Auto Train: Why not more routes?

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wildchicken13

Train Attendant
Joined
Feb 19, 2022
Messages
42
I think there is definitely demand for a Midwest to Florida auto train. There are plenty of Midwesterners who winter in Florida that would like to bring their cars with them but would prefer not to drive the entire distance. It only takes a few hours to drive from Milwaukee to Chicago or Indianapolis to Louisville, but driving from Chicago to Miami takes at least two days. Even if the train only goes to Orlando like the current Auto Train, that still significantly reduces the total driving distance.

However, the cost would be prohibitive. Amtrak does not even have regular passenger service from the Midwest to Florida, so a new route would need to be inaugurated and that would most likely require expensive infrastructure upgrades needed to maintain higher speeds if there is any hope of maintaining a competitive schedule.

Then there's the problem of where to locate the Midwestern terminal. Chicago is a natural choice, but not everyone in the Midwest lives in or even near Chicago. Would it be terribly difficult to add autoracks along the way? I can envision a future auto train that starts with a small number autoracks and picks up a few at major cities along the route. But even if the autoracks are loaded prior to arrival, that would still increase the amount of time spent at each stop and make the schedule that much less competitive, and it would require expensive terminal facilities to be constructed at each station.

I think it can definitely be done, but it would require some planning and initiative. A new terminal would most likely need to be constructed in the Midwest, and Amtrak would need to find a railroad willing to host this new train, even if it's only seasonal.
 
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tgstubbs1

OBS Chief
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Messages
645
I think it can definitely be done, but it would require some planning and initiative. A new terminal would most likely need to be constructed in the Midwest, and Amtrak would need to find a railroad willing to host this new train, even if it's only seasonal.
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If Claytor hadn't persisted we wouldn't have Auto Train, one of the most successful LD trains Amtrak operates.
 
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Joined
Mar 12, 2022
Messages
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Location
Manassas, VA
The Baltimore train station and tunnels are being upgraded. perhaps now is the time to reconsider extending the Autotrain from Lorton north to Brunswick, Maine. The Autotrain stations should be separate from the regular Amtrak stations to provide ease of auto access. For example, the Autotrain station in Baltimore should be located in the BW Airport area, where there is plenty of room for it. This is the most highly used corridor in Amtrak and it needs a full Autotrain route.
 

PaTrainFan

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May 1, 2017
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Pittsburgh, Pa.
The Baltimore train station and tunnels are being upgraded. perhaps now is the time to reconsider extending the Autotrain from Lorton north to Brunswick, Maine. The Autotrain stations should be separate from the regular Amtrak stations to provide ease of auto access. For example, the Autotrain station in Baltimore should be located in the BW Airport area, where there is plenty of room for it. This is the most highly used corridor in Amtrak and it needs a full Autotrain route.

Of course, you're not serious given that this is impossible.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Lubec, ME
The Baltimore train station and tunnels are being upgraded. perhaps now is the time to reconsider extending the Autotrain from Lorton north to Brunswick, Maine.
To begin with, getting from the NEC to the line to Brunswick would require a new and circuitous routing probably via Worcester and Ayer over a Pan Am freight only track good for maybe 25 mph at best. Plus the current Superliner equipment cannot run on the NEC so you would need all new single level equipment to do this.
 

irv818

Train Attendant
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Jul 3, 2021
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25
Location
toccoa
Not many people live on the east coast and "winter" in California.
Lots spend the winter in Fla.
The only time you want to spend a lot of money to haul your car along is if you plan to spend months there - otherwise, a rental is cheaper.
Lots of Canadians also winter in Fla.. Maybe the Auto train should run to Toronto?
 

MARC Rider

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Baltimore. MD
The only time you want to spend a lot of money to haul your car along is if you plan to spend months there - otherwise, a rental is cheaper.

You might not need to spend months there -- Last week I spent about $500 to rent an SUV out of Boston for a week. I don't know how much of the Auto Train fare is for Vehicles, but car rentals are getting more expensive. Also, getting a rental killed about 2 hours between arrival in Boston and hitting the road. How long do you have to wait after arrival on the Auto Train before your car is ready for you?
 
Joined
May 25, 2006
Messages
1,262
Location
Central Florida
It is certainly becoming more feasible to extend Auto Train in the northeast with the clearance projects underway. Once CSX enlarges Howard St tunnel in Baltimore for double stacks there is no reason A-T couldn’t use the route - maybe to the site where there is a auto unloading ramp in Twin Oaks,PA between Philly and Wilmington.

Big IF - there is room and Amtrak is willing to pay CSX the going rate for freight traffic. At one time CSX had a rate for a special train when a customer had to have his freight now. Can only imagine what that is now.
 

west point

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Jun 9, 2015
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SW ATL airport
Many oldsters should not travel I-95. It has the highest rate of fatalities per 100 miles of any interstate. However, these figures do not break the numbers by state.

#1. I-95
- Fatalities: 379

- Fatalities per 100 miles: 19.7

Along the East Coast, I-95 is infamous for bad traffic and accidents, but that might be expected with a highway that runs through 15 states from northern Maine to Miami. You’re bound to find major snarls going through Boston, New York City, Washington D.C., or Jacksonville, Florida.

In 2020, I-95 certainly earned its place atop this list, with a number of big fatal crashes up and down the coast, including a four-car crash that left two people dead in Delaware. However, the worst night on I-95 in 2020 may have been Nov. 1 in Rhode Island, when three people were killed in three separate crashes within 20 minutes.

Here is link to the top ten!
10 interstate highways with the most fatalities (msn.com)
 

MARC Rider

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Along the East Coast, I-95 is infamous for bad traffic and accidents, but that might be expected with a highway that runs through 15 states from northern Maine to Miami. You’re bound to find major snarls going through Boston, New York City, Washington D.C., or Jacksonville, Florida.

Not just in those big cities. On a trip up I-95, I had the experience of dealing with traffic snarls (1) crossing Laker Marion in South Carolina, (2) around the major metropolises of Lumberton, NC and (3) while trying to get around Fayetteville, NC. I mean it was Capital Beltway style stop and go for miles on end. I'm sure it happens in other places along the route where you least expect it.
 
Joined
Sep 14, 2022
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Location
Ohio
Just stumbled across this thread. I am surprised no one has mentioned Cincinnati as a starting point in the Midwest for a trip to Florida for an auto train. I understand that a rail route south for the train would have to be worked out, but it has several things going for it.
1. Cincinnati already has a train terminal that sits directly in front of a large rail yard. Plenty of room to set up an auto train loading area (Cincinnati Union Terminal, 1301 Western Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45203)
2. This starting point would on the way to FL or at least not out of the way for Chicago, Indy, Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo & Detroit (really all of MI, IN and most of OH). Easily accessible from I71, 74, & 75.
3. The distance from Cincinnati to Tampa or Sanford is similar to the distance from DC. If the train utilized the current Sanford depot, only one new auto loading zone would need to be built.
4. The cost of fuel going up, airports being basically disaster zones quite often, plus the appeal to avoiding, baggage fees, TSA lines, ect. should not be discounted.
5. For a family traveling to Disney: yes they may be able to rent a car for less than the cost of putting the car on the train. But the cost of 4 airline tickets (assuming 2 kids) vs the cost of 1 bedroom + car cost on the train may equal out. Certainly for larger families (3-4 kids) this math works more for the train. They could also go cheap and just get seats on the train rather than a bedroom and save more.

All of this is really just a pipe dream since Amtrak is a joke, but thought it would be fun to post.
 

MARC Rider

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5. For a family traveling to Disney: yes they may be able to rent a car for less than the cost of putting the car on the train. But the cost of 4 airline tickets (assuming 2 kids) vs the cost of 1 bedroom + car cost on the train may equal out. Certainly for larger families (3-4 kids) this math works more for the train. They could also go cheap and just get seats on the train rather than a bedroom and save more.
Also, if they fly down, they still have to rent a car in Florida.
 
Joined
Nov 24, 2009
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Hillsborough, NJ
After reading this thread again, it should be noted that for an auto train to succeed at any other location other than Lorton to Sanford, the service must be non-stop city to city and have the facilities to load auto carriers. AFAIK, Louisville, KY still has the railroad yard and terminal that can accommodate an autotrain but some routes north of Nashville and South onto Sanford are abandoned. Negotiating with the freight railroads would be a chore and the option may be to buy up the abandoned R.O.W. 's and establish a new track South. This would be a task of monumental proportions. I don't see that the will is there in the Amtrak board to consider this.
 
Joined
Jul 13, 2022
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Location
DC
I watched a video recently about Australia's Indian Pacific and how it transports automobiles. It would be wonderful if Amtrak could add a service like that from Chicago to the west coast. But yes, I get it. Costs and challenges.
 

AmtrakBlue

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Delaware
Also, if they fly down, they still have to rent a car in Florida.
Not if they’re staying on Disney property. Just the cost of the Mears Magic Express Bus (which used to be included in Disney Resort bookings).
We did this in January and will do it again in October. And had done it other times in the past.
 

west point

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Not if they’re staying on Disney property. Just the cost of the Mears Magic Express Bus (which used to be included in Disney Resort bookings).
This is Disney's attempt to keep you on their properties and no where else. Friend recognized that years ago and it has not changed. disney for our family?? Never again.
 

BarbW

Train Attendant
AU Supporting Member
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Aug 15, 2015
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21
Location
WAS or ORL
It costs about $500 to rent an economy car for a week out of Orlando Airport, including all the fees they tag on at the end of the transaction. Your car can go both ways on the Autotrain for about the same, on any given 2 dates no matter how far apart. So, the car transport pays for itself over renting if you are going to be down for more than a week. The additional expense on the train depends on whether you get a sleeper or ride coach.
 
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