Where did you get that number unless you think that the autotrain (and it's future possible lookalikes) make stops at every station along the way to drop off and pick up cars.Well, it would cost a lot of money, probably $50-100 Billion, but I think it would be worthwhile as a great, nationwide project.
I agree that, at least, a seasonal Auto Train makes sense. Daily service? Probably not. But 2x or 3x per week?I would say that there are enough snowbirds in the midwest to support an Autotrain there.
I understand what you are saying, but the distances one would have to drive to get to a departure city, are they that much different than the distances one has to drive to get to/from Sanford in Florida? Or the distances that one has to drive from the Northeast to get to/from Lorton? Florida is a big State.The problem is that the “midwest” is such a large region that there is no single point to funnel people through.
To get to the Auto Train and then from Sanford to Fort Lauderdale meant 9 hours of driving. Made for a long trip with overnight in Lorton (old & beat).I agree that, at least, a seasonal Auto Train makes sense. Daily service? Probably not. But 2x or 3x per week?
I understand what you are saying, but the distances one would have to drive to get to a departure city, are they that much different than the distances one has to drive to get to/from Sanford in Florida? Or the distances that one has to drive from the Northeast to get to/from Lorton? Florida is a big State.
The markets within a similar driving distance are smaller, and it's still "out of the way" for a lot of markets, which cuts into the time savings of being able to ride through the night. If you draw a line straight north from DC, basically everyone to the east of that line would pass by the current Auto Train terminal in Lorton. That includes most of the DC metro area, Baltimore, Philadelphia, NYC, Boston, New England, and much of upstate New York. Not all of those are conveniently timed for a morning trip to Lorton to catch the train, but it will clearly save anyone going from there to Florida 11-12 hours, without having account for the time spent driving "out of the way" to the station.I understand what you are saying, but the distances one would have to drive to get to a departure city, are they that much different than the distances one has to drive to get to/from Sanford in Florida? Or the distances that one has to drive from the Northeast to get to/from Lorton? Florida is a big State.
It's also not on the way for almost every major Midwest metropolitan area. That, again, cuts into the time savings offered by an Auto Train. If I'm having to go out of my way to get to the train station, it's a lot less likely that I'll find enough time savings by taking the train to make the switch.What about Fort Wayne IN for a Midwest to Florida Auto Train? It’s not that far out of the way for a number of Midwest cities - Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Toledo. And it would be a relatively short backtrack for Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis.
This suggests there might be some interesting possibilities ~36 hours apart, with two nights on board. (West-side suburban) Chicago to Phoenix is the one I'd guess would be most likely to succeed, with the help of snowbirds. Seattle to LA on a schedule opposite to the Coast Starlight's would work timing-wise though I can't imagine many people being eager to drive in southern CA.There's also the timing of any train - you basically need, at minimum, an afternoon or later departure and a morning arrival to allow people to have enough time on both ends to drive to/from the station same-day.
It wouldn’t reduce costs that much. Car carriers are (relatively) cheap. Building a terminal to load/unload the cars would be fairly expensive, and would cost more-or-less the same whether you have 1 autorack or 15.Again, why not start with a one or two car carrier add-ons to an existing train? This would reduce startup costs dramatically, test the waters and get more people to travel by train.
A little work needs to be done to find suitable start and end points
The trip would be longer than a non-stop but if demand is there, then a non-stop train can be added.
A test could be done between Lorton and somewhere near Chicago by having an engine pull a sleeper plus car carriers to/from Lorton to meet the Capitol Limited to be attached to it.
I wouldn't even consider doing any kind of connection between the AutoTrain and a Chicago car train that was attached to, say, the CL because Amtrak's performance would never let them work until such time as Amtrak really gets priority on the rails. I only mentioned Lorton because it already has the facilities, it should not be a major effort for a limited attached couple of cars and the hours could be adjusted so they would not step on each other allowing for shared crews. In fact, Lorton is out of the way for the CL but might be ideal for some cars attached to the Crescent (to near Atlanta) or Carolinian to Charlotte.Even ignoring any speed reductions/required switching times, an Auto Train-Capitol Limited connection would be about 42 hours and 2 nights, vs. 17 hours (Google Maps driving time) plus one overnight, so call it 25-30 hours with rest stops. Florida-Chicago via DC is not at all direct. And if Chicago isn’t your destination, the time difference would be even greater.
I think there are several other motivations to take Auto train.To make any Auto Train a success, it has to start with a high demand for travel from A to B -AND- be time competitive with driving!
This is really not the point, if you ask me. I don't know the actual speed of LD trains like the SWC, but the schedule shows about a 42 hour trip from CHI to LA. I don't think anyone can drive that quickly. The Auto train is faster than the Silver Meteor, maybe because it doesn't make as many stops, but I doubt it is any faster than the SWC.Crossing mountains instantly removes being time competitive with driving as passenger trains ascend/descend at about 25mph due to horsepower to weight ratio ascending and remaining safely in control with appropriate braking descending.
Crossing the Rocky Mountains, Sierras, and Cascades on a train adds roughly a full day vs driving. The Coast Starlight has a couple of mountain climbs, and the Sunset Ltd has to get out of the Los Angeles basin.
Do large numbers of 'old folks' routinely travel between those endpoints? I don't think so.
Don't all LD Amtrak trains to the west coast essentially "funnel' through Chicago? (except Sunset Limited)The reason the current Auto Train works is because it is a fairly fast railroad on a heavily traveled corridor with basically just one way to travel (by road) between the northeast and Florida. Therefore, if you’re going to drive, you’re going to go past the Auto Train terminal on both ends of the route.
There really is no other corridor that offers the same combination of factors. Folks have mentioned midwest to Florida or Arizona. The problem is that the “midwest” is such a large region that there is no single point to funnel people through. Therefore, getting to a hypothetical auto train terminal would require people to go out of their way, and/or drive practically halfway there before even getting to the train. At that point, why bother?
One big issue is that the majority of Midwesterners have never taken a train trip -- not even once. They have no experience taking a train anywhere, but we have plenty of experience driving, and driving everywhere. Drive a few hours in the wrong direction ? Big nope on that one -- many of us would simply drive the correct direction, and then keep driving. ( I would rather take the train, but that's my personal preference. The majority of Midwesterners won't even consider an Auto-Train like what you describe ).Don't all LD Amtrak trains to the west coast essentially "funnel' through Chicago? (except Sunset Limited)
Why wouldn't they pick up west bound traffic from places like Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis and for that matter the entire NE region?
I think the EB could have an auto dock somewhere between Minneapolis and Milwaukee with another terminal in Vancouver, WA. I am sure people in Minneapolis would prefer driving a few hours in the wrong direction versus driving all the way to the west coast.
The SWC could share a dock with the CZ in Galesburg. Maybe a good endpoint would be Williams or Flagstaff. It's not that far to Phoenix (or even LA). People retire all over the state of Arizona, so they're used to driving, but I bet they hate long distance drives way out of state the most.
People from a number of cities in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, (in addition to the NE) etc. could easily drive to Galesburg and it would save hundreds of miles compared to driving all the way.
I don't know if the distances are great enough for more routes within the NE region. But the traffic is a lot worse, so that could be an incentive to add some.
Generally agree with points 2, 3 and 4 (and sort-of 5). For point #1, I agree that enroute switching would be a source of delay, though I don’t think you’d need to switch in/out passenger cars, particularly if the hypothetical auto train stop was near the end of the regular route anyway. Just have the entire passenger consist go to the end of the line, and auto train passengers would board/alight as they would any other station stop.In response to several replies about having pickups/setouts at other than endpoints I have several thoughts:
Why would you go to bed at 6:30 AM?The Auto Train, does not appeal to everyone, even in its best target market.
Once again, I drove my Prius up to my Queens apartment from West Palm Beach, and returned a few weeks later.
My return trip was on Wednesday. I left Queens at 9:30 AM, passed the Lorton Auto Train station exit at about 2:30 PM, probably about the time I would arrive there if taking the Auto Train. I arrived at my home at 6:05, Thanksgiving morning. The train did pretty well...it departed Lorton at 3:42 PM, eighteen minutes early, and arrived Sanford at 7:56 AM, an hour and two minutes early...pretty good performance. But I was in my bed by 6:30 AM, where if I got off the Auto Train, by the time my car was unloaded, and I drove home from Sanford, I probably wouldn't until after 11:00 AM. And it cost me a lot less...