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Amtrak’s own numbers show LD trains holding their own

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Amtrakfflyer

Lead Service Attendant
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Interesting stats in this article.




Even RPA genuinely seemed to get it finally on their last hotline. Saying something to the effect Amtrak could care less about about sleeper travel revenue, refusing to add one sleeper-car/attendant when they could easily fill it at an average of $800 per 20 rooms per one way trip. $8000-15000 or more revenue per one way western trip lost. The shortened trains now have one sleeper and no dorm.


Amtrak's August monthly performance report show its overall ridership is down 45% compared to 2019's pre-COVID levels, falling from 29.3 million riders to 16.2 million riders.“

Amtrak's business remains at about 25% of pre-COVID levels and based on its current forecast, it anticipates ridership and revenue "to improve to about 40% of pre-COVID levels, which is weaker than anticipated."
 
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Joined
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I don't see the light at the other end of tunnel unless Amtrak operation is privatized and government take ownership to maintain station and tracks the same way airport and highway treated. Since 1971 when Amtrak was founded, this socialism approach of operation was deemed to be doomed
 

crescent-zephyr

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I don't see the light at the other end of tunnel unless Amtrak operation is privatized and government take ownership to maintain station and tracks the same way airport and highway treated. Since 1971 when Amtrak was founded, this socialism approach of operation was deemed to be doomed
Wouldn’t the government owning the stations and tracks be more socialist?
 

Devil's Advocate

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Wouldn’t the government owning the stations and tracks be more socialist?
Not to mention that nothing is stopping a private business from competing with Amtrak today. If privatized operations made any sense they'd already be mopping the floor with Amtrak's "every few days" passenger rail service.
 

AmtrakFlyer

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It’s 100 percent on the shoulders of Amtrak management. We can make excuses such as freight delays, broken equipment, barebones budget (but at the same time the best grants Amtrak has ever received), covid, etc. Management gets an F for all of those factors in my opinion. Managements job is to deal with and mitigate internal and external happenings. They have only made matters worse on all fronts but that was their plan all along.

Competent, well intentioned management should be able to right the boat if given the chance in the next 6 months or so. After that all bets are off:(
 

Devil's Advocate

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Well, except for the host railroads saying "Nope, you can't operate your trains on our tracks."
If there was money to be made in private passenger service the freight railroads would probably be the first ones doing it. Nothing is stopping them from running their own passenger trains or creating a new division with Amtrak style pricing today. The fact that this has never happened is not proof that it can never work but it is a compelling argument for why fans of privatization need a rational explanation for why today is somehow different than the last half century.
 
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railiner

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Wasn’t there a provision in the original Amtrak act, that gave Amtrak exclusive rights to operate passenger service (except commuter), over any “member” railroad?
I’m not sure about that, as there have been several excursion’s not involving Amtrak...🤔
 

Anthony V

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Passenger trains NEVER made money on fare revenue alone, even in the days of private passenger trains. Private railroads operating passenger service at the time did it because it was part of their common carrier obligations. They used freight revenues and US Postal Service contracts to "subsidize" passenger losses. By 1971, the mail contracts had ended, and freight revenue was significantly down, taking away the "subsidies" these railroads used to make money while still offering passenger service. With freight revenues up after deregulation in 1980, potential future legislation could require private railroads to run passenger service once again as part of their common carrier obligations (with a provision returning some mail transport to passenger rail attached, like what Amtrak attempted in the early 2000s) could be enacted. If such legislation ever becomes reality, private railroads may be able to run passenger trains without losing money again.
 

railiner

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potential future legislation could require private railroads to run passenger service once again as part of their common carrier obligations (with a provision returning some mail transport to passenger rail attached, like what Amtrak attempted in the early 2000s) could be enacted. If such legislation ever becomes reality,
Rest assured, that will not happen.😉
 

Devil's Advocate

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Wasn’t there a provision in the original Amtrak act, that gave Amtrak exclusive rights to operate passenger service (except commuter), over any “member” railroad? I’m not sure about that, as there have been several excursion’s not involving Amtrak...🤔
To the best of my knowledge it's a nonexclusive right. Freight railroads are obliged to allow Amtrak on established routes but this does not preclude them from offering new passenger service or negotiating new third party service on their tracks. They could probably get into trouble for establishing service that mirrors or otherwise interferes with active Amtrak service but the network is so limited and skeletal that it should be possible to avoid obvious problems.
 
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crescent-zephyr

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Wasn’t there a provision in the original Amtrak act, that gave Amtrak exclusive rights to operate passenger service (except commuter), over any “member” railroad?
I’m not sure about that, as there have been several excursion’s not involving Amtrak...🤔
Auto Train was able to operate.
 

Willbridge

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One of the other barriers to privatization is that state legislation may still be on the books waiting for the chance to complicate marketing, operations, taxation, etc. I have posted previously regarding riding the Mainstreeter from Paradise to Spokane and the agony suffered by some serious beer drinkers going through three different sets of liquor regulations. In the early years of Amtrak the Texas Eagle was flagged down in an Oklahoma county where there was no station so the sheriff could arrest the conductor and lounge attendant for selling liquor in a dry county (in an election year).

It costs money to deal with this kind of stuff. Having the state governments as partners gives states a reason to look carefully at what they impose.
 

sttom

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I actually just skimmed the Amtrak Act and it actually excluded them from running "auto ferry" services along with commuter services. I'm not sure when that was undone, probably when the Auto Train flopped. But private operators are generally excluded from running the same routes as Amtrak, unless something changes in subsequent legislation.
 

railiner

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To the best of my knowledge it's a nonexclusive right. Freight railroads have to allow Amtrak on established routes but doing so does not preclude them from offering new passenger service or negotiating with someone else to operate new service on their tracks. They could probably get into trouble for establishing service that mirrors or interferes with active Amtrak service but the network is so limited and skeletal that it should be easy to avoid obvious problems.
I thought that the rules about that changed when Amtrak laws were reorganized some time back..
 

neroden

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Passenger trains NEVER made money on fare revenue alone, even in the days of private passenger trains.
I used to think this, but it's not technically true.

Passenger trains reliably made money on fare revenue alone during the early years, 1828 through 1895 or so.

It became impossible for passenger trains to make money on fare revenue alone when two things happened:
(1) Motorcars were introduced
(2) Paved roads were subsidized heavily by all levels of government, starting in the 1890s and becoming a huge flood of funding in the 1920s. It got much more extreme in the 1950s.

Competing with horse-drawn carriages was easy. Passenger trains made lots of money.

Even with motorcars being sold by Ford and others, passenger trains made money as long as the motorcars had to drive on pitted dirt roads across the country.

Once the taxpayers started subsidizing lavishly paved rural highways, *that* is when it became impossible for passenger trains to make money on fare revenues alone.

This gives some perspective. Anthony's description is accurate for the post-1920 situation for passenger trains.

So my position has always been: give the passenger trains the same amount of government funding we give the roads. One calculation from 2007 said that $146 billion was spent by federal, state, and local government on roads THAT YEAR. So I'm comfortable with $146 billion in funding per year. Currently passenger trains of all sorts get much less than that.
 

neroden

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Interesting stats in this article.




Even RPA genuinely seemed to get it finally on their last hotline. Saying something to the effect Amtrak could care less about about sleeper travel revenue, refusing to add one sleeper-car/attendant when they could easily fill it at an average of $800 per 20 rooms per one way trip. $8000-15000 or more revenue per one way western trip lost. The shortened trains now have one sleeper and no dorm.
RPA gets it. Amtrak management is basically committing sabotage of their own business. Which is illegal -- they're supposed to run it in a businesslike manner.

We have to get this message through to Congress though, so that Congress can mandate a reorganization of Amtrak to make it actually do what it's supposed to according to Congressional mandate. It's funny: for decades we were dealing with a resistant car-obsessed public and a recalcitrant Congress (and in the Republican Senate leadership, we still are), but now the public is on our side, most of Congress is (certainly the parts which represent the people), and it's moles in Amtrak management causing the problems.
 

ShiningTimeStL

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RPA gets it. Amtrak management is basically committing sabotage of their own business. Which is illegal -- they're supposed to run it in a businesslike manner.

We have to get this message through to Congress though, so that Congress can mandate a reorganization of Amtrak to make it actually do what it's supposed to according to Congressional mandate. It's funny: for decades we were dealing with a resistant car-obsessed public and a recalcitrant Congress (and in the Republican Senate leadership, we still are), but now the public is on our side, most of Congress is (certainly the parts which represent the people), and it's moles in Amtrak management causing the problems.
Finally, someone else says what I've been saying all year. Now we have to get RPA to take a more aggressive stance.
 

neroden

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Finally, someone else says what I've been saying all year. Now we have to get RPA to take a more aggressive stance.
Take a look at this:


Some selections:

"To put it directly and bluntly: despite the bi-partisan support Amtrak has received from this Committee and its members, Amtrak today faces a crisis to its very existence – a crisis imposed by the continuing coronavirus pandemic and its knock-off effects on travel and the larger economy, but made worse by decisions at Amtrak itself."

"Trains magazine recently reported that Amtrak is experiencing near-capacity or sellout ridership on long-distance trains as it begins its shift to triweekly operation, but even with sell-outs extending for many weeks and travelers clamoring for socially-distanced travel options like Amtrak Sleepers, Amtrak won’t add capacity. Management is choosing instead to forego badly needed revenue."

"We understand that Amtrak leadership sincerely believes that this is the only choice available to the railroad. But the facts we’ve just outlined demonstrate that this choice is bad public policy for the country. Amtrak will throw away a little more than half the daily frequencies but will lose two-thirds of the ridership and save only 38 percent of the crew costs, squeezing out at most $213 million of savings while hurting the taxpayers in 30 states to the tune of as much as $3 billion."

-- that last one pretty much accuses Amtrak management of being complete incompetent idiots, FYI, in Congressional-statement-speak. I think RPA is being pretty aggressive.

I recommend writing & calling both your Senators, AND the people running to replace your Senators if it's a competitive race.
 

Mailliw

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Jun 14, 2020
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Northeast PA
Ah, the good old days when the train would make occasional longish stops so that the passengers could get out, find an eatery, and have a good meal.
It was all scarring down rancid food at water stops until Fred Harvey came along. Dining cars were an even bigger improvement.
Train ridership on overnight sleepers is up in Europe because of global warming concerns.
We need more overnight runs between city pairs, but that requires more sleepers and some kind of intermediate product in between a coach seat and a private sleeper compartment.
 
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