Is freight train traffic down due to the economy

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jmbgeg

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I periodically travel the CS south and northbound, connecting with the EB. For a long time, northbound train 14 was late enough where a connection with eastbound 28 was often not feasible. As a result, passengers connecting to EB eastbound were forced to take the dreaded all day thruway bus ride and connect with the RB in Pasco at about 9:00 PM.

From my 2009 trips on the CS and in watching train 14's OTP on line, it seems to be routinely getting into PDX on time. Is it possible that this is because of reduced freight traffic, or are there other factors?
 

PetalumaLoco

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From Railway Age;

source link

"AAR: Traffic down, investment strong

In an announcement Thursday that carried the bad news of a continuing traffic decline, the Association of American Railroads also reported some good news: Railroad capital spending remains strong.

"January marks the third straight record monthly decline for U.S. railroad traffic, as the severe recession is now negatively affecting every major rail market," said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. "Nevertheless, railroads are planning to maintain a strong level of reinvestment in 2009, as they have for the last several years. Actual investment levels will depend to some extent on how deep the recession goes and how long it lasts, but railroad know that the have to invest today to have the rail capacity America needs tomorrow."

The AAR reported that U.S. carload traffic in the first four weeks of 2009 fell 17.2% compared with the corresponding period of 2008; rail intermodal traffic was down 12.9%; and ton-mile volume declined 15.9%.

In the same period, Canadian carload traffic dropped 17.5% and intermodal volume was down 12,3%; Mexican carload originations were down 15.4% and intermodal originations were off 23.7%.

For just the week ended Jan. 31, U. S. carload volume was down 18.4% from the same week in 2008; intermodal was down 16.0%; and ton-miles were off 17.3%.

In Canada, carloads for the last week in January were down 6.5% from last year and intermodal was off 6.3%. "

Here's more data.
 

the_traveler

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I did a long cross-country trip (over 2 1/2 times cross-country) in March. I could count on my fingers how many freight meets on the road we had - and have many fingers left over! Most of the delays we had waiting at sidings were for ..........

other Amtrak trains! :eek:
 

jmbgeg

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I did a long cross-country trip (over 2 1/2 times cross-country) in March. I could count on my fingers how many freight meets on the road we had - and have many fingers left over! Most of the delays we had waiting at sidings were for ..........


other Amtrak trains! :eek:
Speaking of waiting for other Amtrak trains to pass, when there are northbound and southbound or eastbound and westbound trains that pass (e.g. 14 and 11 or 8 and 7) on parallell tracks, why do they sometimes have one stop while the other passes?
 

the_traveler

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Speaking of waiting for other Amtrak trains to pass, when there are northbound and southbound or eastbound and westbound trains that pass (e.g. 14 and 11 or 8 and 7) on parallell tracks, why do they sometimes have one stop while the other passes?
I can't speak for that specifically (it doesn't make sense), I have seen something similar - but different - happen.

In KIN, there are 2 tracks (track 1 is southbound and track 2 is northbound), and sometimes an AE (that does not stop and passes through at 140-150 MPH) and a Regional (that does stop) are both coming on the same track at the same time. Because they don't want to delay the AE, the southbound Regional switches to track 2 and stops until the AE passes. Then it switches back to track 1.
 

mercedeslove

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I did a long cross-country trip (over 2 1/2 times cross-country) in March. I could count on my fingers how many freight meets on the road we had - and have many fingers left over! Most of the delays we had waiting at sidings were for ..........




other Amtrak trains! :eek:
I remember that trip!
 

AlanB

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Queens, New York
I did a long cross-country trip (over 2 1/2 times cross-country) in March. I could count on my fingers how many freight meets on the road we had - and have many fingers left over! Most of the delays we had waiting at sidings were for ..........


other Amtrak trains! :eek:
Speaking of waiting for other Amtrak trains to pass, when there are northbound and southbound or eastbound and westbound trains that pass (e.g. 14 and 11 or 8 and 7) on parallell tracks, why do they sometimes have one stop while the other passes?
Maybe because the parallel track is only a short siding, or perhaps because the one train was earlier than expected and went through the bulk of the double track section and is now running out of parallel track.

Or as pointed out by theTraveler, perhaps because there is a freight train in the area that blocks further progress by one of the two Amtrak trains.
 
T

Tony

Guest
I think it is because once a train is late, it is basically written-off. The airline does this with flights too.

The passengers on the late train are already upset. If another passenger train comes along, that is on-time, Amtrak will attempt to keep it running on time.

It is better to have one train (or plane) filled with upset passengers, than to have two.

I have certainly been on LD trains that are running late; very late. And they just seem to get later and later as they are kept being diverted to a siding where they sit and sit for what seems like forever. Finally, they are "released" from the siding, only to travel for a short and then get stopped onto another siding. The late train because what I call "train non-gratis".

I also remember being at Boston airport. Due to weather, the 4pm flight was cancelled. The 5pm flight was loaded, but sat on the tarmac. The weather cleared, they loaded the 6pm flight (mine :) ), and 6pm flight took off right on time, with us waving goodbye to the 5pm flight. If the airline gave their one open take-off slot to the 5pm flight, well, the 5pm flight is already late and now the 6pm flight would be late too.
 

ALC Rail Writer

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I did a long cross-country trip (over 2 1/2 times cross-country) in March. I could count on my fingers how many freight meets on the road we had - and have many fingers left over! Most of the delays we had waiting at sidings were for ..........


other Amtrak trains! :eek:
Speaking of waiting for other Amtrak trains to pass, when there are northbound and southbound or eastbound and westbound trains that pass (e.g. 14 and 11 or 8 and 7) on parallell tracks, why do they sometimes have one stop while the other passes?
Yes. On the EB last summer on 8 we waited in a hole for 7 (which was behind schedule, we were ahead) to pass us.

On the Penny in January the same thing happened only we were the train allowed to pass (again, behind schedule.)

All EB/WB NB/SB trains pass each other, and usually "whoever is behind schedule the most" gets the go by the dispatcher. It makes sense too-- if Amtrak is on time, the freights are on time as well.
 
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Well I was at HorseShoe Curve and one of the railfan type who visits "often" said that things were less on the curve. I kind of agree it was like 2 trains an hour I was hoping for a lot more
 

George Harris

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From my 2009 trips on the CS and in watching train 14's OTP on line, it seems to be routinely getting into PDX on time. Is it possible that this is because of reduced freight traffic, or are there other factors?
When UP took over SP, they got a railroad that had been bled white by the previous owners. It was in far worse condition that their worst nightmares. To compound the felony, UP then dumped most of the ex SP guys that had leared how to runa a railroad on chewing gum, string, hope, and prayer. The results were not necessarily pretty, but they did manage to get the trains over the road after a fashion. Prior to the SP takeover, no one in UP management had any experience running a railroad that was in poor condition. As a result, the ex SP system simply congealed.

UP management finally figured out, or managed to convince the holders of the purse strings, whichever the case may have been, that they had to spend megabucks to catch up on deferred maintenance and, particularly on the Susnet Route west of El Paso, major capacity improvements. In the first few years of this activily, and yes it takes years to fix systemwide deferred maintenance, the maintenance surge made timliness of operations even worse is such was possible. Finally, in the last couple of years they have finally begun to at least catch up with the trackwork maintenance curve. Anyone who has been watching reasonably carefully will have noted improvments in timliness even before the drop in traffic. Yes, there have been increases in scheduled time, but even that did not come close to the average lateness that some trains were experiencing.

With the recent drop in traffic, there are many locations where Amtrak trains find themselves "waiting for time" instead of running late.

So, yes the downturn in traffic has helped timliness improve, but that is only part of the story, and on some lines a very small part of the story.
 

the_traveler

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With the recent drop in traffic, there are many locations where Amtrak trains find themselves "waiting for time" instead of running late.
I can personally vouch for that.

Last month I took the SL between NOL and SAS, and at some stops we were VERY early! 2 of those were HOS (30 minutes early) and SAS (over 1 hour early)! And because these are "extended" stops, the wait was longer!
 

ALC Rail Writer

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With the recent drop in traffic, there are many locations where Amtrak trains find themselves "waiting for time" instead of running late.
I can personally vouch for that.

Last month I took the SL between NOL and SAS, and at some stops we were VERY early! 2 of those were HOS (30 minutes early) and SAS (over 1 hour early)! And because these are "extended" stops, the wait was longer!
The padding in their schedules working... against them?
 

Hanno

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With the recent drop in traffic, there are many locations where Amtrak trains find themselves "waiting for time" instead of running late.
I can personally vouch for that.

Last month I took the SL between NOL and SAS, and at some stops we were VERY early! 2 of those were HOS (30 minutes early) and SAS (over 1 hour early)! And because these are "extended" stops, the wait was longer!
The padding in their schedules working... against them?
Which begs the question, "Will any adjustments be made to the schedules?"
 

the_traveler

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Whatever siding I'm sitting on!
With the recent drop in traffic, there are many locations where Amtrak trains find themselves "waiting for time" instead of running late.
I can personally vouch for that.

Last month I took the SL between NOL and SAS, and at some stops we were VERY early! 2 of those were HOS (30 minutes early) and SAS (over 1 hour early)! And because these are "extended" stops, the wait was longer!
The padding in their schedules working... against them?
Which begs the question, "Will any adjustments be made to the schedules?"
Very possible. After all, the CZ's schedule is slowly being revised (and reduced). But I've heard nothing about the SL doing so.
 

had8ley

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Baton Rouge, Louisiana
With the recent drop in traffic, there are many locations where Amtrak trains find themselves "waiting for time" instead of running late.
I can personally vouch for that.

Last month I took the SL between NOL and SAS, and at some stops we were VERY early! 2 of those were HOS (30 minutes early) and SAS (over 1 hour early)! And because these are "extended" stops, the wait was longer!
The padding in their schedules working... against them?
Which begs the question, "Will any adjustments be made to the schedules?"
Very possible. After all, the CZ's schedule is slowly being revised (and reduced). But I've heard nothing about the SL doing so.
According to UP's 10-K report to stock holders they are pulling back on double tracking through Arizona and only have 20% of the double tracking completed. Might be a bit premature to think that #2 couldn't be 12 plus hours late quite yet; especially if we get into a boom economy again.
 

George Harris

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According to UP's 10-K report to stock holders they are pulling back on double tracking through Arizona and only have 20% of the double tracking completed. Might be a bit premature to think that #2 couldn't be 12 plus hours late quite yet; especially if we get into a boom economy again.
"Bean counter" shortsightedness stirkes again
 

jmbgeg

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I almost got caught with my pants down; # 2 was 48 minutes EARLY into Houston Sunday morning.Quite a surprise at 4:45 a.m. :lol:
I know what you mean. The trains get back into my origin city at either 12:20 or 1:40 a.m. . I have the sleeper attendent wake me up an hour out and I take a shower in my sleeper. Sometimes I have found my hour wakeup was only 15 minutes when I am standing there dripping wet out of the shower and we pull into the station. :eek:
 
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Last month during my Chicago-Sacramento CZ trip I only recall a handful of coal trains over the entire run. Not one other freight train along the whole route. We didn't have to wait at all, except for an hour due to maintenance of way work.

Last week I went to Spokane for some railfanning and the freight traffic was about as heavy as I remember it there.
 

George Harris

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I almost got caught with my pants down; # 2 was 48 minutes EARLY into Houston Sunday morning.Quite a surprise at 4:45 a.m. :lol:
I know what you mean. The trains get back into my origin city at either 12:20 or 1:40 a.m. . I have the sleeper attendent wake me up an hour out and I take a shower in my sleeper. Sometimes I have found my hour wakeup was only 15 minutes when I am standing there dripping wet out of the shower and we pull into the station. :eek:
Not to panic. If it gets in early, you will still have time to get off before the train leaves. Remember, unless you are at a departures only stop, the train can not leave before its published time.
 

rtabern

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I just got back from a cross-country trip on Amtrak and NEVER had better on-time performance from the trains that I took. (#5, #11, and #422) On the California Zephyr, we kept getting into stops early the whole route providing for extra smoke stops and an arrival in EMY of about 40 minutes early. #11 did get into LA about 30 minutes late, but it was running 2 hours late in Oregon so it made up some time. AND #422 was running early the whole way... so much so we sometimes had to sit and "kill time" shy of reaching stations as not to block main roads through towns. We arrived into Chicago early as well... I was very shocked, but conductors say it was because of the low amount of freight traffic.
 

Jersey Jeff

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I just got back from a cross-country trip on Amtrak and NEVER had better on-time performance from the trains that I took. (#5, #11, and #422) On the California Zephyr, we kept getting into stops early the whole route providing for extra smoke stops and an arrival in EMY of about 40 minutes early. #11 did get into LA about 30 minutes late, but it was running 2 hours late in Oregon so it made up some time. AND #422 was running early the whole way... so much so we sometimes had to sit and "kill time" shy of reaching stations as not to block main roads through towns. We arrived into Chicago early as well... I was very shocked, but conductors say it was because of the low amount of freight traffic.
Your post was featured in Slate this week!

http://www.slate.com/id/2218394/
 
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Dear Amtrak Riders:

I'm a reporter with the environmental magazine Earth Island Journal (www.earthislandjournal.org) doing a story about the recent improvement in Amtrak on time performance due to the significant decrease in freight traffic.

I am very eager to interview any passengers or conductors who could share with me their experiences of recent months, and also compare that with past experience.

If you have noticed an improvement in Amtrak on-time performance, and would be willing to do a 10 min interview, please contact me at:

[email protected] or cal me at 510-859-9119.

Many thanks for your attention.

Jason Mark

Earth Island Journal
 
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