Do we need "Long Distance " trains?

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jis

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Americans would go for lowering the prices of the existing sleeper service
Current Sleeper service has too few berths (effectively) per car to be an effective low fare sleeper. Until people take that to their heart and look for densers packed Sleepers these discussions will go round and round in circles and nothing will come of them. Minimally something like Slumbercoaches need to be brought into consideration.
 

PaTrainFan

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Maybe not make a profit but if they lose money and depend on funding guess where the funding comes from? You can say you don't have a problem paying for Amtrak but ask the people of Columbus, Las Vegas, Nashville, and Louisville who are paying for no Amtrak or the people of Cleveland and Cincinnati who are paying for only graveyard shift Amtrak service.
This is a constant argument of politicians. At the same time, my tax dollars are helping pay for highways in Los Angeles, Seattle and Missoula, Mont. Politicians are often arguing over "donor states" and "recipient states" with any Federal government money.
 

neroden

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Indeed. Maybe Amtrak should take a page out of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings book, and accept reservations two years ahead?
They should. I don't think the 1970s-era reservations system ARROW can handle it.

If it can, then we're back to Amtrak's usual bad-management-attitude problem; can't book in advance if idiot management keeps cutting train service.

That is how they are able to pay their bills until they resume service. In their case, pent up demand is so high, that their Oceania brand sold out a full around the world cruise in only one day! I can imagine trains like the CZ or CS would do well for peak period sleeper travel. The 'Silver's' would, too.
Lake Shore Limited too. I'm ready to book for Chicago and New York.

While Amtrak is not as dependent on future bookings to sustain their day to day operations during the pandemic, such future demand might help their case in Congress to secure more funding for added service and more equipment...
 

neroden

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The government isn't in the business of subsidizing leisure.
It actually is. I can prove this!

The first example is the 40-hour work week. Subsidizing leisure, as the tycoons of the 19th century complained! Seriously, people want weekends and evenings off? Why should the government force corporations to subsidize that? (That's sarcasm in case anyone didn't notice, but it is what the tycoons said.)

The National Parks. Yes, they also have an environmental conservation purpose, but their original purpose -- subsidizing leisure!

National Holidays -- subsidizing leisure!

Every state also subsidizes leisure with State Parks and State Fairs. Every state has a tourism promotion department.

Most cities subsidize leisure. City parks and local festivals are uncontroversial. City-owned soccer fields and skating rinks are usually uncontroversial. City-owned golf courses are more controversial. City-funded stadiums for professional sports teams which they don't own are quite controversial.

Over half of all travel is leisure travel; the percentage of business travel keeps dropping. The government subsidizes road transportation not for business travel (business could build its own toll roads if it actually had to), but primarily so that people can visit their friends and families, or receive deliveries which are primarily for entertainment.

In the broader picture, the purpose of government is to "improve the general welfare". For all of history, this has meant giving people more opportunities for leisure, less time slaving away.
 

sttom

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They also have this fairly minor role of preserving natural (and cultural) resources, which are significant to the environmental and social preservation of our country.
Perhaps the question should be, should the government be in the business of subsidizing leisure?
To combine the thought between these two points, subsidizing Amtrak is subsidizing leisure and preserving our environment in the same activity. A train is going to burn less fuel and thus lower CO2 emissions over a similar distance compared to a car or flying. Which is helping the environment and allowing people to possibly take a leisure trip, or visit family or go on a business trip. Either way, a bunch of people not driving or flying is better than them driving or flying. On top of environmental preservation, having a functioning and useful rail system helps reduce traffic on the highways and at airports and running the trains are cheaper overall than expanding highways that will be full upon completion or have to fight with people to build or expand an airport.

The rub as it is would be what type of extra trains are we talking about? Running more trains would make Amtrak a more convenient form of transportation providing the "balance" it was originally intended to be. If Amtrak had more routes and more trains running them, they would carry more people. At best, they are carrying people who are transit dependent, tourists, and people not willing to use another form of transportation. No offense to transit dependent people, but they are not the most lucrative to serve (cause that's a thing Amtrak needs to care about that a bus agency wouldn't care about), tourists can be fickle, and those of us that hate driving aren't served well by the existing paradigm. Frankly, Amtrak needs to grow to survive, not hack itself into bits just to say it has more routes.
 

Barb Stout

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This will be my 10th summer (hopefully last) as a United States Forest Service fire lookout. I like to think that the little one or two tree lightning caused fires I report save more than my pay in extinction costs. If they went unreported until they were many acres the cost multiplies. The major trail that runs through many National Forests including the Deschutes where I work is the Pacific Crest Trail which runs from the Mexico border to the Canadian border. There are many trails that connect to it.
It does get very expensive when air drops are made on fires. I've watched an air tanker fly past my tower that came all the way from Nevada to central Oregon to put a load on a fire that I called in.
The Forest Service is quite different from the National Park Service. The former is under the Department of Agriculture and the latter is under the Department of Interior. But NPS does indeed still have national resource preservation as one of its mandates which does often come in conflict with the "recreational" aspects of some parks.
 

20th Century Rider

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Indeed Chicago is explicitly designed for same day connection, and Amtrak bends over backwards to adjust schedules of LD trains arrivals and departures into/from Chicago to ensure same day connection as much as possible, sometimes to the detriment of some scheduled times at other places.

In the Amtrak system New Orleans is the only location that I can think of where most connections are overnight, But it works out that way mostly to keep connections in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York/Washington DC same day.
Like what you said... but it should be added that suspension of daily service could cause a two or three delay between trains mandating overnight in uber expensive Chicago hotels.
 

me_little_me

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The government isn't in the business of subsidizing leisure. We find value in the government entities you mention outside of profit, they are what is required to have a functioning society (and I would absolutely include the transportation-providing aspect of what Amtrak provides as a part of that). Adding some daytime only land cruise should have to stand on its own merits and earn a profit, or fall by the wayside.
The same could be said of so many things. Those that are using the roads or airlines for leisure should pay for it especially the RVers on the roads and any all-business class planes (as there used to be) should have been charged the full cost of the services received.
But I agree with you that any daytime (or probably overnight) all-sleeper train should make it's cost back. But Amtrak doesn't run any of those. And the one that is closest to being a land-cruise (Auto-Train) pretty much meets that criteria even though it carries coach passengers also.
 

TrackWalker

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Like what you said... but it should be added that suspension of daily service could cause a two or three delay between trains mandating overnight in uber expensive Chicago hotels.
How well I am aware of that statement.

I'm having to spend a Saturday and Sunday night in Chicago in April to make a connection from the TE to the EB. Watching the daily hotel price go up in proportion to the AMTK points going down. Hopefully the lower price will cycle back next Monday.
 

me_little_me

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Maybe not make a profit but if they lose money and depend on funding guess where the funding comes from? You can say you don't have a problem paying for Amtrak but ask the people of Columbus, Las Vegas, Nashville, and Louisville who are paying for no Amtrak or the people of Cleveland and Cincinnati who are paying for only graveyard shift Amtrak service.
There is a lot that the government provides that is not distributed equally. The only question is whether it is distributed equitably. So farm states get big farm money and cities get local transit. And NYC's 8 million population get cheated on interstate money but get big grants for transit. Those of us in the mountains get no help for our shorelines but the rich seaside communities get cheated out of welfare funds and the poor inner cities don't get big national parks. Tiny communities get post offices but my tiny town is near a bigger city so I we have to drive further to get to that city's post office.
My two nearest Amtrak stations are in another state but it makes more sense to have it there than where I live.

Then of course is the matter of local contribution and local support. Are Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio willing to put up or shut up? Nevada has a train for its measly population but SD and Wyoming do not so why are Las Vegas people getting cheated and why does Nevada have two major interstates and Delaware have only a few miles of one?

Equity, not equality. Willingness and ability to contribute. Need, not equality.
 

20th Century Rider

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How well I am aware of that statement.

I'm having to spend a Saturday and Sunday night in Chicago in April to make a connection from the TE to the EB. Watching the daily hotel price go up in proportion to the AMTK points going down. Hopefully the lower price will cycle back next Monday.
Ah Ha! But who says you can't make lemons into lemonade? Depending on your [assumed somewhat late] arrival, and your departure one or two days later... you don't have to stay in downtown Chicago... you can use this as an opportunity to explore different points of interest in the area... while at the same time, pay less for lodging.

If you are on the EB you could get off in Milwaukee with its historic riverfront and lake front. Having a beer with brats in Milwaukee is a culinary experience!

You can explore some of the closer in areas on the Metra System.

You can breeze into the South Shore areas.

All of this will require some careful planning for schedule and hotels near local stations... which in this time of COVID could be some what difficult. Also take into account the possible lateness of the incoming LD train. If you are coming from the East... most of those trains arrive in the morning and are less apt to be late unless of course there's a big storm.

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Philly Amtrak Fan

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There is a lot that the government provides that is not distributed equally. The only question is whether it is distributed equitably. So farm states get big farm money and cities get local transit. And NYC's 8 million population get cheated on interstate money but get big grants for transit. Those of us in the mountains get no help for our shorelines but the rich seaside communities get cheated out of welfare funds and the poor inner cities don't get big national parks. Tiny communities get post offices but my tiny town is near a bigger city so I we have to drive further to get to that city's post office.
My two nearest Amtrak stations are in another state but it makes more sense to have it there than where I live.

Then of course is the matter of local contribution and local support. Are Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio willing to put up or shut up? Nevada has a train for its measly population but SD and Wyoming do not so why are Las Vegas people getting cheated and why does Nevada have two major interstates and Delaware have only a few miles of one?

Equity, not equality. Willingness and ability to contribute. Need, not equality.
What state funding is West Virginia putting up for Byrd Crap? What state funding are North Dakota and Montana putting up for the Empire Builder? Why do they get "free" trains while Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio have to "pay" for theirs? South Dakota and Wyoming aren't getting cheated because hardly anyone lives there. When more people live there and/or more people want to go there, they'll "deserve" a train just like they'll deserve an airport. The city of Las Vegas in 2019 had 651,319 people. The entire state of Wyoming had 578,759. It's a joke you can't take Amtrak to Las Vegas but you can to lovely Thurmond, West Virginia, population 5!
 

20th Century Rider

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How well I am aware of that statement.

I'm having to spend a Saturday and Sunday night in Chicago in April to make a connection from the TE to the EB. Watching the daily hotel price go up in proportion to the AMTK points going down. Hopefully the lower price will cycle back next Monday.
I see you are coming in on the Texas Eagle... pick a small town to explore just before Chicago such as Springfield or Peoria. I don't recommend St. Louis for such a stay as the downtown area is questionable and much is run down... however the light rail can get you into Clayton or some of the other satellite towns.
 

TrackWalker

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...I'm having to spend a Saturday and Sunday night in Chicago in April to make a connection from the TE to the EB. ...
I see you are coming in on the Texas Eagle... pick a small town to explore just before Chicago such as Springfield or Peoria. I don't recommend St. Louis for such a stay as the downtown area is questionable and much is run down... however the light rail can get you into Clayton or some of the other satellite towns.
Maybe I'll just hide in the Metropolitan Lounge for two nights as this is AMTK's fine scheduling plan. (They still have some food in there, right?) ;)
 

sttom

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There is a lot that the government provides that is not distributed equally. The only question is whether it is distributed equitably. So farm states get big farm money and cities get local transit. And NYC's 8 million population get cheated on interstate money but get big grants for transit. Those of us in the mountains get no help for our shorelines but the rich seaside communities get cheated out of welfare funds and the poor inner cities don't get big national parks. Tiny communities get post offices but my tiny town is near a bigger city so I we have to drive further to get to that city's post office.
My two nearest Amtrak stations are in another state but it makes more sense to have it there than where I live.

Then of course is the matter of local contribution and local support. Are Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio willing to put up or shut up? Nevada has a train for its measly population but SD and Wyoming do not so why are Las Vegas people getting cheated and why does Nevada have two major interstates and Delaware have only a few miles of one?

Equity, not equality. Willingness and ability to contribute. Need, not equality.
The way things are done now aren't even done equitably. A better question is should we be expecting funding and services proportionally or of equal value or reasonably useful to the applicable population? Whether or not farmers get corn subsidies has no barring on if anyone gets funding for public transportation. Its frankly a little insulting to imply that states like Iowa chose corn subsidies over a functioning rail system.

Just because New York City (not a state) gets funding for public transit and rural states get farm subsidies doesn't mean every state and locality gets an "equitable" split of farm subsidies and transit funds. A lot of states and local governments have to foot the bill for our non highway transportation projects. Hell 75% of BART's initial funding was local funding, Portland has funded some its MAX lines on its own and the same thing can be said for an innumerable number of bus operators that have to pay their own way with little to no federal funds or debase themselves to get 10% of a project federally funded. I would kill for equitable!

And what would be wrong with a proportional system of funding domestic issues at the federal level? What cause some states paid for things in the intervening years? So what. A better future for rail, schools, what have you needs to be weighed on their own merits instead of being weighed on what people in the past did. I want a funding mechanism for Amtrak so we all can have better rail service. If people in Georgia gets more trains paid for by Congress, that's a good thing so long as California can apply to the same pot of money for our services. Same thing for other forms of transportation.
 

20th Century Rider

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Maybe I'll just hide in the Metropolitan Lounge for two nights as this is AMTK's fine scheduling plan. (They still have some food in there, right?) ;)
Have you checked with Amtrak regarding accommodation in CHI? If not free they may be able to get you a discounted rate at the Swisshotel... who is their partner hotel for stranded pax. What do you have to lose by calling customer service???;)
 

MARC Rider

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Or, a combination of rail and air...
https://flic.kr/p/ADxcfr From the National Air and Space Museum
Just looking at that Ford Tri-motor makes me airsick thinking about the turbulence. :)
Worth looking at the Wikipedia article for the Ford Tri-motor -- Cruise speed, 107 mph (the Northeast Regional goes faster), Service ceiling 16,500 ft., but apparently the cabin isn't pressurized, so if they really flew that high, all the passengers (and the pilots, too) would need to suck oxygen from a bottle. I suppose in reality, they flew at lower altitudes.

The Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) Wiki page is also interesting. Some wags suggested that the Initials TAT stood for "Take a train." The very first airline meals (catered by Fred Harvey) were served on the TAT flights. One way fare was $352 (1929 dollars, in today's money, $5,384.61, so don't complain about Amtrak sleeper fares.). The airline lost almost 3 million dollars (1929 dollars, about $46 million in today's money) in it's first 18 months of operation. It eventually merged with a bunch of other airlines, and evolved into TWA. In September 1929, a westbound flight crashed in New Mexico, killing all aboard. It was the first plane crash on a regular commercial route.

Here's a link to the timetable and route map.

I don't think it's a business model that would be revived, though, some to think of it, when I took the Chief our to Lamy, my traveling companions flew out to Chicago and met the train there. And I'll bet there are a lot of people who fly out to Denver and then catch the Zephyr.
 

IndyLions

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What state funding is West Virginia putting up for Byrd Crap? What state funding are North Dakota and Montana putting up for the Empire Builder? Why do they get "free" trains while Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio have to "pay" for theirs? South Dakota and Wyoming aren't getting cheated because hardly anyone lives there. When more people live there and/or more people want to go there, they'll "deserve" a train just like they'll deserve an airport. The city of Las Vegas in 2019 had 651,319 people. The entire state of Wyoming had 578,759. It's a joke you can't take Amtrak to Las Vegas but you can to lovely Thurmond, West Virginia, population 5!
Your beef is with the founding fathers. Good luck with hammering out a new constitution in THIS environment….
 

caravanman

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So anything more complicated than Stouffer's is considered "elaborate" now?

You've told us you do not travel by sleeper or eat in the diner so how does this affect you and why would you care?

Who is "we" in this sentence? All of these trains & stations are thousands of miles away from you. If you're going to volunteer to give away services other people clearly want while having little or no skin in the game be honest about it.
I think you are being a bit over the top with your offensive comments, even for a sarcastic misanthrope.
You should try to look at things from more than one perspective...

Elaborate refered to the need for an elaboratly equiped and staffed dinning car.

I don't only think of things for my benefit, I care about things that don't just affect me.

Is making a suggestion, floating an idea for discussion, "Volunteering to give away services" etc, etc?

I am pleased to have stimulated such a strong interest in the topic, and accept it was not a popular concept.
 

AmtrakBlue

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Maybe I'll just hide in the Metropolitan Lounge for two nights as this is AMTK's fine scheduling plan. (They still have some food in there, right?) ;)
No food in the Metropolitan Lounge during COVID. Bring your own. ;)
 

20th Century Rider

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I think you are being a bit over the top with your offensive comments, even for a sarcastic misanthrope.
You should try to look at things from more than one perspective...

Elaborate refered to the need for an elaboratly equiped and staffed dinning car.

I don't only think of things for my benefit, I care about things that don't just affect me.

Is making a suggestion, floating an idea for discussion, "Volunteering to give away services" etc, etc?

I am pleased to have stimulated such a strong interest in the topic, and accept it was not a popular concept.
Agreed with everything you said... and said so well! At issue is an expected level of courtesy and respect from and about all members of this forum. What makes it so successful are the variety of ideas that come from presentors.

I've encountered some harsh responses and it reflects poorly on the one critisizing.

So c'mon all AU'ers... understand that the success of this forum is based upon the collective wisdom and varied ideas of all members; and who knows... some 'out of the box' idea may reach the 'ear' of an Amtrak management exec and bring for all of us some new and innovative upgrades! ;) 😊😊

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