Missouri River Runner and its funding challenges

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Shanson

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I note from archived timetables that checked baggage is not offered on the Missouri River Runner. Is there a decent sized storage area available? We are traveling with a folding wheelchair, plus two "overhead" size bags and two smaller "personal item" size bags.
 

Eric S

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Missouri River Runner trains are typically Horizon (or sometimes Amfleet) coaches. Those coaches have the standard overhead storage as well as shelves at one end of each coach (there are shelves at one end and restrooms at the other). There is also typically a wheelchair spot at the end of the coach; I would assume the wheelchair could/would be stored there.
 

daybeers

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Continuing saga of the funding of River Runners...

How absurdly ridiculous. So many better ways to spend that money rather than forgiving a state that doesn't care to fund Amtrak.
 

jis

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Just get congress to get rid of the 750 mile restriction. Suspect it was slipped in by anti-Amtrak congress persons?
Not completely though it was a consequence of trying to work around one of the periodic "zero out Amtrak" moves. Its origins are somewhat convoluted, but Amtrak itself had a small hand in it, as did many Amtrak friendly Congress people. It was part of a complicated deal to continue funding for the rest of the Amtrak system in response to one of the periodic attempts to zero out Amtrak.

The whole scheme started because there was tacit agreement that the feds should eventually get out of providing operating subsidy except for maintaining a long distance network. I have not seen any evidence of a sea change in the matter of operating subsidies. All the piles of money that have come about is capital and SOGR funds, not operating subsidy money. The fact of the matter is currently there is exactly $0 in any of the billions to start even a single new LD train.
 
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neroden

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Not completely though it was a consequence of trying to work around one of the periodic "zero out Amtrak" moves. Its origins are somewhat convoluted, but Amtrak itself had a small hand in it, as did many Amtrak friendly Congress people. It was part of a complicated deal to continue funding for the rest of the Amtrak system in response to one of the periodic attempts to zero out Amtrak.

The whole scheme started because there was tacit agreement that the feds should eventually get out of providing operating subsidy except for maintaining a long distance network. I have not seen any evidence of a sea change in the matter of operating subsidies. All the piles of money that have come about is capital and SOGR funds, not operating subsidy money. The fact of the matter is currently there is exactly $0 in any of the billions to start even a single new LD train.

At the time there was a much more sensible campaign to get Congress to fund Amtrak's billion-dollar *FIXED OVERHEAD*, while requiring some other source to be used to fund the avoidable costs of new services. This campaign did not succeed and we got the screwy allocations stuff (dishonest accounting) instead.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Just get congress to get rid of the 750 mile restriction. Suspect it was slipped in by anti-Amtrak congress persons?

I’m very much for the 750 mile restriction. If a state like NC wants Amtrak to run a Charlotte - Raleigh Corridor Train, they should pay for that.

Amtrak’s budget should be going towards long distance train travel. In my opinion of course.
 

Willbridge

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I was following it at the time, and it seemed as though one objective was to not accidentally kill the Palmetto, while still putting a lid on trains for the big states. That required someone familiar with the system helping to draft the bill. Legislators left to themselves come up with some wacky stuff (that I've had to implement).

The cut-off sort of complements the earlier legislation putting a floor under the mileage to prevent commuter trains.
 
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I’m very much for the 750 mile restriction. If a state like NC wants Amtrak to run a Charlotte - Raleigh Corridor Train, they should pay for that.

Amtrak’s budget should be going towards long distance train travel. In my opinion of course.
But the 750 mile restriction limits the possibility for corridor service that passes through multiple states if one or more of the states won't pay for it. In the case of the Downeaster, it seems that Maine doesn't mind paying for what should be New Hampshire's share. (The Vermonter also serves a good bit of western New Hampshire without New Hampshire paying for anything.) However, how would it be possible to develop Chicago-Toldeo-Cleveland service, or Chicago -Indianapolis - Cincinatti service, given that the states involved (Ohio and Indiana) are hostile to funding rail projects?

And I disagree with the idea that Amtrak's budget should be going to long-distance train travel. While a basic long-distance network is worth supporting, it's really secondary to the main point of Federal funding for passenger rail -- to provide a network of interconnected 200-500 mile corridors that have multiple daily trains withing each corridor. This might provide the possibility of more long-distance trains that link the corridors, but they will never carry the bulk of the passengers served by the whole system. Passenger rail as a transportation mode is really most competitive for trips from 100 - 500 miles.
 
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I was following it at the time, and it seemed as though one objective was to not accidentally kill the Palmetto, while still putting a lid on trains for the big states.
Do you mean "big" in terms of population or in terms of area? Come to think of it, wouldn't it be possible for Amtrak to fund a Dallas-San Antonio- El Paso corridor? That's over 900 miles, and it does serve some of the largest cities in the state. (OK, so most of the mileage is through a pretty unpopulated desert, but there's still a lot of traffic on I-10, so there are more people out there in that expanse than is obvious from a first glance.)
 

ShiningTimeStL

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I'm feeling very, very gutted still about my favorite passenger train, and not terribly optimistic at the moment. I just wish there was more I could do, but the chaos within the Missouri legislature is only escalating and making funding a train look even more insignificant in comparison. I don't have very high hopes for the 2035 vision unless PRIIA is heavily revised or repealed.
 

crescent-zephyr

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However, how would it be possible to develop Chicago-Toldeo-Cleveland service, or Chicago -Indianapolis - Cincinatti service, given that the states involved (Ohio and Indiana) are hostile to funding rail projects?

If the states do not want rail service, they don’t get it. Seems fair to me.

And I disagree with the idea that Amtrak's budget should be going to long-distance train travel. While a basic long-distance network is worth supporting, it's really secondary to the main point of Federal funding for passenger rail -- to provide a network of interconnected 200-500 mile corridors that have multiple daily trains withing each corridor.

Yeah, we don’t agree on the main point of Feferal funding. To me, the federal funding should go to linking the entire country via long distance rail. State funding should go towards shorter corridors.
 

Willbridge

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Do you mean "big" in terms of population or in terms of area? Come to think of it, wouldn't it be possible for Amtrak to fund a Dallas-San Antonio- El Paso corridor? That's over 900 miles, and it does serve some of the largest cities in the state. (OK, so most of the mileage is through a pretty unpopulated desert, but there's still a lot of traffic on I-10, so there are more people out there in that expanse than is obvious from a first glance.)
It's really both factors in terms of geography and the potential for lots of House districts. You're right about the trans-Texas routing, but oddities like that have been prevented by doing nothing, always an effective legislative method.

One type of train that the laws complicate is the short connecting run for a long-distance service. Thus, a Colorado Springs section of Trains 3 and 4 is legal, but a connecting LAJ<>COS train without state funding is not.
 

neroden

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But the 750 mile restriction limits the possibility for corridor service that passes through multiple states if one or more of the states won't pay for it. In the case of the Downeaster, it seems that Maine doesn't mind paying for what should be New Hampshire's share. (The Vermonter also serves a good bit of western New Hampshire without New Hampshire paying for anything.) However, how would it be possible to develop Chicago-Toldeo-Cleveland service, or Chicago -Indianapolis - Cincinatti service, given that the states involved (Ohio and Indiana) are hostile to funding rail projects?
This is the big issue.

And I disagree with the idea that Amtrak's budget should be going to long-distance train travel. While a basic long-distance network is worth supporting, it's really secondary to the main point of Federal funding for passenger rail -- to provide a network of interconnected 200-500 mile corridors that have multiple daily trains withing each corridor.
I deny the false dichotomy between long-distance and corridor service. I present, for your consideration, the Lake Shore Limited.

This might provide the possibility of more long-distance trains that link the corridors, but they will never carry the bulk of the passengers served by the whole system.
The long-distance trains can carry the bulk of the passengers while still carrying them for short distances (as they in fact currently do).

Passenger rail as a transportation mode is really most competitive for trips from 100 - 500 miles.

Works fine for 673 miles (the distance from where I live to Chicago) too.

The thing is: I'm in the middle of the line. If passenger rail is most competitive for trips of 500 miles, ***you want 1000-mile-long routes***, or perhaps even longer -- which is not obvious for those who are stuck in airline or car mentality. Train routes should *always* be longer than the individual trips people are taking -- for obvious reasons, once you think about it!
 

neroden

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I'm feeling very, very gutted still about my favorite passenger train, and not terribly optimistic at the moment. I just wish there was more I could do, but the chaos within the Missouri legislature is only escalating and making funding a train look even more insignificant in comparison. I don't have very high hopes for the 2035 vision unless PRIIA is heavily revised or repealed.
Well, all you have to do is kick the current Republican leadership out of the Missouri legislature... I know you're gerrymandered quite badly by the Republicans though. Probably have to run ANOTHER anti-gerrymandering initiative & referendum to get any progress...


Took us 50 years to beat gerrymandering in NY, but we don't have initiative & referendum.
 

danasgoodstuff

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One of my favorite memories from working at West Publishing was explaining how initiatives and referendums work to a NY law student who had called after he was confused by a note in an annotation to one of the western state's statutes, 'You can do that!?' was his response.
 
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I deny the false dichotomy between long-distance and corridor service. I present, for your consideration, the Lake Shore Limited.
The problem is we have several places where we should have corridor service but because of the reluctance of state governments the LDs end up being the de facto corridor train e.g. the LSL and Capitol Ltd as the CHI - CLE corridor trains, not ideal due to inconvenient times at CLE and poor timekeeping.
 

zephyr17

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I’m very much for the 750 mile restriction. If a state like NC wants Amtrak to run a Charlotte - Raleigh Corridor Train, they should pay for that.

Amtrak’s budget should be going towards long distance train travel. In my opinion of course.
I would not object to the 750 mile rule if the NEC had not been exempted from it.

Making the states benefiting from the NEC pay for it like the rest of us shouldn't be a problem. Since it makes a profit, they shouldn't be out any money😉.
 
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jebr

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To me, the federal funding should go to linking the entire country via long distance rail. State funding should go towards shorter corridors.

Then should individual states have to pay the subsidy for every passenger who travels less than 750 miles on the long distance trains? They're basically treating the train as a corridor service.

The 750 mile rule is basically arbitrary - my understanding was that it was chosen so that the Carolinian was a state-supported train but the Palmetto was a long-distance train. It also exempts the NEC entirely despite that being under 750 miles. The federal government's goal should be to support transportation infrastructure, particularly that through multiple states - however, even in-state links could be funded so long as they're part of a comprehensive network. The feds pay plenty for the Interstate highway network despite the vast percentage of Interstate highway usage being for in-state travel - rail should be viewed similarly.
 

jis

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It was an arbitrary compromise that was necessary to get sufficient votes in the Senate in a particularly harsh authorization/appropriation cycle, to keep the national network funded. It's as simple as that. Now that the situation may be different it is time to revisit.

Remember that this rule is about operating subsidies, and does not directly concern capital investments. Capital investment deals are separately negotiated out of several different budget lines that are not Amtrak operating subsidy funds. Witness how Gateway is being handled.
 

rs9

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While it is true that people often use long distance trains as corridor service, LD riders in FY '19 still only represented 14% of total ridership. In other words, 86% of riders were using corridor services. Seems odd that the federal government should be funding only the minority of usage.

Beyond that, this is a chicken vs. egg argument. If you want more people to use the long distance network, it would make sense to install train travel as a regular part of their transportation diet (i.e. corridor service). If you never use a train, are you really going to hop on a 20 hour overnight Amtrak?
 

west point

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I am tired of this auguring of LD vs. shorter distances. It is another way to Balkanize the USA. Let us quit it please. Someone wiser posted that what Amtrak needs is two separate piles of appropriations.
1. All above rail operating costs.
2. Everything else of course divided up as is done now.
3. Get rid of 750-mile language. Maybe make it 200 miles. Also, any crossing of state lines canceled even 200 miles.

We should all want Amtrak to meet the untapped possible passengers. that can only be done if Amtrak is carrying 5 - 6 times the number of revenue passenger miles compared to now. That can only occur with passengers able to make one or more connections to other trains so they can go from east Blue Island to northwest Red Island. What service already runs does provide for a very small contingent of rural persons but more needs to be done.

If that is covered then the larger city pairs will be served as well.
 
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