New Amtrak Proposed Routes Map has Dropped

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jebr

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Also, roads are more dangerous than rails even if your driver is good as being a good driver doesn't stop you from being rear-ended by a semi or being cut off and end up hitting a wall because some idiot felt he was entitled to change lanes whenever he wanted. And while your driver may not drive DUI or half asleep, that doesn't mean the others out there are the same.

I'll take long bus rides when they have PRC (positive road control) for all vehicles, the buses have seats like the one you showed, and they have a cafe and/or lounge section.
Statistically speaking, bus travel quite safe. It might not be quite as safe as rail travel (I've seen varying statistics, some of which suggest rail travel is a bit safer and some that suggest that bus travel is safer) but it's still quite safe. The data from the National Safety Council suggests that rail travel is a bit safer (it was the first link I could find that showed the differences.)

Either way, I don't think the current data suggests that there's such a discrepancy in safety between the modes that we should prefer one over the other for subsidy, though I certainly agree that buses are best suited for regional journeys up to four hours or so. The 8 hour bus ride to Chicago from St. Paul is about my top end for ideal bus travel, but I'm also a bit more comfortable with bus travel than most, and I buy two seats so I'm not crowded in.

Restarting some of the old Trailways routes would make sense. I do think the Essential Air Service should be changed to the Essential Transportation Service and have the subsidy go to what ever form of transportation makes the most sense. Whether its a train, bus or plane it should all be on the table.
I fully agree - and the rules especially for air travel should be weighted as such that it doesn't get a preference until the distances are quite large. The "major airport" distinction should also change to "airport with daily commercial service" or similar - there's no logical reason that we should be spending over $2.7m/year to subsidize air service to Pueblo, CO when there's already bus links to Denver and Colorado Springs (both with airports that do not receive subsidy) and the drive time to COS is under an hour. A bus service could easily be spun up for less than than each year to connect Pueblo to either the Colorado Springs or Denver airport directly, even without charging passengers anything to ride it. I've taken Landline before (an airport bus) and it works pretty well - United's already using it to connect passengers to their Denver hub, and Sun Country uses it to connect passengers to their MSP hub, including through ticketing, guaranteed connections, and checked baggage transfers.
 

Seaboard92

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Chicago to Florida takes a lot of equipment. This link is the SOU royal palm that was a very limited train making 3 connections + more not shown at Cincinnati. My best calculations is that it takes 5 train sets.
The New Royal Palm - March, 1951 - Streamliner Schedules

Then you have the Dixie - Flagler that takes almost 12 hours more to get to Atlanta probably 6 train sets. This route IMHO is a better CHI - ATL then NS to Florida as it does hit more cities. It does miss Louisville going thru Evansville . So you have a hard choice.. Go thru Louisville slowing the schedule or run a separate section Louisville - Nashville.
The Dixie Flagler - June, 1941 - Streamliner Schedules

However neither of these trains are realistic in today's markets. CHI - Cincinnati is much slower now. Notice that either route are mainly express trains with not the stops needed to make it truly an Amtrak LD route that serves the hinderlands.an
But here is the thing we don't have to be married to those routes. That's the beautiful thing about Amtrak we aren't held captive to which railroad the train has to run on. So we can mix and match what is the best route available for the train to take. For instance the California Zephyr doesn't run on it's original route west of Winnemucca. The Southwest Chief doesn't stay on the Santa Fe passed Galesburg. The Lakeshore Limited doesn't even follow the New York Central the whole way (that part in northern Indiana is a hodgepodge mix of the Pennsy and NYC Main lines). And the ultimate one for having a hodge podge is the Capitol Limited. DC-Pittsburgh is on the former B&O main line. It jumps to the Pennsylvania Main line from Pittsburgh to Alliance before jumping on a Pennsylvania branch to Cleveland. Then it's on the New York Central till northern Indiana where it switches back and forth between the New York Central and Pennsylvania main lines.

So we don't have to be married to the older routings. We can and should pick the strongest of the routes.
 

sttom

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I fully agree - and the rules especially for air travel should be weighted as such that it doesn't get a preference until the distances are quite large. The "major airport" distinction should also change to "airport with daily commercial service" or similar - there's no logical reason that we should be spending over $2.7m/year to subsidize air service to Pueblo, CO when there's already bus links to Denver and Colorado Springs (both with airports that do not receive subsidy) and the drive time to COS is under an hour. A bus service could easily be spun up for less than than each year to connect Pueblo to either the Colorado Springs or Denver airport directly, even without charging passengers anything to ride it. I've taken Landline before (an airport bus) and it works pretty well - United's already using it to connect passengers to their Denver hub, and Sun Country uses it to connect passengers to their MSP hub, including through ticketing, guaranteed connections, and checked baggage transfers.
This is going to be a bit of a rant, but not at anyone in particular, but at a notion that continues to pervade policy discussions, but this stupid set up with Pueblo just shows it too well.

The notion that I am talking about is that "if something isn't a 100% solution for everyone, then we shouldn't pursue that solution at all" (the But Sometimes "Problem"). Expanding Amtrak or creating an Essential Transportation Program would get opposed partially because not everyone is going to ride a train or whatever given form of transportation is available. Expanding Amtrak won't help everyone and not everyone will want to ride a train. I have accepted this and some rich guy from New York had a 3 day melt down on Twitter this weekend about how much he thinks trains suck and the cosmic backlash that ensued over it. Someone like him will never ride Amtrak, but that doesn't mean millions of people in the US wouldn't choose Amtrak to take a trip somewhere if they had service at all or they had service that was better than a 3 day a week train that shows up at midnight. Pretty much all of us here would ride Amtrak more if it were available and I know a lot of people that would consider it if it were more available.

But having a subsidized flight out of Pueblo when Colorado Springs Airport is about an hour away is stupid beyond words. I know some people won't want to ride a train to Colorado Springs to take a flight, but many Essential Air cities are in this boat where they are an hour away from a big airport. Providing an extra subsidy to Amtrak to provide rail service along the Front Range would be a better use of money that keeping a flight going. In this case and a lot of others, paying for a train would be a better option that making sure some people aren't inconvenienced by having to drive an hour to get to the airport. I live in the SF Bay Area and I have to drive at least that much to get to SFO or Oakland. Its not "essential" for me to live as close to an airline as a mall, why should people who don't live in places like Crescent City, CA? Having federally subsidized Amtrak service would do a lot more useful for not only me, but the millions of people that live in California or Colorado.

"But sometimes" people won't take the train and won't drive 45 minutes to fly....so we can't have any trains anywhere. Which I can imagine why places like Pueblo, CO get "essential" flights when there could have a perfectly good train somewhere or people could just drive to the nearest airport with existing commercial service. I'm for subsidized transportation services, but not something as short as a flight from Pueblo to Denver that exists mostly as a convenience to people who could afford to fly. If they wanted to make an economic argument about it, the train would still win on that front. Stations with semi frequent train service serve as an anchor point for a town that attracts economic activity. I find it doubtful that Pueblo's economy is getting anywhere near the economic benefit of a flight or 2 per day as they would getting 4 round trip trains per day. Which leads me to believe that a good chunk of our transportation planning is based around noisy people's concept of convenience rather than any idea of its impact on the economy, society, the environment or what have you and any "proof" is just assigned after the fact in a vacuum that assumes no other form of transportation exists.
 

Cal

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So we can mix and match what is the best route available for the train to take. For instance the California Zephyr doesn't run on it's original route west of Winnemucca.
I'm curious, how was the scenery on that routing vs the one through Donner Pass?
 

Bob Dylan

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I'm curious, how was the scenery on that routing vs the one through Donner Pass?
The Feather River Canyon is really nice, a few times the Zephyr has detoured when the Donner Pass route wasnt available!( I still prefer the Donner Route)
 

neroden

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But in any event, if rural voters seem to keep electing representatives who don't push hard for public support of train service to rural areas, it's a little silly to try to sell long-distance trains as service for rural America.
It's rarely the truly rural farm-and-ranch voters who want the trains: it's people who live in small cities of 100K+. Which are urban. And many of them vote for train service. Depending on the surrounding state politics, they may or may not be outnumbered by train-haters.
 

Cal

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The Feather River Canyon is really nice, a few times the Zephyr has detoured when the Donner Pass route wasnt available!( I still prefer the Donner Route)
I haven't found any videos of that detour, I've tried. Know of any videos or pictures?
 

Seaboard92

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I haven't found any videos of that detour, I've tried. Know of any videos or pictures?
Here are some post cards of the original California Zephyr some of which are in the Feather River Canyon.

The Feather River Canyon is one of the most scenic stretches of railroad in the USA. It has less population but it is very breathtaking. I would love to ride that route.
 

MARC Rider

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"But sometimes" people won't take the train and won't drive 45 minutes to fly....
If someone won't drive 45 minutes to fly, the only alternative is to have commercial airports built on a 10-mile grid. :)
Really. I live in Baltimore and it takes me 40 minutes to get to my local airport. Some people in the metro area have longer drives. People also drive down from York, as there are more flights from BWI than from Harrisburg. I'm also perfectly willing to drive the 2 hours to Dulles to take an international flight if the rather minimalist offerings from BWI don't meet my needs. I don't need a subsidized puddle jumper to take me from BWI to Dulles. In fact, I once did fly from Dulles to BWI because my flight from Denver stopped at Dulles first. It was a lot of taxiing and such for 15 minutes in the air.

The point is, if people in the large metropolitan areas have to drive long distances to get to their airports, then why shouldn't people in smaller towns?
 

Cal

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Here are some post cards of the original California Zephyr some of which are in the Feather River Canyon.

The Feather River Canyon is one of the most scenic stretches of railroad in the USA. It has less population but it is very breathtaking. I would love to ride that route.
That's beautiful, I personally think it beats out Donner Pass!
 

Siegmund

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4&5. The Wyoming routing was planned to include the Desert Wind, making a better SLC<>DEN schedule. The Pioneer was to continue a through car service into SLC. These things did not happen, but the Wyoming mileage was charged to the Pioneer. There never was an explanation.
I am glad to hear that was the plan. It seemed to me that the logical solution was to run the Desert Wind through Wyoming, and continue to join the Pioneer and CZ in Salt Lake.
 

Siegmund

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Ok, now that that's out of the way, let's use a real life scenario. Let's say you live in Havre Montana. Population: less than 10,000. Now , lets say you need to get to Seattle for whatever reason.... using Cape Air EAS from the local airport, which has two daily departures, to fly to Billings, where you can then get to Seattle and many more destinations. This trip takes in total about 5 to 6 hours....
You are having an extremely good day if you succeed in making it from Havre to Seattle in 5 or 6 hours.

I have had to fly from Portland to Kalispell, on a day when there was no sleeper space on the Builder. That took an uncomfortable 7, even with an hourly shuttle between Portland and Seattle and my choice of 3 or 4 flights a day Seattle to Kalispell. And made me a confirmed believer in the idea that I'd rather spend 14 hours in coach on the Builder than 7 dealing with airline security and seating.

I have wondered from time to time if Amtrak could apply to receive the EAS subsidies for the 4 Builder and 3 North Coast Hiawatha stops in MT and ND, as a means of helping pay the operating cost of a restored NCH. Add shuttle vans to transport you and your bags from the train station to the airport in Billings or St. Paul. Actually try to help make it easy for people to get anywhere they need to go.

In the real world, incidentally, quite a large number of folks take the train from Havre and Shelby to Whitefish if they need to have a 'big city' medical procedure done at the hospital in Kalispell. I imagine some number fly to Billings (or continue to Salt Lake or Seattle after billings) for the same reason.
 

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...I have had to fly from Portland to Kalispell, on a day when there was no sleeper space on the Builder....
Just for the 'ell of it I searched google "flights Portland to Kalispell." It took me to kayak.com. and low and behold look what turned up at the top of the list of flights.

Amtrak.com

Ready When You Are
When you're ready to go, Amtrak is ready to take you - with enhanced cleaning and safety protocols.
Amtrak.com | Sponsored

👍
 

Cal

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Just for the 'ell of it I searched google "flights Portland to Kalispell." It took me to kayak.com. and low and behold look what turned up at the top of the list of flights.
Unfortunately when it says view the deal, just takes you to the booking area without anything filled in! Some people may not realize they go to Whitefish...
 

Cal

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Alaska is asking for nearly 700 dollars round trip though, which is insane, unless I'm missing something...


But, due to the buy one get one free sale (I believe), or high demand coach, the sleeper isn't even 80 more than coach 1617848697611.png
 

Siegmund

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I am glad to see somebody at Amtrak marketing is aware that Montana to West Coast is a market where they are very competitive - easy "ride all night, arrive the next morning" schedule. I hope they follow up on it with some actual sales.

As for Whitefish vs. Kalispell - the airport somehow manages to be 10 miles away from both of them (OK, 11 from Kalispell, 9 from Whitefish) with absolutely nothing near it (finally got a holiday inn express type establishment across the street last year), so Amtrak is winning on that front too.
 

Siegmund

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Alaska is asking for nearly 700 dollars round trip though, which is insane, unless I'm missing something...
You aren't missing anything much. $700 is particularly bad, but it always costs more to fly from here to Seattle or Denver than from the hub to Fresno or Phoenix or Orlando or wherever. Similarly (much) more from here to New York than from New York to Europe.

That is why my work (which will not buy first class plane tickets for anyone) does not blink at buying me sleeping car tickets when I go to Portland or Seattle. More typically, the plane ticket is slightly less than sleeper fare and I have to compare it to the price of plane ticket + hotel room to make the sleeper look cheaper.
 
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TrackWalker

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...But, due to the buy one get one free sale (I believe), or high demand coach, the sleeper isn't even 80 more than coach View attachment 21506
Seattle/Portland to Whitefish, MT could easily be marketed as a night train trip for winter skiing. (Can you say "Ski Train"?) And the reverse direction is about the same time schedule. 9pm-10am.

I've even seriously considered going to Whitefish for the day and coming right back the same day.
 
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Willbridge

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Seattle/Portland to Whitefish, MT could easily be marketed as a night train trip for winter skiing. And the reverse direction is about the same time schedule. 9pm-10am.

I've even seriously considered going to Whitefish for the day and coming right back the same day.
In the past Amtrak did promote those overnight ski trips, as did the GN before them. Group sales were common for ski trips, also. Downsizing of marketing and sales staffs may have curtailed those promotions.1967 10 GN Whitefish  001.jpg
 
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Siegmund

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My impression is that there is still a large Seattle-Whitefish ski business. That's the only reason I can think of why winter Builders occasionally run with two Seattle sleepers... when I rode in mid-November (in 17,18, and 19) the Builder feels like a ghost of 1968, one coach and one sleeper both less than half full unless it's the week before Thanksgiving.
 

Cal

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My impression is that there is still a large Seattle-Whitefish ski business. That's the only reason I can think of why winter Builders occasionally run with two Seattle sleepers... when I rode in mid-November (in 17,18, and 19) the Builder feels like a ghost of 1968, one coach and one sleeper both less than half full unless it's the week before Thanksgiving.
I thought the Seattle section usually ran with three sleepers pre-Covid?
 

Siegmund

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I don't recall ever seeing more than the transdorm and two full sleepers (and a second coach) on the Seattle section. Not saying it's never happened, but am quite sure it wasn't routine in the 90s and isn't now. (All bets off for the 17 years I lived in Alaska in between). I imagine the transdorm roomettes are sold during peak season. In a good year there will be a second Portland sleeper too, but can't rely on seeing that every day even in summer.
 

Cal

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I don't recall ever seeing more than the transdorm and two full sleepers (and a second coach) on the Seattle section. Not saying it's never happened, but am quite sure it wasn't routine in the 90s and isn't now. (All bets off for the 17 years I lived in Alaska in between). I imagine the transdorm roomettes are sold during peak season. In a good year there will be a second Portland sleeper too, but can't rely on seeing that every day even in summer.
Whoops, I always count the transdorm as a sleeper! You’re right.
Also I thought the roomettes were always sold in the trandorm... 🤔
 
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