Amtrak - N.Y. Times article

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AmtrakWPK

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Travelers Shift to Rail as Cost of Fuel Rises
link: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/21/business/21amtrak.html

excerpt:

But the railroad, and its suppliers, have shrunk so much, largely because of financial constraints, that they would have difficulty growing quickly to meet the demand.
Many of the long-distance trains are already sold out for some days this summer. Want to take Amtrak’s daily Crescent train from New York to New Orleans? It is sold out on July 5, 6, 7 and 8. Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, on July 5? The train is sold out, but Amtrak will sell you a bus ticket.
 
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Many of the long-distance trains are already sold out for some days this summer. Want to take Amtrak’s daily Crescent train from New York to New Orleans? It is sold out on July 5, 6, 7 and 8. Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, on July 5? The train is sold out, but Amtrak will sell you a bus ticket.
Did they happen to mention that 200,000 people are expected in New Orleans that weekend for the "Essence Music Festival, the party with a purpose". [it] is the super festival that celebrates African-American music and culture! The festival attracts nearly 200,000 of the best-dressed, fun-loving, ...." (courtesy of Times Picayune)
 

Rail Freak

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Travelers Shift to Rail as Cost of Fuel Rises
link: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/21/business/21amtrak.html

excerpt:

But the railroad, and its suppliers, have shrunk so much, largely because of financial constraints, that they would have difficulty growing quickly to meet the demand.
Many of the long-distance trains are already sold out for some days this summer. Want to take Amtrak’s daily Crescent train from New York to New Orleans? It is sold out on July 5, 6, 7 and 8.
Darn It All!!!

:angry:

If the Sunset was running, it sure would be a lot easier (cheaper)!!!
 

AmtrakWPK

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Amen to that. Wendy and I did that one year, too, when it was still running thru to ORL, using Florida Railpasses to get as far as Pensacola, and buying railsale tickets for the Pensacola-NOL-Pensacola portion. Wonderful trip. And the NOL station is within walking distance of the French Quarter. Dropped us at NOL in mid-morning and picked us up for Eastbound late that same night. Didn't need a car or a hotel room.

grrrrrrrr.... :angry: :angry:
 

PaulLev

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Instructive article.

One of the points that especially caught my attention was at the very end - that McCain wants to do away with Amtrak (and go for privatizing), while Obama is doing all he can to support Amtrak. I looked into this a little further, and posted a piece about it on my blog - McCain Inane on Trains, Barack Backs Amtrak
 
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Green Maned Lion

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I don't like McCane and support Obama, so don't dismiss me as a right-wing nut, but I wish to point out that Clinton "supported" Amtrak. His mismanagement of it almost killed it.
 

meatpuff

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Many of the long-distance trains are already sold out for some days this summer. Want to take Amtrak’s daily Crescent train from New York to New Orleans? It is sold out on July 5, 6, 7 and 8. Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, on July 5? The train is sold out, but Amtrak will sell you a bus ticket.
Did they happen to mention that 200,000 people are expected in New Orleans that weekend for the "Essence Music Festival, the party with a purpose". [it] is the super festival that celebrates African-American music and culture! The festival attracts nearly 200,000 of the best-dressed, fun-loving, ...." (courtesy of Times Picayune)
No doubt this is a factor for these dates. But, though I have never been, my impression from reading about New Orleans is that there is a major festival or parade nearly EVERY weekend there. Some larger than others of course, but I think this one might not even make the top 5 (of annual festivals by prominence).
 

frj1983

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Instructive article.
One of the points that especially caught my attention was at the very end - that McCain wants to do away with Amtrak (and go for privatizing), while Obama is doing all he can to support Amtrak. I looked into this a little further, and posted a piece about it on my blog - McCain Inane on Trains, Barack Back's Amtrak
Oh yeah,

All those private companies are going to coming flying out of the woodwork and trip all over themselves to make money running passenger trains!!!!! :D
 

PaulLev

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Instructive article.
One of the points that especially caught my attention was at the very end - that McCain wants to do away with Amtrak (and go for privatizing), while Obama is doing all he can to support Amtrak. I looked into this a little further, and posted a piece about it on my blog - McCain Inane on Trains, Barack Back's Amtrak
Oh yeah,

All those private companies are going to coming flying out of the woodwork and trip all over themselves to make money running passenger trains!!!!! :D
Exactly. :rolleyes:
 

wayman

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All those private companies are going to coming flying out of the woodwork and trip all over themselves to make money running passenger trains!!!!! :D
I'm sure UP, BNSF, CSX, and NS will be delighted to negotiate deals with multiple passenger railroad companies, and that they'll be entirely willing to allow more passenger trains to run on their rails on whatever schedule those companies want, too!

Or are we assuming these private companies will be making so much money that they'll be purchasing their own rights of way and laying their own track, etc?

Is it that the politicians like McCain are merely clueless about the economics of passenger rail and don't hire clueful advisors, or is it that the airlines, Big Oil, and Detroit "encourage" the politicians to not do the really basic math here? Or is it something else?
 

PaulLev

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Is it that the politicians like McCain are merely clueless about the economics of passenger rail and don't hire clueful advisors, or is it that the airlines, Big Oil, and Detroit "encourage" the politicians to not do the really basic math here? Or is it something else?
It's that Big Oil, the airlines, and Detroit still write the scripts for the Republicans, including relative mavericks like McCain. That, and I would bet he hasn't traveled much on Amtrak.
 

blueman271

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Is it that the politicians like McCain are merely clueless about the economics of passenger rail and don't hire clueful advisors, or is it that the airlines, Big Oil, and Detroit "encourage" the politicians to not do the really basic math here? Or is it something else?
It's that Big Oil, the airlines, and Detroit still write the scripts for the Republicans, including relative mavericks like McCain. That, and I would bet he hasn't traveled much on Amtrak.
For all the bashing that goes on about Republicans and their plan to privitize rail travel let us not forget that it was Clinton who appointed Warrington as Amtrak president and it was Warrington who came up with the whole "break even-self sustaining" plan.
 

PaulLev

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For all the bashing that goes on about Republicans and their plan to privitize rail travel let us not forget that it was Clinton who appointed Warrington as Amtrak president and it was Warrington who came up with the whole "break even-self sustaining" plan.
I agree about Bill Clinton. But that doesn't excuse McCain's policy of putting Amtrak out of business.
 

frj1983

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Basic History here:

Passenger Trains from late 1800's until 1971 are run by private companies.

-Private companies want to get out of the Passenger business because they are losing huge amounts of money.

Amtrak is formed to help them do just that and begins in 1971 with government help.

(while I realize this is a simplistic painting of a complicated history...I think it makes the major point)

Except for the current private railroad companies, who is out there that would want to run a passenger train company? The current one doesn't make money and what capitalist in his/her right mind doesn't want to make money. Now what is so hard about this point for this who scream "Privitization" to understand?? I note that Mica(R-FL) consistantly states that he knows of at least one or two companies who would do it...but I don't think he's ever named them....methinks it's just wishful thinking on his part.

Nor am I saying that the private railroads would want to do it either!
 
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AlanB

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Is it that the politicians like McCain are merely clueless about the economics of passenger rail and don't hire clueful advisors, or is it that the airlines, Big Oil, and Detroit "encourage" the politicians to not do the really basic math here? Or is it something else?
It's that Big Oil, the airlines, and Detroit still write the scripts for the Republicans, including relative mavericks like McCain. That, and I would bet he hasn't traveled much on Amtrak.
For all the bashing that goes on about Republicans and their plan to privitize rail travel let us not forget that it was Clinton who appointed Warrington as Amtrak president and it was Warrington who came up with the whole "break even-self sustaining" plan.
While the plan that Amtrak followed was Warrington's, it was Congress that forced him to come up with that plan. IMHO Warrington's biggest fault was continuing to insist that the plan was working when even those who didn't really follow Amtrak could see that it wasn't working. His "Glidepath" to covering operating costs. But again, he didn't suggest that plan to Congress, they forced him into creating that flawed plan. He should have been a bit more like David Gunn and stood his ground saying "there is no way to do what you want"
 

wayman

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Except for the current private railroad companies, who is out there that would want to run a passenger train company?
Didn't Richard Branson think he could run a private passenger train company (in Britain, when they privatized their national passenger rail), along with a number of other companies? Maybe there are some train enthusiasts amongst the Microsoft billionaires (the way Paul Allen has become such a space travel proponent and supporter)?

Of course, every British passenger I've met on Amtrak in the past year I've asked about how that's going, and they say "oh, it's a complete disaster, for passengers and for the companies". Not exactly promising. Given that there's a perfectly good example of exactly what the American privatize-Amtrak politicians are proposing, demonstrating how it plays out over several years... you'd think this would get cited in arguments more. But I haven't seen anyone--on either side of the American privatization argument--making much mention of Britain (claiming either "look, they did it, and companies did start up railroads!" or "look, it's failing!").

Then again, it's not completely analagous: Britain privatized *everything*, so the new companies were running both freight and passenger. And Britain kept the infrastructure--track and signals--completely separate (and still state-owned?) from the train operations (private companies). So these new companies can do what the original American railroads did, and take passenger rail as a loss-leader and freight as their revenue-generator. Any new American passenger companies couldn't do that, and couldn't be guaranteed free-use-of-track (or at least simpler negotiation for use of track).
 
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Green Maned Lion

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It is potentially possible to operate rail for profit, but not as a mode of transportation for the ordinary person. I don't know how inflated AOE's prices are, but I do know they aren't on financially stable ground. Strasburg, for instance, turns a profit. But they charge between $12 and $49 to ferry people over 7 miles of track. Extrapolate that to the price of a trip of 50 miles, and you're talking a ridiculous amount of money here.

Rail could turn a profit using the system we once used (freight-roads running it) if the freight roads assigned trains only their marginal costs. Also, they are practically printing money these days and could probably swallow the loss easily.

But the problem is that starting up a rail business from scratch along a new alignment... I mean, the costs are mind boggling. I doubt Bill Gates could finance a new BOS-NY-WAS service over all-new track.
 

George Harris

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Then again, it's not completely analagous: Britain privatized *everything*, so the new companies were running both freight and passenger. And Britain kept the infrastructure--track and signals--completely separate (and still state-owned?) from the train operations (private companies). So these new companies can do what the original American railroads did, and take passenger rail as a loss-leader and freight as their revenue-generator. Any new American passenger companies couldn't do that, and couldn't be guaranteed free-use-of-track (or at least simpler negotiation for use of track).
Actually, they privitized the infrastructure as well. It was a complete disaster led to multiple track related accidents, so they bought it back. According to several ex-BR people I know the main thing they accomplished was to lose all the "institutional memory" of the former BR track people who have either retired or left and are not coming back.

The passenger operations and freight operations are separate companies so there is no "loss-leader" situation. Long distance trains, such as are possible on that little island, charge high fares and do cover their costs but local services are subsidized. Remeber, gasoline prices are very high, roads for the most part are narrow and congested, even the "high speed" motorways. The freight operation has a difficult time because they are always behind the passenger trains in right to track access, and the BR clearance limits are very tight. Think single level containers are pushing the overhead clearance limit.
 

jackal

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It is potentially possible to operate rail for profit, but not as a mode of transportation for the ordinary person. I don't know how inflated AOE's prices are, but I do know they aren't on financially stable ground. Strasburg, for instance, turns a profit. But they charge between $12 and $49 to ferry people over 7 miles of track. Extrapolate that to the price of a trip of 50 miles, and you're talking a ridiculous amount of money here.
Rail could turn a profit using the system we once used (freight-roads running it) if the freight roads assigned trains only their marginal costs. Also, they are practically printing money these days and could probably swallow the loss easily.

But the problem is that starting up a rail business from scratch along a new alignment... I mean, the costs are mind boggling. I doubt Bill Gates could finance a new BOS-NY-WAS service over all-new track.
The Alaska Railroad has managed to keep their passenger service profitable. However, while a few of the services are geared toward locals (e.g. the Hurricane Train, which is a flag stop train that transports people to their rural cabins), most of their income is made during the short summer season by tourists who take the train as a land-cruise (though the quality of service is more in par with Amtrak than GrandeLuxe). But similarly to the Strasbourg and other tourist railroads, it's expensive--a 350-mile, 12-hour trip from Anchorage to Fairbanks is $194 each way.

I took a look at their 2005 financial sheet (the most recent one I've seen), and, while it's difficult to directly compare since expenses aren't broken up by freight vs. passenger, their income from passenger trains approached $20 million (compared to $94 million for freight) and they ended the year with a $12.6 million profit. (They are sort of like Amtrak in that they are a private corporation whose common stock is owned by the State of Alaska, but they are operated as a for-profit company and have consistently turned profits; they would likely discontinue passenger services--or spin them off into a separate, state-subsidized company to keep their books clear--if they were not profitable.)
 
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