New Amtrak Proposed Routes Map has Dropped

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Siegmund

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We are on the same page then. It may well be they do always sell it when it is needed now. (You're making me feel old, remembering riding when they were Hi-Level transition coaches, not sleepers, which were rather rarely sold - they put the crew only sign on the outer door rather than at the head of the stairs most of the time.) But there are days when the load is light enough nobody is in the extra roomettes.
 
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Matthew H Fish

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This is kind of "meta", because it isn't about the post as much as it is about the media reaction to it, and what I think is a somewhat disingenuous article.


The article does have a fair point that Amtrak has a route, the NE Corridor, that already makes money and is easier and more convenient than air travel in those routes. So, if the articles point is that we should feed success, it is a fair point.

I think the article is a little disingenuous about several things, including the fact that while NEC might be the only profit-making corridor, others are close; that transportation and population trends will change in the next 15 years, and most importantly, a rail network is...a rail network. The article says:

"Spending money to build a new line from Oklahoma City to Newton, Kan., would be typical Washington malarkey."


If the only point of the line was to connect the 1.5 million people in the OKC metro area with the 600,000 people in the Wichita metro area,it would have limited utility. But the point of building the rail link isn't about that, it is that it will make it possible for 7.5 million people in the DFW area and the 2 million people in the Kansas City metro area to connect. And, to a lesser extent, it will make trips from more distant population centers, like San Antonio, Houston, and New Orleans much easier.

So I found the article (more than) a little glib: suggesting that a single link in the network is silly, without looking into the rational behind it.
 

Larry H.

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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.
Before Amtrak the Empire Builder ran about five sleepers daily. We took it when a sign was posted in the sleeping section that Amtrak would be taking over all passenger service in 30 days.
 

Cal

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including the fact that while NEC might be the only profit-making corridor, others are close
How much does the Surfliner (and the CC) actually lose? It's a pretty popular service, I was surprised to hear that it wasn't making a profit..
 

toddinde

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Thank you! Whenever intercity bus expansion is brought up, people just say something like "Riding the bus sucks. No one wants that." In reality, it can be expanded using some really nice buses. Think like Red Coach or Vonlane with the big comfy seats that are like La Z Boy recliners.
People are surprised, but Mexican busses are fantastic. They’re comfortable, have movies. Nothing like our busses except those you mention.
 

toddinde

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Eh... that’s a very debatable point. I don’t get the obsession with infrastructure making a profit. It’s not supposed to.
The NEC is an extremely debatable point. The largest percentage of ridership is between Philadelphia and New York. Nothing with $38 billion in deferred maintenance can be considered profitable. I support NEC investment, but not at the expense of the majority of Americans that don’t live there.
 

Seaboard92

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The thing about public transportation it is not supposed to make a profit, and it never has. There is no form of passenger transport that exists without some form of a subsidy from someone.

Airlines are private companies but they don't own the airport those are government owned. Which is a form of a subsidy. EAS is a form of a subsidy.

Buses and cars drive on government owned and funded roads that is a subsidy.

Trains are no different. Part of the problem trains have dates back to the Robber Baron era where the capitalists at the top were actively screwing the general public so they are looked down upon for that to this day. But even the passenger trains back in the day were not profitable but were directly subsidized by the freight side of the business. The trains mostly were able to break even up into the late 1950s because there was enough ridership to even out the loss. And the infrastructure benefits of having 20 trains of a class vs 1 make it a lot less expensive per train to have that upgraded infrastructure.

We need to look at things the way they are and fund things appropriately. Amtrak has done wonders for passenger rail in the USA based on the starvation budget they are given they still manage to provide decent-ish service to 46 states. The problem Amtrak has is they get blinded to their mission which is to provide service to the nation and not just the Northeast and urban corridors.
 

Siegmund

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The problem Amtrak has is they get blinded to their mission which is to provide service to the nation and not just the Northeast and urban corridors.
I think that's a big part of what frustrates a lot of us with this new map. It's not so much a map of what Amtrak would do with more federal subsidy as a map of which states they hope will pay for local service.

I dream of seeing a bill pass, along the lines of guaranteeing them their penny's worth of the gas tax but requiring them to improve service to all 48 contiguous states.
 

Palmetto

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People are surprised, but Mexican busses are fantastic. They’re comfortable, have movies. Nothing like our busses except those you mention.

The drivers, though, that I experienced take chances. The biggest one was trying to pass a slower moving vehicle on a two-land road. Came close a coupla times to having a head-on with something going the other direction.
 

jis

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The drivers, though, that I experienced take chances. The biggest one was trying to pass a slower moving vehicle on a two-land road. Came close a coupla times to having a head-on with something going the other direction.
That game of chicken is one of the favorite sports of intercity bus drivers in India too, and when things don't turn out well, are well documented in wrecks lying along the roads, which in remoter areas are not removed for years on end.
 

jebr

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I think the article is a little disingenuous about several things, including the fact that while NEC might be the only profit-making corridor, others are close; that transportation and population trends will change in the next 15 years, and most importantly, a rail network is...a rail network. The article says:

"Spending money to build a new line from Oklahoma City to Newton, Kan., would be typical Washington malarkey."
Frankly, it feels like something written by someone "inside the beltway," or at least someone in the Northeast. There's potentially some good points made about the extensions in the Northeast, but then the entire article just goes off the rails and finds many things that actually make sense within those corridors as terrible investments. A train from Pueblo, CO to Cheyenne, WY makes sense - that entire Front Range corridor could use good passenger rail, and the cities are large enough to support it. Cheyenne's ~100k metro population can support passenger rail, and it's only an extra 40 miles from Fort Collins which can definitely support it. Same on the Pueblo end - you're looking at an extra 40ish miles for another ~160k people. La Junta and Newton might not make sense on their own, but they're still close enough to at least justify extending a train or two to provide connecting service if the additional trackage rights are inexpensive. It doesn't take a geography degree to understand this - just an understanding of geography throughout the US and the importance of connecting service.
 

jis

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I think that's a big part of what frustrates a lot of us with this new map. It's not so much a map of what Amtrak would do with more federal subsidy as a map of which states they hope will pay for local service.

I dream of seeing a bill pass, along the lines of guaranteeing them their penny's worth of the gas tax but requiring them to improve service to all 48 contiguous states.
I brought up this issue again at yesterday's RPA Council prep call for the Virtual Day on the Hill later this month. This is an issue that will be taken up in all its glory, including on proposed changes to the membership criteria for the Amtrak Board that is being considered as part of the new Authorization Bill.

Basically Amtrak needs to provide an explanation of how just adding a few corridors and ignoring the interconnecting backbone from a growth perspective, fulfills its mission of providing a national service. Also, in principle there is developing agreement on modifying Amtrak's charter further, to make it clearer that its primary mission is providing superior service cost effectively, and only a secondary mission to break even.

It should be interesting to see how all this develops over the next several months.
 
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anumberone

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The drivers, though, that I experienced take chances. The biggest one was trying to pass a slower moving vehicle on a two-land road. Came close a coupla times to having a head-on with something going the other direction.
you have to hand it the Bus drivers and Truck drivers in Mexico. A lot of the roads are winding and narrow and no shoulders.
 

Matthew H Fish

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Frankly, it feels like something written by someone "inside the beltway," or at least someone in the Northeast.
Yes, that is what is puzzling--- the type of faux populism that suggests that only people "inside the beltway" would be thinking of rail in Kansas, while the populist heart of the country beats for increased service between NYC and Washington, D.C. ? That does not make sense.
 

jis

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Frankly, it feels like something written by someone "inside the beltway," or at least someone in the Northeast.
The author appears to be a New Englander and Washington DC transplant to Florida. It is quite possible that he does not have knowledge beyond armchair philosophizing about rail transportation potential about the west side of the Mississippi. Who knows?
 

sttom

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I just read the article and its the typical mentality of someone that forgets that people actually live further than 20 miles inland from an ocean. And *gasp* we're a good chunk of this country's population and we frankly deserve and need better train service. God forbid us "people" not want to drive everywhere! For Shame on us!
 

mlanoue

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And, the writer must not be aware that "building a new line" from Oklahoma City to Newton, Kansas isn't really Amtrak's idea at all, since it's been a goal of rail advocates in Oklahoma for years now. Plus, they're not talking about physically building entirely new trackage on a new right of way, as the writer seems to imply.
 

Crowbar_k

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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 do feel like there are a couple of EAS routes that don't make sense. For example, there is a Cape Air route that goes from Quincy to Chicago. This is in direct competition with the Carl Sandberg/Illinois Zephyr. I think the funds for that route should be moved to somewhere else. Maybe Peoria, which recently lost its EAS route to St. Louis and has no train service.
 

Seaboard92

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I do feel like there are a couple of EAS routes that don't make sense. For example, there is a Cape Air route that goes from Quincy to Chicago. This is in direct competition with the Carl Sandberg/Illinois Zephyr. I think the funds for that route should be moved to somewhere else. Maybe Peoria, which recently lost its EAS route to St. Louis and has no train service.
I honestly think we should approach regional rail and airline travel as a codeshare. United codeshares flights around the world I can buy a ticket to Moscow from United and it's on Lufthansa from Germany on but it's still a United Ticket. Honestly what I think would make a lot of sense is to eliminate some of these short inefficient EAS Flights that make no sense and pass it over to rail.

My best example is the Charlotte airport which has a rail yard between two of the runways. Put a station there and you can run service to Greenville, Greensboro, Raleigh, Columbia, Charleston, and Asheville which all are close to the shortest flights in the American Airlines system. These could be better serviced by rail than a flight because no one is flying from Columbia to Charlotte, it is 99.9 percent connecting traffic.

The train would work better in the instance of Columbia-Charlotte because it can pick up people closer to their homes. For me it's an hour to drive to CAE, or an hour and a half to CLT. But if I can start my journey on a codeshared train to Charlotte airport that's a winner. With it being a codeshare if the train is late AA would have to accommodate me. It would eliminate expensive airport parking as well. Improve congestion at the airport as the train can make extra stops such as Rock Hill and Fort Mill that drive to the Charlotte airport. And American benefits from not having to contract with regional airlines to fly the route.

Which is good for the environment and the bottom line because less employees to pay at the end of the day. It would also free up some slots for AA that they could then use on higher profit routes out of their hubs. Essentially this would work the same out of almost all of the major airports IAD/DCA/BWI, ORD/MDW, ATL, DEN, SFO, LAX/BUR/ONT, BOS, JFK/LGA/EWR

I have always wondered if you could fund the short corridor trains from a private company as I could see Delta in Atlanta wanting to do something like this. Delta has a lot of flights all over the southeast that could easily be replaced fully or partly by rail such as Birmingham, Montgomery, Chattanooga, Greenville, Augusta, Savannah, Valdosta, Jacksonville, etc...

It would be cheaper for Delta and they could get back some of the slots in Atlanta to run high profit transcons, or intercons.
 

Cal

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I honestly think we should approach regional rail and airline travel as a codeshare. United codeshares flights around the world I can buy a ticket to Moscow from United and it's on Lufthansa from Germany on but it's still a United Ticket. Honestly what I think would make a lot of sense is to eliminate some of these short inefficient EAS Flights that make no sense and pass it over to rail.

My best example is the Charlotte airport which has a rail yard between two of the runways. Put a station there and you can run service to Greenville, Greensboro, Raleigh, Columbia, Charleston, and Asheville which all are close to the shortest flights in the American Airlines system. These could be better serviced by rail than a flight because no one is flying from Columbia to Charlotte, it is 99.9 percent connecting traffic.

The train would work better in the instance of Columbia-Charlotte because it can pick up people closer to their homes. For me it's an hour to drive to CAE, or an hour and a half to CLT. But if I can start my journey on a codeshared train to Charlotte airport that's a winner. With it being a codeshare if the train is late AA would have to accommodate me. It would eliminate expensive airport parking as well. Improve congestion at the airport as the train can make extra stops such as Rock Hill and Fort Mill that drive to the Charlotte airport. And American benefits from not having to contract with regional airlines to fly the route.

Which is good for the environment and the bottom line because less employees to pay at the end of the day. It would also free up some slots for AA that they could then use on higher profit routes out of their hubs. Essentially this would work the same out of almost all of the major airports IAD/DCA/BWI, ORD/MDW, ATL, DEN, SFO, LAX/BUR/ONT, BOS, JFK/LGA/EWR

I have always wondered if you could fund the short corridor trains from a private company as I could see Delta in Atlanta wanting to do something like this. Delta has a lot of flights all over the southeast that could easily be replaced fully or partly by rail such as Birmingham, Montgomery, Chattanooga, Greenville, Augusta, Savannah, Valdosta, Jacksonville, etc...

It would be cheaper for Delta and they could get back some of the slots in Atlanta to run high profit transcons, or intercons.
I like the idea
 

Crowbar_k

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I honestly think we should approach regional rail and airline travel as a codeshare. United codeshares flights around the world I can buy a ticket to Moscow from United and it's on Lufthansa from Germany on but it's still a United Ticket. Honestly what I think would make a lot of sense is to eliminate some of these short inefficient EAS Flights that make no sense and pass it over to rail.

My best example is the Charlotte airport which has a rail yard between two of the runways. Put a station there and you can run service to Greenville, Greensboro, Raleigh, Columbia, Charleston, and Asheville which all are close to the shortest flights in the American Airlines system. These could be better serviced by rail than a flight because no one is flying from Columbia to Charlotte, it is 99.9 percent connecting traffic.

The train would work better in the instance of Columbia-Charlotte because it can pick up people closer to their homes. For me it's an hour to drive to CAE, or an hour and a half to CLT. But if I can start my journey on a codeshared train to Charlotte airport that's a winner. With it being a codeshare if the train is late AA would have to accommodate me. It would eliminate expensive airport parking as well. Improve congestion at the airport as the train can make extra stops such as Rock Hill and Fort Mill that drive to the Charlotte airport. And American benefits from not having to contract with regional airlines to fly the route.

Which is good for the environment and the bottom line because less employees to pay at the end of the day. It would also free up some slots for AA that they could then use on higher profit routes out of their hubs. Essentially this would work the same out of almost all of the major airports IAD/DCA/BWI, ORD/MDW, ATL, DEN, SFO, LAX/BUR/ONT, BOS, JFK/LGA/EWR

I have always wondered if you could fund the short corridor trains from a private company as I could see Delta in Atlanta wanting to do something like this. Delta has a lot of flights all over the southeast that could easily be replaced fully or partly by rail such as Birmingham, Montgomery, Chattanooga, Greenville, Augusta, Savannah, Valdosta, Jacksonville, etc...

It would be cheaper for Delta and they could get back some of the slots in Atlanta to run high profit transcons, or intercons.
There is no way the airline lobby will let that happen. Remember when Southwest killed the Texas Bullet Train?

I believe United actually tried something like that with Amtrak connecting with Newark, but it didn't work out.
 
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jis

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I think the Joint Ventures (JV) between airlines work well. Just plain old code shares in my experience are a crap shoot. Some work well and others not so much.

United and Lufthansa work well because they operate a trans-Atlantic and connecting flights JV.
 
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