Amtrak into Miami Airport Station

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VentureForth

Engineer
Joined
Jan 23, 2007
Messages
6,419
Location
West Melbourne, FL
OK. This has been touched on in various threads over the years, and honestly, I can't find the one most related to Amtrak in this category. So, moderators, if you want to combine this with an existing relevant thread, go for it.

I'm really perplexed why Amtrak hasn't had the engineering competence to move into the Miami Airport Station (which, it seems, by the way, to finally have an agreed upon name).

First, some train length data:

Typical Silver consist length with 4 Viewliners, 4 Amfleets and 2 ALC-42 engines = 826 feet
Extra Silver Star during Covid with 8 Viewliners, 6 Amfleets and 2 ALC-42 engines = 1,338 feet

The issues: Trains have to turn around. There is plenty of room for the Wye to be restored between 28th and River. There is about 1,665 feet from the stops to the Wye turnout. Effort required: Restore approximately 1,400' of track, install new turnout, redo crossing at 28th St.

Platform length include 790' covered and a total concrete platform length of 1,020 feet. Fine for current typical current fleet. However, it can't accommodate longer trains and perhaps not even a single Private car. Effort required to accommodate a Covid fleet train: Increase platform across 28th St on East set of tracks up to 1,400 feet. This should be enough to spot the train to where it can straddle 28th street. Install two turn outs to connect track 3 to the Wye.

Not saying it's going to be cheap, but what other physical obstructions are there to complete this route to the airport (And why was none of this thought of when they built Miami Airport Station)?
 
Not saying it's going to be cheap, but what other physical obstructions are there to complete this route to the airport (And why was none of this thought of when they built Miami Airport Station)?
The plan at Miami Airport Station has been modified several times. The original station plan was for long trains it was modified when Amtrak chooses not to service it. There is extra space designed for more tracks and an another platform. So the resistance of not have a full ADA platform is null, but who get to pay for is still there.
Amtrak continues to fight tooth and nail to moving to the airport.
There is no real reason not to service the airport station. There is a massive amount of resistance to service the airport station.

🟣Turn the equipment or back to the maintenance yard? Safety First.

🟣Pay for the crews normally end at the final station.

🟣The station want to charge rent for its usage. Additional cost.

🟣Crew district and hours of service issue. Qualified crews. Union rules.

Resistance comes in many forms and have to be addressed even when it superficially.
 
One thing I cannot understand is what exactly is the argument against simply sending a switching engine behind an arriving train to hook on and drag the consist plus road locos back to Hialeah. Similarly, have a switching engine drag the consists and road locos to the station for departure, and simply follow the departed train back to Hialeah Yard. Yes it takes an additional crew but it can be started almost instantly, instead of bickering on and on about Wye and what not for another decade or two.

At many huge terminal stations in the world it is standard practice to have a switcher pull the consist in or take it back to the yard, while the road power simply takes a free ride at the other end of the consist to/from the yard. For example at Howrah Station in Kolkata which has more traffic than any station in the US, this is standard practice, and actually two separate yards are involved, one (Eastern Railway Tikiapara Coaching Yard) 2 miles away and the other (South Eastern Railway Shantragacchi Coaching Yard) 5 miles away. The distance between Miami Airport Station and Hialeah Yard is all of 2 miles.
 
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One thing I cannot understand is what exactly is the argument against simply sending a switching engine behind an arriving train to hook on and drag the consist plus road locos back to Hialeah. Similarly, have a switching engine drag the consists and road locos to the station for departure, and simply follow the departed train back to Hialeah Yard. Yes it takes an additional crew but it can be started almost instantly, instead of bickering on and on about Wye and what not for another decade or two.

At many huge terminal stations in the world it is standard practice to have a switcher pull the consist in or take it back to the yard, while the road power simply takes a free ride at the other end of the consist to/from the yard. For example at Howrah Station in Kolkata which has more traffic than any station in the US, this is standard practice, and actually two separate yards are involved, one (Eastern Railway Tikiapara Coaching Yard) 2 miles away and the other (South Eastern Railway Shantragacchi Coaching Yard) 5 miles away. The distance between Miami Airport Station and Hialeah Yard is all of 2 miles.
As for Amtrak, the switcher engine is without doubt the most common sense idea, but who knows why Amtrak won't jump on that. Seems a very simple solution.
 
One thing I cannot understand is what exactly is the argument against simply sending a switching engine behind an arriving train to hook on and drag the consist plus road locos back to Hialeah. Similarly, have a switching engine drag the consists and road locos to the station for departure, and simply follow the departed train back to Hialeah Yard. Yes it takes an additional crew but it can be started almost instantly, instead of bickering on and on about Wye and what not for another decade or two.

At many huge terminal stations in the world it is standard practice to have a switcher pull the consist in or take it back to the yard, while the road power simply takes a free ride at the other end of the consist to/from the yard. For example at Howrah Station in Kolkata which has more traffic than any station in the US, this is standard practice, and actually two separate yards are involved, one (Eastern Railway Tikiapara Coaching Yard) 2 miles away and the other (South Eastern Railway Shantragacchi Coaching Yard) 5 miles away. The distance between Miami Airport Station and Hialeah Yard is all of 2 miles.
It's 3.5 mi between the existing station and MIC, with 11 grade crossings if I counted correctly.

Does Amtrak currently have a yard crew on duty at arrival & departure times for both trains, including typical delays? I expect FDOT would want them to get arriving trains out of MIC posthaste to open up the road. Wouldn't a backup move be cheaper, needing neither additional equipment nor crew?
 
It's 3.5 mi between the existing station and MIC, with 11 grade crossings if I counted correctly.

Does Amtrak currently have a yard crew on duty at arrival & departure times for both trains, including typical delays? I expect FDOT would want them to get arriving trains out of MIC posthaste to open up the road. Wouldn't a backup move be cheaper, needing neither additional equipment nor crew?
There is a well known technique for getting additional crew in place if necessary. It won't break the bank of a 4+ Billion dollar company ($2.8 Billion revenue plus over $1.4 Billion subsidy) to get the necessary crew and equipment in place.

I can understand the reluctance to backup across 11 grade crossing on a main line that is used by a commuter service. For only marginal additional time they could hook up the switcher at Hialeah on the way to MIC. No HEP connection is needed. Just couple and brake test. In the rest of the world such a thing takes five minutes. It is possible that in Amtrak-land they will figure out a way to take 20 mins though.

BTW, why would FDOT care about what Amtrak does on a platform track that is for exclusive use of Amtrak?
 
I do recall CSX provides the switch engine for the Amtrak yard. I do believe that Gunn killed that idea. Now the yard will use the road power to switch equipment around. This change occurs during the Gunn administration, so I have no clue what is the current situation. I would think adding the responsibility of pulling and spot of equipment might require additional personnel to cover the arrival and departure times.
 
Is it even remotely possible that Amtrak could come into Brightline's downtown station? Not if Brightline would let them, or even if Amtrak would want to...just wondering if there would be room for their trains there or close to it?
 
BTW, why would FDOT care about what Amtrak does on a platform track that is for exclusive use of Amtrak?
Maybe because Tri-Rail also uses the station, and depending on the final configuration, perhaps Tri-Rail and Amtrak could switch platforms. They both use the same height platform, iirc...
 
Is it even remotely possible that Amtrak could come into Brightline's downtown station? Not if Brightline would let them, or even if Amtrak would want to...just wondering if there would be room for their trains there or close to it?
Probably not. Regardless of whether Brightline would allow Amtrak into MiamiCentral the same problems exist going there as to the airport, except bigger. There is no way to turn a train around and the backup moves would be around 10 miles vice the 2 or 3 from the airport.

Maybe because Tri-Rail also uses the station, and depending on the final configuration, perhaps Tri-Rail and Amtrak could switch platforms. They both use the same height platform, iirc...
Why would they need to switch platforms? Tri-Rail has only ever had 2 tracks and 1 platform at that location since the first station opened there in the mid-90’s.
 
The plan at Miami Airport Station has been modified several times. The original station plan was for long trains it was modified when Amtrak chooses not to service it. There is extra space designed for more tracks and an another platform. So the resistance of not have a full ADA platform is null, but who get to pay for is still there.
Amtrak continues to fight tooth and nail to moving to the airport.
There is no real reason not to service the airport station. There is a massive amount of resistance to service the airport station.

🟣Turn the equipment or back to the maintenance yard? Safety First.

🟣Pay for the crews normally end at the final station.

🟣The station want to charge rent for its usage. Additional cost.

🟣Crew district and hours of service issue. Qualified crews. Union rules.

Resistance comes in many forms and have to be addressed even when it superficially.

All of this should have been resolved back in 2016 when the construction was finished*. IDK why Amtrak couldn't work with their Unions to figure this out. For crying out loud, it's 4 miles to the Hialeah station, which I'm sure they would convert into a heckuva nice crew station. Shoot - they could turn it into crew dorms.

*finished the first time before other issues like platform clearance and other stupid mistakes were found and subsequently corrected - long, long ago.
 
Back in 2016 Amtrak did not want to use the Airport Terminal. They made the decision (before 2016) and the Airport station was redesigned to just handle the local trains.

Welcome to Amtrak.

Wonder how much money it would take for Amtrak to relocate to the Airport. That has not been reported. I am sure a price has been given, just not reported.
 

I can understand the reluctance to backup across 11 grade crossing on a main line that is used by a commuter service. For only marginal additional time they could hook up the switcher at Hialeah on the way to MIC. No HEP connection is needed. Just couple and brake test. In the rest of the world such a thing takes five minutes. It is possible that in Amtrak-land they will figure out a way to take 20 mins though.

BTW, why would FDOT care about what Amtrak does on a platform track that is for exclusive use of Amtrak?

-Brief history. During SAL times into MIA and especially when ACL trains started using the SAL route this happened. Arrival at the SAL station a SAL GP- would switch out the needed mail & express cars then pull the remaining consist + locos back to the Hialeah yard. Switcher then pulled the next departure's train to the SAL station disconnected and helped make up train with front end cars. Track was 2 MT CTC except FEC crossing. That was so when another arrival had to pass outbound train to yard or NYP.

IMO the wye needs restoring. However, mostly use that leg to store a switcher there after pulling 2nd originator to station. Then it pulls first arrival back to yard and is connected to rear of second arrival at the yard so it can pull that consist back to Hialeah.

For those times a switcher is not available all inbound trains to the airport station should go loco leading into wye. That is so there is no chance for idiot motorists do not run into the rear of the train. 4 movements a day is going to block Lajune Rd and the exit / entrance ramps for the east west toll way which the loco has more horn noise. Then consists can back up into the airport station.

The reason I oppose the backup moves from the yard is in the past riding Tri Rail more often than not one or more crossing gates would not go down until Tri Rail was in the island circuit of a crossing gate. Asked a conductor about it and he said they were often wonky ( not his words ) especially rainstorms. Has that been corrected have no idea?
 
Back in 2016 Amtrak did not want to use the Airport Terminal. They made the decision (before 2016) and the Airport station was redesigned to just handle the local trains.

Welcome to Amtrak.

Wonder how much money it would take for Amtrak to relocate to the Airport. That has not been reported. I am sure a price has been given, just not reported.
I don’t think that’s quite right. I believe Amtrak and FDOT failed to communicate regarding platform length so FDOT built platforms they felt were an appropriate length. After the station was complete Amtrak told FDOT the platforms were too short to accommodate the longer trains they sometimes run during the peak season. These longer trains would also foul a level crossing the entire time they were in the station. FDOT said fine and built a road bypass around the level crossing that would be blocked. Then Amtrak came up with a million other reasons they can’t serve the Airport. Ultimately I believe Amtrak’s refusal to move comes down to money. They will have the added expense of rent and whatever it costs to move the trains the extra distance. Unfortunately this seems to override the convenience passengers would gain from the additional transit and car rental options.
 
This is kind of a baffling situation. While on the one had one could conclude Amtrak does not, and has never, had any intention of moving for whatever cost related reasons, this was also 100% dead for a number of years and supposedly was only revived when Amtrak supposedly approached the state sometimes in the 2021-2022 timeframe. So if they had absolutely no interest why even bring it up. None of us will probably ever know the full story, even if it does eventually get done.
 
I'd also point out that if Amtrak ended up short a crew, they could always work out some sort of deal with Tri-Rail. I'm pretty sure that between the two of them they could get someone off the extra board on a regular basis if absolutely necessary.
 
It is also a possibility that Amtrak does still intend to eventually do it as they claim. A snail’s pace is a sprint compared to how fast Amtrak sometimes executes these sorts of things. At my local station Springfield Mass the restored historic Union Station opened in 2017 but it took Amtrak two years to move out of their track side Amshack station and actually officially start operating out of the new facility - and that didn’t even affect train operations it was just moving the ticket office and closing the old waiting room - passengers actually had to walk through the new station to access Amtrak’s. It was never clear why that simple move took so long and some of the same questions started being asked here among rail advocates if it was related to taking on costs etc. While the change in train operations makes the Miami situation a bit different what is similar to the situation I observed is that it’s a station facility designed and built by a different agency so there’s legal agreements that have to be worked through and the facility has to meet Amtrak’s ADA requirements and it would probably amaze anyone how these things can get tied up once the legal departments at these public sector agencies get their hands on it. FRA also can get involved in anything involved with Amtrak which can also further slow things down if they have concerns about safety and ADA - do not know if that’s the case here but it can happen and I could see them raising concerns about a backup move involving so many at grade crossings.
 
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I would have thought that if I were to design a new station, I would be getting the ADA folks, workplace safety folks etc etc involved during the design phase so that their final approval should be quick to achieve and won't involve long lists of modifications.
 
I would have thought that if I were to design a new station, I would be getting the ADA folks, workplace safety folks etc etc involved during the design phase so that their final approval should be quick to achieve and won't involve long lists of modifications.
And if I was building an airside APM for the expensive air terminal one of the big three legacy carriers needs, I’d use concrete that lasts more than 20y, but neither of us work for Miami-Dade. There’s a lot of rank incompetence in government here.
 
I think Amtrak has a lot of faults, but in this case it could be that they just don't want to be held hostage by a corrupt local government that can't get its act together, and is constantly moving goalposts because of their own dumb mistakes and incompetence. I know we're talking about the MIC here, where Amtrak comes in, but it's all one connected mess.

I worked for a major airline at MIA for years, and watched the MIC being built. Delays and scandals, construction problems. Hell, even now, the people mover train in the north terminal at MIA (huge American Airlines operation) is broken and they can't figure out how to fix it. Major cracks in the structure. For something that was just built a few years ago. Phffffft.

https://www.axios.com/local/miami/2024/01/19/mia-skytrain-repair-update-airport
Y'all haven't lived until you've experienced corruption and graft with a latino flavor. And in recent years they don't care how blatant they are about it. Cost overruns galore, almost everywhere you look at any project in Miami or south Florida, period. Gotta make sure you hire your wife's- cousin's- husband for something or you may not get approvals. There's any number of articles that can be googled and read, so it's not a secret. It's just the Latin culture....very prevalent anywhere you go in south/central America, it's considered a normal part of doing business there -you want something, you have to 'gimme some sugar.'

And, by the way, I'm Latino. I don't approve, but I know how my people are.


https://www.oig.dot.gov/library-item/31852
 
I think Amtrak has a lot of faults, but in this case it could be that they just don't want to be held hostage by a corrupt local government that can't get its act together, and is constantly moving goalposts because of their own dumb mistakes and incompetence. I know we're talking about the MIC here, where Amtrak comes in, but it's all one connected mess.

I worked for a major airline at MIA for years, and watched the MIC being built. Delays and scandals, construction problems. Hell, even now, the people mover train in the north terminal at MIA (huge American Airlines operation) is broken and they can't figure out how to fix it. Major cracks in the structure. For something that was just built a few years ago. Phffffft.

https://www.axios.com/local/miami/2024/01/19/mia-skytrain-repair-update-airport
Y'all haven't lived until you've experienced corruption and graft with a latino flavor. And in recent years they don't care how blatant they are about it. Cost overruns galore, almost everywhere you look at any project in Miami or south Florida, period. Gotta make sure you hire your wife's- cousin's- husband for something or you may not get approvals. There's any number of articles that can be googled and read, so it's not a secret. It's just the Latin culture....very prevalent anywhere you go in south/central America, it's considered a normal part of doing business there -you want something, you have to 'gimme some sugar.'

And, by the way, I'm Latino. I don't approve, but I know how my people are.


https://www.oig.dot.gov/library-item/31852

I agree that corruption is rampant in South Florida, but so is incompetence at Amtrak. Regardless of what entity Amtrak would be getting into bed with the move would be worthwhile for virtually everyone. The current Amtrak station is out of the way, has no transit connections save for a single bus route, and in general has nothing to offer arriving passengers in the way of amenities.
 
I agree that corruption is rampant in South Florida, but so is incompetence at Amtrak. Regardless of what entity Amtrak would be getting into bed with the move would be worthwhile for virtually everyone. The current Amtrak station is out of the way, has no transit connections save for a single bus route, and in general has nothing to offer arriving passengers in the way of amenities.
I agree. It usually takes two hands to clap in these and one of the hands is Amtrak. While FDOT was certainly bungling along on its own, it is not as if Amtrak did not know what the FDOT was upto and they chose to sit it out instead of intervening. The Amtrak management at that time seemed to be keen on kiboshing any possibility of moving to the Airport station without having any of it being blamed on them. The usual argument so common from Amtrak was that it would cost us more, customer convenience be damned. This I know from various conversations back then.

So I would not give Amtrak a free pass on this. They could have intervened and got things fixed. As usual they woke up after getting a swift kick or two from Congress making their passivity impossible to sustain, and meanwhile the hostile management departed with the wholesale departure of the old guards, and replacement by a lot even worse. Notice that this re-engagement has happened only after the Anderson crazies departed and were replaced by the Gardner gang.

We are basically doing a replay of what Amtrak tried to do to convince everyone that they should not move to the Moynihan Terminal in New York for years until they changed their mind and fully engaged under political pressure. Took several years to get them there. As usual their argument was that it would cost them more to use Moynihan than to stay put in the rabbit's warren, customers be damned.
 
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As usual their argument was that it would cost them more to use Moynihan than to stay put in the rabbit's warren, customers be damned.
jis: Excellent point. Would add it has to do everything with costs at both NYP and MIA among other locations. Never does Amtrak look at the increase in revenue v. extra costs. How many more riders would go on Amtrak to the MIA airport station to avoid all the various connections even using Brightline? IMO out of country visitors needing to get plane out of country. However, Amtrak does need a much earlier arrival train maybe an extension of Palmetto back to MIA?
 
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