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Amtrak Service Reductions

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ShiningTimeStL

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 23, 2019
Messages
25
So this happened today


Read the comment below it. While Jim absolutely roasted Flynn alive with the facts, he didn't even include the best ones. It should be clear to anyone with even a quarter of a brain that Flynn is lying through his teeth, and that he's just asking for "protection money" like a mob boss. Airlines and other businesses and agencies are probably doing the same, but here it looks like Amtrak doesn't even want to make money. Not only do LD trains actually make money, but they're making nearly ALL of Amtrak's money right now, and they could be making even more.

If they don't want to make money and they don't want to provide a good service, then... what are they doing?

No matter what, whether the trains survive the pandemic or not, Amtrak is still being deliberately sabotaged from the inside. They won't stop until they've won, they're replaced, or Congress establishes firm protections for the levels of service they want.

We really should be picketing outside Flynn's office at this point.
 

John Bobinyec

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Concerning the House subcommittee hearing Jim Mathews testified before today, I was rather astonished at the lack of knowledge some of the Congress-people had, as indicated by their questions. Some Congress-people did, however, seem to know what was going on.

Anyway, the meeting was not very helpful, I think. The House has already passed the rescue legislation and has sent it to the Senate - where it languishes.

If the point was to make Flynn uncomfortable, I'm sure it did. But I don't think he'll back down on the service cuts.

jb
 

Palmland

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Carolinas
I listened to part of it. I was glad to hear Flynn say ‘there is no hidden agenda’ to eliminate long distance trains and he supports the national network. I am sure many will think that’s b.s. but, being the optimist, I was glad to hear him say it. Further he reiterated Amtrak wants to grow the business. But, something has to give when your business tanks. He mentioned that states that fund some trains have the same problem.

No one wants to see train frequencies reduced with resulting job losses. But without a government bailout, what’s the alternative? And then the question: can the country and taxpayer afford to fund these losses or would it be a better use of our money to provide unemployment assistance and small business assistance that affects millions? The easy answer is do both. Is it the right one?

Eventually Covid will subside. Can we expect passengers to return? Let’s hope those potential riders haven’t forgotten that train, or plane, travel is an alternative to their automobile or staying at home and using zoom. At a minimum, I would like Congress insure that the host railroads will enable the LD network to be restored to pre-Covid levels and no additional funding for capacity ‘improvements’ would be required.
 

ShiningTimeStL

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Apr 23, 2019
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At minimum, I would like Congress insure that the host railroads will enable the LD network to be restored to pre-Covid levels and no additional funding for capacity ‘improvements’ would be required.
That may be too cerebral, given the level of understanding demonstrated by the committee today.
 

Acela150

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dlagrua

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I listened to and read Mathews testimony and he made some very good points but he can only go so far. Amtrak is a sponsor of RPA so he's careful about what he says. For instance he never mentions that the LD services are charged a portion of the expenses of running the NEC including those at Penn Station NYC and all other stations along the route. If that were eliminated from the expenses charged to LD they might be profitable.
As for Flynns presetation , it sound like he's trying to extort more momey from congress but I also get the impression that he's pretty set on the Oct cuts to three day service. Let's hope for congressional intervention.
 

jruff001

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Jan 23, 2020
Messages
90
For instance he never mentions that the LD services are charged a portion of the expenses of running the NEC including those at Penn Station NYC and all other stations along the route. If that were eliminated from the expenses charged to LD they might be profitable.
What's wrong with that and why should those charges be eliminated? Several LD trains use those stations and originate / terminate at NYP (and use Sunnyside, change engines at DC, etc.). In fact the NEC stations see more LD trains than terminals like LA, New Orleans and Seattle, for example.
 

Exvalley

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No matter how you want to frame the numbers - cutting service never generates additional revenue.
So by that logic Amtrak should run twelve Empire Builders per day.

The problem with your argument is that you are completely ignoring the cost side of the equation. Let's say that Amtrak picks up three additional passengers because they decided to run 12 Empire Builders instead of 11 each day. The revenue from picking up those three passengers is greatly eclipsed by running a 12th train per day.

Don't get me wrong. I think that daily service is very important. Just look at Canada to see how difficult it can be to restore daily service. But Amtrak has clearly looked at both revenues and costs - and decided that three times per week is the proper balance.
 

daybeers

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Don't get me wrong. I think that daily service is very important. Just look at Canada to see how difficult it can be to restore daily service. But Amtrak has clearly looked at both revenues and costs - and decided that three times per week is the proper balance.
The thing is though, they didn't look at it. 3x/week service is going to cost Amtrak more money than it saves.
 

jis

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I listened to and read Mathews testimony and he made some very good points but he can only go so far. Amtrak is a sponsor of RPA so he's careful about what he says.
Just as a matter of information, the past relationship that you are basing this allegation on, was terminated by Amtrak CEO Anderson as a cost saving measure for Amtrak, in case you did not notice. That is why the Amtrak Customer Advisory Council, which the funding was specifically related to, does not exist any more.

As for the AGR points, RPA pays Amtrak the standard market rate for buying the points that it gives to its members. This has been suspended for the current financially difficult times and may be restored when things improve.
 

tgstubbs1

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The thing is though, they didn't look at it. 3x/week service is going to cost Amtrak more money than it saves.
Maybe they're thinking leisure passengers that use the sleepers can plan more than passengers that use it for utility, who might not feel safe enough yet.

It's true it will probably cost them, just like someone who resorts to borrowing from a loan shark because all their legit options are off the table for some reason.

Hopefully congress will come thru before it's too late.
 

jis

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I can see that it will cost Amtrak more in terms of financial accounting, but I very much doubt that it will increase their current net outward cashflow. At present they are probably focused on reducing net cash flow out just to remain solvent. I could be wrong, but this is my suspicion.
 
Joined
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Possibly doesn’t belong on this thread but here goes anyways. Ridership is down on long distance trains (I forget the percentage from previous year). So I ask was that previous year comparing using 3 coaches as is customarily added during the summer months? If so isn’t that an inaccurate comparison? Kinda adds to Amtrak’s point that ridership is down. Hmmmm. Same for sleepers usually add a third. Also capping ridership at 50% is an disadvantage. Again, if I’m on the wrong post let me know and I will move it.
 

Qapla

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So by that logic Amtrak should run twelve Empire Builders per day.
I don't think I said/suggested/recommended/implied that service should be "increased" ... like Mathews presented in his testimony, reducing the size of the trains and keeping the frequency would most likely accomplish an overall cost benefit better than reducing frequency. Reducing frequency makes the train an even less equitable method of travel due to connection issues thus driving ridership even lower at a time when ridership needs to increase, not decrease.

Of the various ways to decrease overall expenses while increasing revenue, reducing service is not the best option when there are other options available.
 

Devil's Advocate

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If Amtrak is at serious risk of insolvency then I believe most people can understand dropping daily service on a temporary basis. I think the primary impasse comes from a lack of trust between management and customers. A long history of temporary suspensions becoming permanent reductions (SLE), the loss of nearly every route-specific feature and amenity (PPC), and recent threats of turning trains into buses (SC) have not been forgotten. Customers and advocates don't have a practical method for reaching out to Amtrak management so the olive branch (and trust building) really needs to come from Amtrak.
 
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chrsjrcj

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One positive thing I took from the Flynn hearing was him recognizing that LD trains are an essential service and said more or less without saying it that they shouldn't be expected to be a money maker.

There was also an interesting question about why Amtrak counts states subsidies as revenue but not federal subsidies. That has been a question posed on this site, so it was interesting to see it brought up by a member of Congress.

Unfortunately, I doubt we'll see much movement from Congress to protect workers from being furloughed and LD service being cut. It's surprising considering we're in an election year, but I suppose there is a lack of urgency by many members unless the stock market falls off a cliff again.
 

neroden

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Flynn was forced on record to Congress saying that daily service will return. That's a good start. Roger Harris is also on record as supporting the return of daily service.

Someone within Amtrak (probably not Harris) is still lying to Flynn. (Smart money says it's Stephen Gardner lying to both Anderson and Flynn.) Every expert including three previous Amtrak Presidents has said that three-a-week will only cause Amtrak to spend money faster -- the cost savings will be vastly outweighed by the damage to revenue. But someone (probably Gardner) is lying to Flynn and telling him that three-a-week will save money. It's worth figuring out who that someone is (probably Gardner) and managing to get it through Flynn's head that that person (probably Gardner) is lying to him.
 

ShiningTimeStL

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Flynn was forced on record to Congress saying that daily service will return. That's a good start. Roger Harris is also on record as supporting the return of daily service.

Someone within Amtrak (probably not Harris) is still lying to Flynn. (Smart money says it's Stephen Gardner lying to both Anderson and Flynn.) Every expert including three previous Amtrak Presidents has said that three-a-week will only cause Amtrak to spend money faster -- the cost savings will be vastly outweighed by the damage to revenue. But someone (probably Gardner) is lying to Flynn and telling him that three-a-week will save money. It's worth figuring out who that someone is (probably Gardner) and managing to get it through Flynn's head that that person (probably Gardner) is lying to him.
This guy gets it. Though at this point I also have a hard time believing anyone at Amtrak, let alone its president, is dumb enough to continue believing Gardner's lies when the facts have been so clearly and thoroughly presented. Could the Chief of Operations alone be responsible for hijacking the company to serve his own agenda? We'll have to find out.
 

John Bobinyec

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During normal times, with normal travel demand, the common wisdom is that long distance trains running three days a week lose more money through all sources, than they do if they run seven days a week.

But, these are not normal times. We are in completely uncharted territory. So I can see why Amtrak wants to try reducing frequencies. They really don't have many tools in the toolbox right now. And it remains to be seen whether whatever they try will work or not.

Don't get me wrong. I don't like the reduced frequencies at all. I'm just saying I think I can understand how Amtrak came to that conclusion.

jb
 

Exvalley

Service Attendant
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Jul 7, 2020
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Same here. I don't like non-daily service one bit. But referring studies based on NORMAL travel is not really relevant or helpful in the age of Covid-19.

First and foremost, I want Amtrak to survive. Hopefully they will be fully funded for the restoration of daily service.
 

tricia

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Aug 23, 2011
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Well, those studies ARE relevant in that they document both fixed costs and ADDED costs (longer and logistically awkward crew layovers, for example) that either don't diminish or actually increase with 3/week scheduling.

What we really need is a proper comparison between costs of running 3/week vs costs of running reduced-to-mimimum-size consists daily. Then factor in revenue estimates based on various scenarios for reduced demand due to Covid in the months ahead, as well as an estimate of the value of not losing your returning customer base because they can't make the 3/week schedules work for them.

I'm sure others here will think of other factors to consider. 🤓 In a better world, I'd be more confident that Amtrak management actually went through an analysis like this during their decision-making.
 

Barb Stout

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Mar 13, 2019
Messages
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This guy gets it. Though at this point I also have a hard time believing anyone at Amtrak, let alone its president, is dumb enough to continue believing Gardner's lies when the facts have been so clearly and thoroughly presented. Could the Chief of Operations alone be responsible for hijacking the company to serve his own agenda? We'll have to find out.
What would his agenda be?
 

Dakota 400

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Mar 5, 2014
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It's worth figuring out who that someone is (probably Gardner) and managing to get it through Flynn's head that that person (probably Gardner) is lying to him.
I think that it sometimes takes awhile for a person in Mr. Flynn's position to learn who is giving him the "straight scoop" and who is providing a view more in line with that individual's agenda.
 
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