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Amtrak Service Reductions

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Anthony V

Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 10, 2016
Messages
213
Really? Last I heard UP was asking for millions of dollars to enhance capacity of the line to facilitate daily service. Great news if true, but I'm doubting it...
I figured that the OP was sarcasm, and I'm not normally good at detecting sarcasm.
 

saxman

Conductor
Gathering Team Member
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May 17, 2004
Messages
2,449
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New Orleans
The Sun sets daily now. 🤪

As for the Sunset Limited, in 2009 or so Amtrak thought about making it daily with the available equipment they had. The plan was to make the Texas Eagle daily all the way from Chicago to Los Angeles and have a stub coach only train from San Antonio to New Orleans and eliminate the car switching in SAS. They looked at every scenario without having to add cars. Cost and revenue wise, that was the best solution at the time, according to them. UP quipped back and said they needed $750 million in track improvements. Nevermind the fact UP was already double tracking everything west of El Paso.
 

ShiningTimeStL

Train Attendant
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Apr 23, 2019
Messages
26
Joined
Apr 27, 2009
Messages
7
Really? Last I heard UP was asking for millions of dollars to enhance capacity of the line to facilitate daily service. Great news if true, but I'm doubting it...
I read several months ago before the pandemic that Amtrak was making preparations to make the Sunset Limited a Dsily Train in 2021 and they were looking into a new proposed Nashville to Atlanta Train.
 

brianpmcdonnell17

Conductor
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Mar 5, 2016
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Chicago, Illinois
90% of what projection ? Pre Covid-19 or post just a very big difference.
It's 90% of pre-virus ridership. Although the percentage accounts for the reduced seat availability, that's the condition I think is very unlikely to be met. The decision is to be made in February, which is still winter and thus likely to occur during a second virus wave if one is to occur. As has been often discussed here, the tri-weekly schedule will make it much more difficult to plan trips and will significantly reduce ridership below previous levels even in the absence of the virus. Finally, the data being compared is for long-term bookings which is only likely to recover once the virus is no longer a significant issue, something that is doubtful to occur by February.
 

Trogdor

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I read several months ago before the pandemic that Amtrak was making preparations to make the Sunset Limited a Dsily Train in 2021 and they were looking into a new proposed Nashville to Atlanta Train.
They‘be been “looking into” lots of things for a long time. There were/are no concrete plans in place to increase service on any long-distance route, nor to add any route that wasn’t being sponsored by a state. Lots of studies, lots of ideas. None of them in the past two decades have progressed to the point of actually happening.
 

daybeers

OBS Chief
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Jan 6, 2016
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750
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HFD
GET A LOAD OF THIS


This is extortion. They're putting a gun to the national network's head. If Congress doesn't pay up, they'll execute the hostage.
fair use quote from article linked above:
The three metrics to be used are:
— Public health: COVID-19 hospitalizations must be stable or declining as of Feb. 15, 2021.
— Future demand: Advance bookings for June 2021 must be at least 90% of the available seat-miles or room-miles of the figure for June 2020, as of Feb. 15, 2020. Calculations will take into consideration caps on ticket sales to promote social distancing, as well as other COVID-related measures.
— Current performance: Ridership in the first quarter of Amtrak’s 2021 fiscal year, which begins in September, must be at least 90% of projections in Amtrak’s 2021 operating plan.
If all three criteria are met for a given route, service will be restored to daily levels as early as May 2021 and no later than June 30, 2021. In releasing the metrics, Amtrak notes that the plans for reductions and subsequent restoration are dependent on sufficient federal assistance, which it says requires at least $3.5 billion for fiscal 2021.
"As early as May 2021" that's not good, not to mention it's going to be impossible to meet this. 90% of projections for 1Q21?!? I can't find what the FY21 goal was, but I know FY19 was 32.5 million, so let's say the goal for FY21 is 33.5 million. The first quarter has back to school, Thanksgiving, and the December holidays, so it may be more like 33% or so of the year instead of 25%. 33% of 33.5 million is ~11.17 million. 90% of 11.17 million is ~10.05 million. I don't see that happening. There will be a second wave.

This is made to fail. Plain and simple.
 

brianpmcdonnell17

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fair use quote from article linked above:

"As early as May 2021" that's not good, not to mention it's going to be impossible to meet this. 90% of projections for 1Q21?!? I can't find what the FY21 goal was, but I know FY19 was 32.5 million, so let's say the goal for FY21 is 33.5 million. The first quarter has back to school, Thanksgiving, and the December holidays, so it may be more like 33% or so of the year instead of 25%. 33% of 33.5 million is ~11.17 million. 90% of 11.17 million is ~10.05 million. I don't see that happening. There will be a second wave.

This is made to fail. Plain and simple.
Projections for FY21 do factor in the virus, so I doubt the projections would be anywhere near 32.5 million. Unless someone has access to the projections it is difficult to project the feasibility of meeting them. However, as I mentioned I seriously doubt the requirement for future bookings will be met.
 

ShiningTimeStL

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 23, 2019
Messages
26
If Congress doesn't pay up, exactly where are they supposed to find the money to continue daily operations?

I don't like it any more than you do, but at least Amtrak is being transparent here.
Where are they going to get the money to conduct triweekly services? It is proven that nondaily service actually costs more to operate, not less. Former Amtrak management has said it before, and they just recently said it again. Like others above have just said, this literally intended to fail and outright kill the long distance trains. If they really didn't have the money to continue operations and were being honest, they would just shut it all down like VIA has
 

jis

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Where are they going to get the money to conduct triweekly services? It is proven that nondaily service actually costs more to operate, not less. Former Amtrak management has said it before, and they just recently said it again. Like others above have just said, this literally intended to fail and outright kill the long distance trains. If they really didn't have the money to continue operations and were being honest, they would just shut it all down like VIA has
I guess, if there is not enough riders to support daily service without additional cash infusion that no one seems to be willing to make, and three times a week service cost more than daily service, then the logical thing to do would be to shut the system down, no? Of course, since Amtrak cannot furlough everone of its employees like Brightline did, I am not sure how that would work either.
 

Sidney

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
81
What's the latest status on the tri weekly trains? It's mid August and I'm sure many people have reservations beyond Oct 1. You can still book every day after Oct 1 last I checked. This will become a nightmare. Connections should be interesting. I would imagine somebody going to LA from NY would still have a daily choice using different trains. Its the stops inbetween.
 

brianpmcdonnell17

Conductor
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Chicago, Illinois
Where are they going to get the money to conduct triweekly services? It is proven that nondaily service actually costs more to operate, not less. Former Amtrak management has said it before, and they just recently said it again. Like others above have just said, this literally intended to fail and outright kill the long distance trains. If they really didn't have the money to continue operations and were being honest, they would just shut it all down like VIA has
This is a unique situation due to the extremely low ridership. For example, assume that a daily train produces 3 times as many passengers as a tri-weekly train. Perhaps the daily train has an annual ridership of 300,000 in comparison to 100,000, so it would make sense that the daily train may lose less money due to the high fixed costs. However, if ridership were to drop 90% such that the ridership of the two trains was now 30,000 and 10,000, the tri-weekly train may now be less costly as the ridership difference is less even though the ratio is the same. If that still doesn't make sense, think of the most extreme case. A daily train with 3 total passengers would certainly lose more than a tri-weekly train with only one passenger.

Having said that, I am still unconvinced that this is the right decision; I think it would make more sense to cut amenities such as baggage service and combine the food service cars, but that certainly wouldn't be popular on this forum either. Even though they could likely save some money by reducing frequencies as explained above, from a financial perspective it would probably make more sense to temporarily suspend a few routes rather than cut frequencies on all of them if they absolutely have to cut LD frequency. I have also considered the possibility of more innovate solutions. Take for example the Coast Starlight. It has good OTP for an LD train and shares it's route with three separate corridor services. Perhaps Amtrak could work with the states for a temporary arrangement where the CS makes all local stops and serves as a replacement for a corridor frequency, allowing for the corridor funding to be redirected to maintain daily LD service. This would make sense especially for the Pacific Surfliner and Cascades portions, where there is currently only one daily corridor round trip and the CS is a crucial part of the schedule.

Obviously the best case for Amtrak would be additional government assistance, which is part of my reasoning for supporting amenity cuts rather than frequency cuts. Given the upcoming election, it seems reasonably possible that the assistance could come to Amtrak in January, at which point it would likely be too late to prevent a prolonged suspension of daily service if it takes effect as planned on October 1st.
 

brianpmcdonnell17

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Chicago, Illinois
What's the latest status on the tri weekly trains? It's mid August and I'm sure many people have reservations beyond Oct 1. You can still book every day after Oct 1 last I checked. This will become a nightmare. Connections should be interesting. I would imagine somebody going to LA from NY would still have a daily choice using different trains. Its the stops inbetween.
Amtrak just released their criteria for re-establishing service which implies they are moving forward with the tri-weekly plan in the absence of government assistance. The document also mentions attempting to preserve connections in Chicago, so perhaps they are planning on having the schedules coordinated there to maintain same-day connections. I'm curious what their plan is for the CL and LSL. If it is was my decision I would schedule the CL as the train for Western connections and have the LSL operate on the other days to maintain 6x weekly frequencies west of Cleveland and to the NEC cities via connections.
 

Devil's Advocate

Sarcastic Misanthrope
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Texas
Public health: COVID-19 hospitalizations must be stable or declining as of Feb. 15, 2021.
Advance bookings for June 2021 must be at least 90% of the available seat-miles or room-miles of the figure for June 2020, as of Feb. 15, 2020.
Is this for real? That pretty much kills it right there. There will be destabilizing flare-ups no matter what happens with treatments and vaccines. Imagine an airline stating that every route needs to enjoy 90% utilization or it gets slashed. That would be the end of the whole damn airline. 🤪
 

John Bredin

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Dec 18, 2007
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suburban Chicago (Buffalo Grove)
I read several months ago before the pandemic that Amtrak was making preparations to make the Sunset Limited a Dsily Train in 2021 and they were looking into a new proposed Nashville to Atlanta Train.
The proposed Nashville service is, as I recall, dependent on Congress voting a $300 million per year fund for new corridor services, focusing on potential routes where there's some state cooperation (plans have been prepared, towns and local chambers of commerce on the route support it, etc.) but the legislature isn't eager to vote state matching funds. Amtrak proposal (pg. 30 altogether, 27 as numbered). Reading between the lines, the idea is to get service running for a couple of years on wholly federal funding from the $300 million fund, then hand the legislature a fait accompli of an operating service to either fund or not. Much harder to "kill" service that exists, which has actual riders and political constituencies, than to abort a proposed service never "born" that nobody's ridden.

But I don't think Congress voted the $300 million, and it's definitely intended for corridor service. Corridor service to Mobile, AL has been discussed, which someone may be confounding with daily Sunset service.
 

Exvalley

Service Attendant
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Jul 7, 2020
Messages
174
This is a unique situation due to the extremely low ridership.
Exactly. I haven't dug deep into the study that says that thrice-weekly operations is more costly to Amtrak, but I am sure that the study assumes normal (pre-Covid) customer demand. Since that very important factor no longer exists, you really can't say that the conclusion of the study is accurate under current circumstances. At a minimum, follow up research needs to be done.
 

daybeers

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Jan 6, 2016
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Is this for real? That pretty much kills it right there. There will be destabilizing flare-ups no matter what happens with treatments and vaccines. Imagine an airline stating that every route needs to enjoy 90% utilization or it gets slashed. That would be the end of the whole damn airline. 🤪
Not to mention all those who say they aren't going to get the vaccine!
 

railiner

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Mar 20, 2009
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Palm Beach County
I have also considered the possibility of more innovate solutions. Take for example the Coast Starlight. It has good OTP for an LD train and shares it's route with three separate corridor services. Perhaps Amtrak could work with the states for a temporary arrangement where the CS makes all local stops and serves as a replacement for a corridor frequency, allowing for the corridor funding to be redirected to maintain daily LD service. This would make sense especially for the Pacific Surfliner and Cascades portions, where there is currently only one daily corridor round trip and the CS is a crucial part of the schedule.
All well and good if the long distance train reliably runs on time...but unfortunately, that hasn't been the case in general...
 

ShiningTimeStL

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 23, 2019
Messages
26
What does Amtrak management think they're going to tell Congress about this? If Congress gets a fresh coat of blue paint, they will likely put up the required funding (and more) and demand restoration of daily service due to public outcry. Anderson tried to fight Congress and it backfired gloriously on him. I hardly believe Flynn has any better chances.
 

west point

Conductor
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Jun 9, 2015
Messages
2,217
There is a problem that anyone connected with government is not willing to admit. Vaccines are not going to be available to everyone for quite a time. "IF" a vaccine is approved by Jan 1st the manufacture will take time to ramp up production of 300 million doses. Then the US will have the very hard political decision of how to get 1 Billion doses to just a poportion of our allies. If the US ships doses to other countries while some US persons who stil wants a dose can you imagine the uproar?
 

Bob Dylan

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Austin Texas
There is a problem that anyone connected with government is not willing to admit. Vaccines are not going to be available to everyone for quite a time. "IF" a vaccine is approved by Jan 1st the manufacture will take time to ramp up production of 300 million doses. Then the US will have the very hard political decision of how to get 1 Billion doses to just a poportion of our allies. If the US ships doses to other countries while some US persons who stil wants a dose can you imagine the uproar?
This is why its do important to Vote and select Office holders that will do the right thing in 2021, which is listen to the Scientists and Medical People.
 
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