It’s Time For America To Get Serious About Fixing The Trains

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I think what they call "long distance" trains in Europe, we would call corridor service. Very few run overnight. In fact, didn't a lot of the European sleeper trains get axed a few years ago? And there are almost no trains outside of Russia that have a 2-night or longer run.

 
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Mailliw

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Night trains are starting to come back into fashion in Europe, but they're not like Amtrak's LOS. They operate between cities where they can leave A late in the evening and arrive at B in the morning. Simple catering; usually there's only a buffet car or room service but the attendants. They also have a range of accommodations for different budgets instead of only economy coaches and "First Class" private sleeper compartments. That's how right trains should be run and the only way they make sense as a mode of transit instead of a tourist experience. Only Russia and China really have long distance trains like Amtrak's and they seem to do alot better at it.
 

20th Century Rider

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That may be so...but freight railroads will not get back into passenger business...that you can be sure of.
Yup, freight lines are all about making money... they left the passenger business long ago. But an antiquated Amtrak should NOW be investing in privatization to take over passenger rail service... the private sector is imaginative, innovative, and if AMTRAK awards the best plan with it's assets and the government awards tax incentives, you can be sure someone will come along with a game plan that survives, thrives, and gives passengers a great ride! Already lots of private sector ideas floating around. HS rail is coming to North America. It's inevitable!
 

tricia

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Yup, freight lines are all about making money... they left the passenger business long ago. But an antiquated Amtrak should NOW be investing in privatization to take over passenger rail service... the private sector is imaginative, innovative, and if AMTRAK awards the best plan with it's assets and the government awards tax incentives, you can be sure someone will come along with a game plan that survives, thrives, and gives passengers a great ride! Already lots of private sector ideas floating around. HS rail is coming to North America. It's inevitable!
This is cult-speak based on irrational belief in an infallible, perfect "market" and starry-eyed delusion about privatization. You're welcome to your beliefs, however misguided and damaging they have been when adopted as public policy, but on this forum at least it's still expected that sweeping pronouncements like this come with some sort of evidence. Or at least not be self-contradictory: You can't square "freight lines are all about making money [so] they left the passenger business long ago" with the rest of your post.
 

20th Century Rider

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This is cult-speak based on irrational belief in an infallible, perfect "market" and starry-eyed delusion about privatization. You're welcome to your beliefs, however misguided and damaging they have been when adopted as public policy, but on this forum at least it's still expected that sweeping pronouncements like this come with some sort of evidence. Or at least not be self-contradictory: You can't square "freight lines are all about making money [so] they left the passenger business long ago" with the rest of your post.
Respecting your opinions and beliefs but question reference to 'cult-speak' and several other strong assertions presented. History is history, and the reasons freight lines left the passenger business long ago was because at the time, passenger service wasn't making any money for them. Things are different now, 50 years later, in terms of technology, ecological challenges, and societal needs.

'Starry-eyed delusion' or not, privatization has worked in the development of our impressive world class defense system technologies... army, navy, air force... as well as with the federal space program. Privatization is also working with medical advances and breakthroughs. As you read this, more efficient solar and other energy ideas continue to develop. Such forward thinking can also work with the implementation of a HS rail system.

Albert Einstein said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." ;)


 

MARC Rider

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Night trains are starting to come back into fashion in Europe, but they're not like Amtrak's LOS. They operate between cities where they can leave A late in the evening and arrive at B in the morning. Simple catering; usually there's only a buffet car or room service but the attendants. They also have a range of accommodations for different budgets instead of only economy coaches and "First Class" private sleeper compartments. That's how right trains should be run and the only way they make sense as a mode of transit instead of a tourist experience. Only Russia and China really have long distance trains like Amtrak's and they seem to do alot better at it.
What city pairs in the US, aside from Boston-Washington, which is served by 65/66/67, would work for such night train service?
 

MARC Rider

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'Starry-eyed delusion' or not, privatization has worked in the development of our impressive world class defense system technologies... army, navy, air force...
Huh? When did we start deploying mercenary armies?
And I wouldn't tout our defense procurement system as a defense of privatization. In fact, I would think we'd be well advised to restore the old US Arsenal system, where weapons of war were made by the government or under the close supervision of the government.

There is an advantage to mercenary armies, though. I was reading a history of Renaissance Italy, and while the period was marked by almost constant warfare among the various Italian city-states, it wasn't all that bloody. That's because those Italian city-states used mercenary armies, and getting killed is not a good career move if you're a mercenary soldier. At the end of the Renaissance, when France and Spain invaded Italy, it was a great shock, because their soldiers actually killed people.
 
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MARC Rider

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the private sector is imaginative, innovative,
As a lifelong customer of many and varied private sector businesses, I'm not sure what you're talking about.

I suspect the private sector is imaginative and innovative in ways to sell inferior products at inflated prices, thereby enriching those who control the private sector companies.
 

tricia

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20th Century Rider, I apologize if the tone of my post was harsh. But I stand by its content.

It's not enough to say "privatization" as though it's a magic word that will conjure up the best of all possible solutions to every problem. Private business has done some things well, other things badly. Assuming it will do all things well is, well, cultish.
 

Mailliw

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What city pairs in the US, aside from Boston-Washington, which is served by 65/66/67, would work for such night train service?
Cleveland-NYC, Pittsburgh-NYC, Charlotte-NYC, San Francisco Bay Area-Los Angeles, Washington-Atlanta, Montreal-NYC, and Toronto-NYC to name a few. The last two would need to be joint operations with Via Rail.
 

20th Century Rider

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Huh? When did we start deploying mercenary armies?
And I wouldn't tout our defense procurement system as a defense of privatization. In fact, I would think we'd be well advised to restore the old US Arsenal system, where weapons of war were made under the close supervision of the government.

There is an advantage to mercenary armies, though. I was reading a history of Renaissance Italy, and while the period was marked by almost constant warfare among the various Italian city-states, it wasn't all that bloody. That's because those Italian city-states used mercenary armies, and getting killed is not a good career move if you're a mercenary soldier. At the end of the Renaissance, when France and Spain invaded Italy, it was a great shock, because their soldiers actually killed people.
Quoted post wasn't in any way discussing mercenary armies. Private enterprise is subcontracted by our government to support the military which has been in effect for a long time. I do support the cooperative efforts between our government and private enterprise... good for the economy.
 

20th Century Rider

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20th Century Rider, I apologize if the tone of my post was harsh. But I stand by its content.

It's not enough to say "privatization" as though it's a magic word that will conjure up the best of all possible solutions to every problem. Private business has done some things well, other things badly. Assuming it will do all things well is, well, cultish.
Thank you for your kind words. And I agree that the private sector has its successes and failures. But involvement of the private sector working in cooperative efforts with the government has brought many positives. It is my opinion that involvement of the private sector through competing for subcontracting awards, etc., can bring innovation and efficiency that will improve passenger rail in America. Our views may differ, and being open minded, I always learn from what others have to say.
 

tricia

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....It is my opinion that involvement of the private sector through competing for subcontracting awards, etc., can bring innovation and efficiency that will improve passenger rail in America. ....
It can also bring graft, fraud, and a raft of other abuses, as well as rapacious, extortionate pricing of necessities.

The relevance for Amtrak is this: You need not look further than the government contract with the private business that's been building new Viewliners to see that "involvement of the private sector" is no panacea, and that "the private sector" can't simply be relied upon to be "imaginative, innovative," or even competent.

And, in the bigger picture: If all aspects of Amtrak are to be "improved" by contracting them out to profit-seeking businesses, then what happens to the parts that don't turn a profit? Any NATIONAL passenger rail network will have functions that are not profitable. Why shouldn't the government run the whole thing, allowing the profitable aspects to subsidize (at least to some extent) the unprofitable public services--rather than enabling businesses to cherry pick the profits leaving taxpayers with all the debits?
 

20th Century Rider

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It can also bring graft, fraud, and a raft of other abuses, as well as rapacious, extortionate pricing of necessities.

The relevance for Amtrak is this: You need not look further than the government contract with the private business that's been building new Viewliners to see that "involvement of the private sector" is no panacea, and that "the private sector" can't simply be relied upon to be "imaginative, innovative," or even competent.

And, in the bigger picture: If all aspects of Amtrak are to be "improved" by contracting them out to profit-seeking businesses, then what happens to the parts that don't turn a profit? Any NATIONAL passenger rail network will have functions that are not profitable. Why shouldn't the government run the whole thing, allowing the profitable aspects to subsidize (at least to some extent) the unprofitable public services--rather than enabling businesses to cherry pick the profits leaving taxpayers with all the debits?
Some thoughts:

The assumption that private enterprise brings corruption and fraud may be partially correct because nothing is perfect…also Fair to say that much has been highly successful bringing quality and functionality to intended purpose. The private sector has brought imaginative thinking and efficiency.

The view liners were new, innovative, and very much enjoyed by the ridership at the time they came out; but they haven’t been maintained - ventilation systems and plumbing frequently break down; pieces and parts are broken and literally held together with tape. There has been some updating but inconsistent. To my knowledge, 17 have been involved in accidents and were never repaired.

Didn’t understand the comment on cherry picking the taxpayers. Here again, if we take time to research specific examples to substantiate assertions we can have quite a debate. That would take a lot of time which is in short supply for me today. As I remember from collegiate debate days, supporting facts for point of view win the debate.

Private sector working successfully with the government is historical and vast… and the frauds and failures eventually get weeded out. Involvement of the private sector working in concert with the government won't always be perfect; but brings greater potential to benefit the ridership.

We must all be open minded to both the successes and failures of privatization and government endeavors.
 
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Cleveland-NYC, Pittsburgh-NYC, Charlotte-NYC, San Francisco Bay Area-Los Angeles, Washington-Atlanta, Montreal-NYC, and Toronto-NYC to name a few. The last two would need to be joint operations with Via Rail.
Lots of city pairs about 600-700 miles apart.
 

railiner

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Cleveland-NYC, Pittsburgh-NYC, Charlotte-NYC, San Francisco Bay Area-Los Angeles, Washington-Atlanta, Montreal-NYC, and Toronto-NYC to name a few. The last two would need to be joint operations with Via Rail.
The Montreal train is “all-Amtrak”...
 

railiner

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Lots of city pairs about 600-700 miles apart.
Any route from 300 miles and up could be long enough for an overnight sleeper.
In some cases,they could allow early or late occupancy to stretch the time if necessary...
 

Bob Dylan

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It can also bring graft, fraud, and a raft of other abuses, as well as rapacious, extortionate pricing of necessities.

The relevance for Amtrak is this: You need not look further than the government contract with the private business that's been building new Viewliners to see that "involvement of the private sector" is no panacea, and that "the private sector" can't simply be relied upon to be "imaginative, innovative," or even competent.

And, in the bigger picture: If all aspects of Amtrak are to be "improved" by contracting them out to profit-seeking businesses, then what happens to the parts that don't turn a profit? Any NATIONAL passenger rail network will have functions that are not profitable. Why shouldn't the government run the whole thing, allowing the profitable aspects to subsidize (at least to some extent) the unprofitable public services--rather than enabling businesses to cherry pick the profits leaving taxpayers with all the debits?
Can you say Boeing??
 

IndyLions

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Personally, I don’t think anything significant is going to change on the transportation front (or about 100 other fronts) until the next generation takes over. Young people have different priorities than the current generation in power - and I guess as a 50-something I’m part of the current group in power.

We’re probably only a few years away from the majority generation changing hands anyway. It’s about time - our current generation of politicians as a whole have failed spectacularly.
 

LookingGlassTie

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Here's my take on it:

I can't speak for other countries but here in the US, we love the automobile. And we're generally willing to spend whatever is necessary to maintain its infrastructure.

To me, the phrases "we can't afford that" or "we don't have the money" often come down to priorities. We will spend money on things we value.

Obviously, as evidenced by this forum and numerous social media groups, there are many people (including myself) who love and support our trains. However (and I'm not making a value judgment here), America's love of the car is a fierce competitor to passenger rail. Most people love the independence and freedom their cars give them. They would prefer to spend money (or see money spent) on something they can just hop into and take off in, as opposed to something they have to "wait" on.

I think that even if money was no object (and also no NIMBYs) and we had a passenger rail system in the US that was robust as it could be, there would still be limitations and gaps which would have to be "filled in" or "made up for" by cars.

No, I'm not giving up on supporting passenger trains. Just offering a different perspective.

$0.02
 

Qapla

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Just a different 2¢

Instead of privatizing passenger rail service - why not nationalize the rails/tracks.

The Gov't owns the roads and individuals as well as industry uses them ... let the Gov't own the rails and let the freight companies and passenger rail use them.

There is no problem with the Gov't owning Amtrak just like there is no problem with them owning the Post Office. They just need to quit treating them as a "business" and treat them as a "service" like they do many other things the Gov't administrates.
 

sttom

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Personally, I don’t think anything significant is going to change on the transportation front (or about 100 other fronts) until the next generation takes over. Young people have different priorities than the current generation in power - and I guess as a 50-something I’m part of the current group in power.

We’re probably only a few years away from the majority generation changing hands anyway. It’s about time - our current generation of politicians as a whole have failed spectacularly.
Can't disagree. My generation does want trains. I don't think a lot of my politically active compatriots understand how public services work, but at least we might try to expand trains in this country.

Just a different 2¢

Instead of privatizing passenger rail service - why not nationalize the rails/tracks.

The Gov't owns the roads and individuals as well as industry uses them ... let the Gov't own the rails and let the freight companies and passenger rail use them.

There is no problem with the Gov't owning Amtrak just like there is no problem with them owning the Post Office. They just need to quit treating them as a "business" and treat them as a "service" like they do many other things the Gov't administrates.
Technically the states own the highways, so short of federal funding, I don't know why most of the states would start buying up right of ways. Its not a bad idea, but one that could get complicated really quickly.
 

Qapla

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That is why I said "Gov't" ... that includes the City, County, State and Federal level
 
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Any route from 300 miles and up could be long enough for an overnight sleeper.
In some cases,they could allow early or late occupancy to stretch the time if necessary...
I was on the Crescent once where the stretch from Tuscaloosa to New Orleans could have been a night train... :)

Amtrak did send me a survey recently. After explaining that I was no longer a customer of their long-distance trains, I offered this suggestion:

I specifically pointed to night-train service and my experiences in Europe (London-Inverness, Venice-Vienna, and Toulouse-Paris). I suggested an ocean-cruise-line analogy where my exemplar holiday would be WAS-ATL/ATL-MIA/MIA-SAV/SAV-WAS.

If the rail operator (maybe Amtrak) ran this as a single thru-train, then a guest embarking in WAS could choose to leave their luggage on board in their cabin during the days in ATL, MIA, and SAV.

Alternatively, if these were separate trains, then the stations could provide transfer services, where one’s luggage was transferred automatically to the next train. Disney does something like this for their Caribbean to Orlando service.

A third alternative would be that one spends a few days at each stop, with automatic luggage transfer to a rail hotel.
 

jiml

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Just a different 2¢

Instead of privatizing passenger rail service - why not nationalize the rails/tracks.

The Gov't owns the roads and individuals as well as industry uses them ... let the Gov't own the rails and let the freight companies and passenger rail use them.

There is no problem with the Gov't owning Amtrak just like there is no problem with them owning the Post Office. They just need to quit treating them as a "business" and treat them as a "service" like they do many other things the Gov't administrates.
That's certainly the model used widely outside North America.
 
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