Ltd leaving D.C. after dinner time would call for

a rethinking of the service. This is the one LD train with

a large share of riders going end to end. Yet with a faster

schedule, meaning a later departure, it might not need

to serve a full dinner, and thus save on the costs of diner

meals, while opening only a cafe car. Indeed, it might

serve a simple breakfast without using a full diner at all.

Last but not least, a fast time Chicago-Cleveland-Pittsburgh

would cry out for a Broadway Ltd type route, with a train

(or two or three) continuing from Pgh on thru Harrisburg

and Philly to NYC.

Back to the $3 Billion South of the Lake project. When it's

done, the Cardinal and Hoosier State would shift to this route

from Union Station to some point east of Gary, IN, before

turning south toward Indianapolis, saving half an hour or so

from the Cardinal LD train and the should-be Hoosier State

corridor trains.

In this dreamscape, South of the Lake would not be $3 Billion

for just 12 or 15 Michigan trains. It would serve 8 or 10 new

corridor trains to Cleveland and Pgh, and at least 3 new

Hoosier State corridor trains to Indy, or more if track

upgrades extend to Cincy. And 7 or 8 long distance trains

would benefit from this one stretch of investment as well.

Anyone looking for big bang for the buck investments in

passenger rail has to put the South of the Lake project high

on the list, probably as the Number One outside the NEC.
 

Anderson

Conductor
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,563
With the Cap, what you'd do in such a situation is depart Washington at 1830 and have a diner full of sleeper passengers seated by the time the train leaves DC. Cutting dinner on that train is going to be a problem since, given that so many passengers connect to other trains, you'd invite some level of confusion as to what was included (and cue irritated passengers wondering why they don't get dinner on this train). You might use a cut-back menu a la the SW Chief out of LA or do something else, but you'd still need dinner. Eastbound, you'd just roll the DC arrival back by two hours and change, and arrive mid-morning instead of after noon.

For what it's worth, you'd "gain" a set of equipment in this shift (the earlier arrival into DC and later departure from DC would increase the time in Washington from 3 hours to about 7 hours, which is probably enough to turn the train, while under normal circumstances you'd be able to address a horridly late train by shuffling equipment in Chicago). If you could acquire a fourth set you could run a second train that would be a lot more Pittsburgh-oriented (and I've held that even the present schedule would be well-served by two trains out of DC: One on the present schedule and the second spaced to better serve PGH...and incidentally also get two trains with four sets of equipment instead of one with three).
 

WICT106

OBS Chief
Joined
Sep 8, 2003
Messages
832
The OP's proposal sounds a lot like Andrew Seldon's plan, from the United Rail Passenger Alliance. While the OP's proposal has some good points, it is about as unlikely to happen as Mr. Seldon'd plan was when it was proposed in the 1990s.
 

afigg

Conductor
Joined
Jun 8, 2009
Messages
5,896
Most of all, the next phase of upgrading the Wolverines route means building a dedicated set of tracks for passenger trains "South of the Lake" -- from Union Station to where the Amtrak-owned and already upgraded tracks begin in Indiana. Seven Amtrak trains each way (3 Wolverines, the Blue Water, the Pere Marquette, the Capitol Ltd and the Lake Shore Ltd.) pass thru this horribly congested segment where NS has lost control of its own schedules as well as Amtrak's. But Michigan's DOT is working on the planning for passenger-only tracks that would cut another 50 minutes or so from the runs South of the Lake. Early estimates of the cost range from $2.5 Billion to $3 Billion.

Even looking at what would be perhaps 15 Michigan roundtrips a day, that $3 Billion seems pretty discouraging. It's a lot more affordable if it's also a big part of new corridor service Chicago-Cleveland, with 8 or 10 daily trains, and some of those extending on to Pittsburgh.
The $2.5 to $3 billion cost projection in the South of the Lake Tier I draft EIS is for upgrades to the ENTIRE corridor from Chicago to Pontiac. The Porter to Pontiac proposed improvements have been established and are treated as the same subset amount among the build alternatives. Looking at the EIS, the capital costs for the South of the Lake alternative routes are between $1.5 to $2 billion. So the estimate is about $1 billion for the Porter to Pontiac section which presumably includes double tracking and the station upgrades listed in the executive summary of the EIS.
If the Wolverine and Michigan services see solid ridership growth as we expect, I think MI will fund a series of incremental improvement projects to the corridor route, but mostly only in MI. IL, as part of CREATE and Metra projects, will fund and advance projects that will improve trip times and reliability getting in and out of Chicago for the Michigan trains. But the dedicated passenger South of the Lake route will be very difficult to fully fund until Indiana and Ohio are active participants in starting corridor services to Fort Wayne - Toledo - Cleveland and to Indianapolis. I think that will someday happen, in part because of the success of the CHI-STL and CHI-DET corridors, but it will take years and years.
 

Anderson

Conductor
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,563
The OP's proposal sounds a lot like Andrew Seldon's plan, from the United Rail Passenger Alliance. While the OP's proposal has some good points, it is about as unlikely to happen as Mr. Seldon'd plan was when it was proposed in the 1990s.
There was, if I'm not mistaken, a similar proposal (I want to say from somewhere down in Arizona) in the mid-80s. Now, never mind the fact that if Obama had wanted to make something like this happen back in '09/'10 he could have...he had to dump a bunch of money into those bullet train projects. *fumes*
 

Paulus

Conductor
Joined
Jul 13, 2012
Messages
1,469
The OP's proposal sounds a lot like Andrew Seldon's plan, from the United Rail Passenger Alliance. While the OP's proposal has some good points, it is about as unlikely to happen as Mr. Seldon'd plan was when it was proposed in the 1990s.
There was, if I'm not mistaken, a similar proposal (I want to say from somewhere down in Arizona) in the mid-80s. Now, never mind the fact that if Obama had wanted to make something like this happen back in '09/'10 he could have...he had to dump a bunch of money into those bullet train projects. *fumes*
Bullet trains (plus 3C and Madison) are all rather more useful than OP's proposal however.
 

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
25,652
It is a matter of faith among us here that LD trains by definition are good investment. Unfortunately, I don't think even many of those that think they are nice are necessarily willing pay their true cost. Until that gets fixed these are all just idle chatter. Fun, but idle. In general I think there is a more solid case for corridor and high speed trains than slow lumbering or even somewhat faster LD trains given the other transportation infrastructures that are already in place. Just IMHO of course.

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum
 
T

twa904

Guest
What was Seldon's plan? And what was good or wrong with it?
 

Tokkyu40

Service Attendant
Joined
Oct 9, 2013
Messages
114
With the Cap, what you'd do in such a situation is depart Washington at 1830 and have a diner full of sleeper passengers seated by the time the train leaves DC. Cutting dinner on that train is going to be a problem since, given that so many passengers connect to other trains, you'd invite some level of confusion as to what was included (and cue irritated passengers wondering why they don't get dinner on this train). You might use a cut-back menu a la the SW Chief out of LA or do something else, but you'd still need dinner. Eastbound, you'd just roll the DC arrival back by two hours and change, and arrive mid-morning instead of after noon.

For what it's worth, you'd "gain" a set of equipment in this shift (the earlier arrival into DC and later departure from DC would increase the time in Washington from 3 hours to about 7 hours, which is probably enough to turn the train, while under normal circumstances you'd be able to address a horridly late train by shuffling equipment in Chicago). If you could acquire a fourth set you could run a second train that would be a lot more Pittsburgh-oriented (and I've held that even the present schedule would be well-served by two trains out of DC: One on the present schedule and the second spaced to better serve PGH...and incidentally also get two trains with four sets of equipment instead of one with three).
You folks are putting up some good stuff. The second train on the Capitol looks like an easy doubling of passengers with only one more train set.On the Surfliner, doubling the schedule tripled the passengers.

In the short run, we might be able to push for more trains once the South of the Lake project is done. State corridors are easiest to expand, politically.

It would be nice to run something through Cleveland while it's light out.
 

afigg

Conductor
Joined
Jun 8, 2009
Messages
5,896
What was Seldon's plan? And what was good or wrong with it?
Well, Hari Seldon's plan involved setting up the Foundation and the Second Foundation to bring about the second galactic empire, but I think that is a different Seldon. :p
 

Paulus

Conductor
Joined
Jul 13, 2012
Messages
1,469
I'm really curious as to where he gets his numbers, because they always appear to be wrong or majorly lacking in context.

In FY 1980 Amtrak incurred total expenses of $1.1 billion, yet the actual cost of direct operating expenses (moving the trains over the tracks-labor, fuel, expendables, etc.) was only $272 million, or about 25 percent of the total. Indirect expenses (stations, yards, shops, maintenance of locomotives, cars, and the small amount of track owned by the corporation) totaled $644 million, or 56 percent of expenses. Revenues generated from ticket sales, food and beverage sales, and the movement of mail and express in the year ending September 30, 1980, totaled just over $410 million. On a direct-cost basis Amtrak’s trains earned more than the cost to operate them by some $127 million. The high infrastructure costs are clearly a major problem and reflect serious diseconomies of scale.
According to the annual report:

Train operations cost $306 million while onboard services cost another $115 million. Honestly not sure how he gets $644 million for the indirect costs and I'd put MoE more in the realm of direct costs; maintenance should be pretty much directly proportional to car/train-miles. It's interesting that he simply doesn't include OBS at all. Finally, operating revenue was $428.7 million, not $410 million.
 

WICT106

OBS Chief
Joined
Sep 8, 2003
Messages
832
I'm really curious as to where he gets his numbers, because they always appear to be wrong or majorly lacking in context.

In FY 1980 Amtrak incurred total expenses of $1.1 billion, yet the actual cost of direct operating expenses (moving the trains over the tracks-labor, fuel, expendables, etc.) was only $272 million, or about 25 percent of the total. Indirect expenses (stations, yards, shops, maintenance of locomotives, cars, and the small amount of track owned by the corporation) totaled $644 million, or 56 percent of expenses. Revenues generated from ticket sales, food and beverage sales, and the movement of mail and express in the year ending September 30, 1980, totaled just over $410 million. On a direct-cost basis Amtrak’s trains earned more than the cost to operate them by some $127 million. The high infrastructure costs are clearly a major problem and reflect serious diseconomies of scale.
According to the annual report:

Train operations cost $306 million while onboard services cost another $115 million. Honestly not sure how he gets $644 million for the indirect costs and I'd put MoE more in the realm of direct costs; maintenance should be pretty much directly proportional to car/train-miles. It's interesting that he simply doesn't include OBS at all. Finally, operating revenue was $428.7 million, not $410 million.
These reasons, among others.
 

TVRM610

Conductor
Joined
Apr 30, 2007
Messages
1,664
... If you've heard that a lot of money is being wasted on routes

with very few trains, you may need to change your radio dial. LOL.
Oh... any spending on rail is good in my view.

Thanks for the run down.... Glad that work is being done, will hope for the best in Virginia.

And Illinois is slowly but surely getting there.. and we have Michigan... and the Keystone... and Empire Service is getting work done too right?

I mean we are getting A LOT considering this is Amtrak in 2014.
Most of all, the next phase of upgrading the Wolverines route means

building a dedicated set of tracks for passenger trains "South of

the Lake" -- from Union Station to where the Amtrak-owned and

already upgraded tracks begin in Indiana. Seven Amtrak trains

each way (3 Wolverines, the Blue Water, the Pere Marquette,

the Capitol Ltd and the Lake Shore Ltd.) pass thru this horribly

congested segment where NS has lost control of its own schedules

as well as Amtrak's. But Michigan's DOT is working on the planning

for passenger-only tracks that would cut another 50 minutes or so

from the runs South of the Lake. Early estimates of the cost range

from $2.5 Billion to $3 Billion.

Back to the $3 Billion South of the Lake project. When it's

done, the Cardinal and Hoosier State would shift to this route

from Union Station to some point east of Gary, IN, before

turning south toward Indianapolis, saving half an hour or so

from the Cardinal LD train and the should-be Hoosier State

corridor trains.

In this dreamscape, South of the Lake would not be $3 Billion

for just 12 or 15 Michigan trains. It would serve 8 or 10 new

corridor trains to Cleveland and Pgh, and at least 3 new

Hoosier State corridor trains to Indy, or more if track

upgrades extend to Cincy. And 7 or 8 long distance trains

would benefit from this one stretch of investment as well.

Anyone looking for big bang for the buck investments in

passenger rail has to put the South of the Lake project high

on the list, probably as the Number One outside the NEC.
Wow. I feel late to the party but this is the first I've heard of this "South of the Lake" project and it sounds like a great thing. Chicago really could become a great rail hub. Yes this is exactly the type of upgrades that make sense, benefiting Michigan trains, Lake Shore, Capitol, Cardinal, future Hoosier State Corridor Trains (hopefully) AND future Cleveland Corridor Trains (hopefully) all at the same time. If you could REALLY cut down the trip times so drastically, and the equipment and funding were there... (I know now I'm starting to day dream) a 3 rivers and an extended Pennsylvanian could be possible too.
 
2
Top