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Article=Repeat actions don’t produce different outcomes

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Thirdrail7

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Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson and his chief deputy, Stephen Gardner, have proposed eliminating the company’s interregional trains in favor of a scattering of discontiguous, higher frequency short corridors connecting nearby city pairs. But this reflects a deep misapprehension of the performance of the company’s three primary business groups, and a surprising emphasis on minimizing the returns on investment of the company’s capital resources.
This article from Railway Age takes a look at implications of such thoughts.

https://www.railwayage.com/passenger/repeat-actions-dont-produce-different-outcomes/

While I encourage everyone to read the full article, please allow a few brief "fair use quotes.


On each previous occasion when Amtrak eliminated interregional trains to “cut losses,” the action had the opposite result. In 1979, when the company cut four interregional routes; in the mid-1980s, when it eliminated the Pioneer and Desert Wind; and again in the early 1990s, when then-CEO Tom Downs, on the advice of Mercer Management Consulting, cut frequencies of long-distance routes, Amtrak’s corporate loss and subsidy requirement in subsequent years rose rather than fell.

More recently, when the White House budget for FY2018 proposed eliminating all interregional services because, as Amtrak often claims, they purportedly lose gobs of money and don’t serve many customers, Amtrak’s then-CEO, Wick Moorman, told Congress, in writing, that such a step would increase Amtrak’s corporate loss and subsidy requirement by $423 million. Graham Claytor once told an open meeting of the Rail Passengers Association (at the time, NARP) that the interregional trains were “operating in the black.” This has been true for decades.
This si probably true when you consider the capacity requirements. While you may have a fees for service, it can't compare to the costs of owning and being responsible for your territory. However, due to the the lack of usage, it may be easier to say these assets, which are billed to a specific train drive up the costs of that train.

This is where the economies of scale come into play. Running more service will make this asset more worthwhile since its cost isn't going to change much...particularly with agents being cut.

Anderson’s proposal also neglected to mention that under Amtrak’s use of the PRIIA law, Amtrak will not operate a train on a route shorter than 750 miles (except in the Northeast Corridor) unless a state (or other sponsor) pays it to do so. Most states are not lining up to pay for substitute corridor trains to replace the interregional trains that comprise the national network that Amtrak is chartered to operate. This means that Anderson’s proposal really is to do away with intercity service in most of the country.
This is what I was referring to in the
Hoosier State tickets sales suspended for after June 30[/ur] thread.

What makes anyone think the states will want to fund the majority of their costs all of a sudden? it is not logical to conclude that most states will want he additional costs, particularly when they are already receiving the service now. Do you think congressional members will vote to raise the costs to their constituents? That is what they will do if the eliminate the 750 mile rule requirement, so I'm not sure a state with a train would vote to overturn it.

I'd like to see a citation on this. While it is true that trains are often sold out, that doesn't mean adding capacity would do more than create a glut. After all, that is what happens on the NEC. It is sized for the busiest points. Indeed, those train could use more capacity between key points. But, then you have a glut at other points.

At any rate, I love the Wick Moorman references. It is interesting the Gardner and company pushes an agenda that most previous CEOs say is self destructive.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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Again with out access to audit finance reports (we, you, they) can say what ever (we, you, they) want to.


Got a pdf file you can leak with numbers, plenty of people on line, with time available to chew on them.
 

crescent-zephyr

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To me, Anderson keeps trying to reinvent the wheel. He needs to make the entire experience of riding Amtrak (any amtrak train) better. That includes OTP, Customer Service, and the over all appearance of stations and equipment. Get the customer satisfaction scores up... which will in turn get ridership and revenue up. THEN get creative with trying new things.
 

Amtrakfflyer

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To me, Anderson keeps trying to reinvent the wheel. He needs to make the entire experience of riding Amtrak (any amtrak train) better. That includes OTP, Customer Service, and the over all appearance of stations and equipment. Get the customer satisfaction scores up... which will in turn get ridership and revenue up. THEN get creative with trying new things.
I respectfully disagree I think Anderson is trying to blow up the wheel. He isn’t this naive or ignorant especially when it comes to picking battles with Congress. He has an agenda backed by some high up people in this administration.
 
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sttom

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Personally, the federal government should be putting more into trains. Train corridors are fairly cheap to upgrade compared to highways and its not like running a train is that expensive. But even on here, there doesn't seem to be anywhere near agreement on the topic of getting the federal government to put more resources behind getting Amtrak/Commuter corridors up and running. The best I have see here is just getting the Sunset and Cardinal to run daily schedule and maybe, just maybe getting a second run on the Starlight.

But to the point, yeah Amtrak leadership wants to cut itself in an attempt to save money (when anything federal really doesn't have too) and no one in Congress really wants to cut Amtrak. I don't really get why Congress does't push to get competent leadership. Getting people from the hospitality, rail or logistics industries would make more sense. But all we get is political hacks that peddle the same nonsense of "we need cuts and the STATES! will pick up the tab!" It never passes, its never going to happen and we need to push for better.
 

sttom

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As for the article, why would most of the corridor trains do well? They have relatively low fares, the more frequented ones don't have the same capacity to upgrade compared to any overnight trains, and most of them don't run anywhere near hourly. Outside of the Northeast, only two trains run close to hourly and only one even has business class. A corridor would do better if they were planned better. People tend to want a higher frequency when it comes to their travel options. But most corridor trains don't run anywhere near often enough to be convenient.
 

Thirdrail7

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Personally, the federal government should be putting more into trains. Train corridors are fairly cheap to upgrade compared to highways and its not like running a train is that expensive. But even on here, there doesn't seem to be anywhere near agreement on the topic of getting the federal government to put more resources behind getting Amtrak/Commuter corridors up and running. The best I have see here is just getting the Sunset and Cardinal to run daily schedule and maybe, just maybe getting a second run on the Starlight.
You can't say running a train isn't that expensive particularly since the rates for usage vary. Therefore, your costs vary, particularly if you end op the lone user of a particular segment.

As for the topic of the federal government picking up the costs, most would support it but realize there is a law preventing it. Until that law it overturned or amended, the best we can hope for is hoping the feds beef up the trains they support.
 

sttom

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You can't say running a train isn't that expensive particularly since the rates for usage vary. Therefore, your costs vary, particularly if you end op the lone user of a particular segment.

As for the topic of the federal government picking up the costs, most would support it but realize there is a law preventing it. Until that law it overturned or amended, the best we can hope for is hoping the feds beef up the trains they support.
Well some quick digging and I found that ACE in California costs around $23 million to operate annually. They run 4 round trips per day, assuming a new line would run at least that many times and at the Capitol Corridors recovery rate of 46%, a new line would need $12.4 million to run. For comparison, thats about enough to repave 10 miles of one lane of a highway.
 

Thirdrail7

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That's ACE. That may be specific to that line. CSX wanted 500 million in track improvements to operate two trains on their line...plus fees. NS wanted 100 million in track improvements on top of 12 million dollars a year to add two round trips on a line that already exists. Cutting it to one round trip dropped the cost by 6 million.

Each line and territory is unique.
 

PaTrainFan

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That's ACE. That may be specific to that line. CSX wanted 500 million in track improvements to operate two trains on their line...plus fees. NS wanted 100 million in track improvements on top of 12 million dollars a year to add two round trips on a line that already exists. Cutting it to one round trip dropped the cost by 6 million.

Each line and territory is unique.
I am no expert as you, but this is why Anderson's dream of replacing long distance trains with more frequent "corridor" type service will never happen. Railroads won't stand for it.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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Buy the track. Pay scrap value, rebuild it to a double main. The freight railway may complain in public, but in house they will be a happy clams.
 

sttom

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That's ACE. That may be specific to that line. CSX wanted 500 million in track improvements to operate two trains on their line...plus fees. NS wanted 100 million in track improvements on top of 12 million dollars a year to add two round trips on a line that already exists. Cutting it to one round trip dropped the cost by 6 million.

Each line and territory is unique.
The point is operating the line isn't particularly expensive to actually run the train. As for getting it started, the feds should be the ones to kick in a good portion of the funding. Also just because a railway is demanding $500 million doesn't mean that the state/feds will end up paying for that. There is haggling to be done. Also there are tax credits that the railway could accept in-lieu of cash.

But your mentality is why Amtrak will inevitably die, its the stand point of "we got enough, no improvement because of (insert fear)". Amtrak needs more corridor trains to feed the long distance trains, vis versa and have trips themselves. The fact of the matter is the federal government funds highways at a deficit while even so called "train advocates" don't want them kicking in more money because what? Long distance service might change? Its been well proven that the long distance trains aren't going to die anytime soon, but Amtrak will lose out to other forms of transportation purely because its icky to get more federal money to run shorter lines.
 

Thirdrail7

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But your mentality is why Amtrak will inevitably die, its the stand point of "we got enough, no improvement because of (insert fear)"
Actually, my mentality hasn't been defined. I merely pointed out examples in which you say "it isn't particularly expensive to run the line" is far from the truth...particularly when the feds have said they don't want to pay for it...the states don't want to pay for it and the railroad is private property. Additionally, the higher the speed, the more the costs. Have you ever seen any of the basic operating agreements that float around the board or the law that states Amtrak would be responsible for the costs ?

You also glossed over the expense of the stations, equipment, personnel, etc. So again...your statement about running the train not being particularly expensive has to be made with a citation. It largely depends on the area, the fees, the trackage, the usage and the OWNER of the PRIVATE property wants to charge and equally important, how much access the OWNER of the PRIVATE property (host) allows without driving up costs.

You needn't be pro-train or anti-train to have a grasp of the facts.
 
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Thirdrail7

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I am no expert as you, but this is why Anderson's dream of replacing long distance trains with more frequent "corridor" type service will never happen. Railroads won't stand for it.
I suspect the states won't stand for it either. I hope he's watching the outcome of the Hoosier State carefully....and learning.
 

sttom

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Actually, my mentality hasn't been defined. I merely pointed out examples in which you say "it isn't particularly expensive to run the line" is far from the truth...particularly when the feds have said they don't want to pay for it...the states don't want to pay for it and the railroad is private property. Additionally, the higher the speed, the more the costs. Have you ever seen any of the basic operating agreements that float around the board or the law that states Amtrak would be responsible for the costs ?

You also glossed over the expense of the stations, equipment, personnel, etc. So again...your statement about running the train not being particularly expensive has to be made with a citation. It largely depends on the area, the fees, the trackage, the usage and the OWNER of the PRIVATE property wants to charge and equally important, how much access the OWNER of the PRIVATE property (host) allows without driving up costs.

You needn't be pro-train or anti-train to have a grasp of the facts.
I was looking at the operating budget, so inconvenient fact? A small commuter agency doesn't have the ability to distribute it's fixed costs as well as Amtrak would, let alone a collection of state routes. Even if you add the cost of a few station agents, that's not going to be a huge cost. Even if you throw in 20 extra employees at $50,000 per year in costs, it's only an extra million.

Amtrak California got an initial cash infusion of about $3 billion in the 90s and now it's nearly a third of Amtrak ridership. Expensive? Only if big numbers without context scare. The state is going to be flushing most of an extra $5 billion per year just to keep the highways at a tolerable level of deficiency. In the same time, additional capital funding has numbered in the millions and the trains have improved far more than the highways have.

So what facts make trains look bad? Yeah they cost money, but the cost to get trains to a decent level of service is far lower than highways. Until we get self driving cars, which might not even happen in my life time, highways are going to get worse no matter what we spend.

Can states do better even if the feds kicked money in? Yes. Most of them do a mediocre job planning train lines. But money isn't always the issue, lack of ambition is. Someone mention the cost of adding a other train between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh around $500 million, PennDOT only adding one train or paying that without negotiating is poor form on them.
 

Thirdrail7

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And again, you are pointing to one state....and a state supported service that remains in one state. You looked at the operating budget for the agency you previously mentioned.

What about the Vermonter? What about the Heartland Flyer? What about the Hoosier State? They all cost the same to run as the trains in your state? Hardly, since the Hoosier State uses many different railroads along its route.

And again, you are dragging highways into this. This isn't a debate about highways.

This is again, about your statement regarding the costs and the ability to run additional service. What happens with one railroad on one coast may not be indicative of what another host on another coast wants. Do you really think the state of PA hasn't attempted to negotiate with NS (the host of the territory) for usage? NS has stated what they wanted for access. You meet the price or the train doesn't operate.

It is private property.

NJT wanted to utilize their property to access PA and NS basically told them they would not only charge them for the trains they operate, they would also charge NJT for the trains NS couldn't operate due to interference. At that point, NJT looked to PA for assistance since it would benefit their residents. PA declined so NJT decided not to pursue it.

ACE may not have had that problem in CA...so again, your statement needs a citation. Every route is unique. Every cost is different. Every host is different (which is a challenge).

Therefore, the costs are different and can vary wildly.
 
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