New Amtrak Proposed Routes Map has Dropped

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Crowbar_k

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To add a bit more context to what I said, I believe rural communities would be much better served by the Essential Air service, or even a bus service. This would connect people to much more destinations faster and more efficiently than a long overnight train. So no. I don't really see the need for more long distance trains, except for maybe another auto train.
 

Cal

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To add a bit more context to what I said, I believe rural communities would be much better served by the Essential Air service, or even a bus service. This would connect people to much more destinations faster and more efficiently than a long overnight train. So no. I don't really see the need for more long distance trains, except for maybe another auto train.
And for those who do not like flying? Or who don't wish to be crammed in a bus for many hours?
 

Crowbar_k

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Jun 23, 2020
Messages
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And for those who do not like flying? Or who don't wish to be crammed in a bus for many hours?
I'm sorry. What? I do not see a reason to spend money on a transportation system that gets less bang for your buck because "sOmE PeOpLe dOn't lIkE FlYiNg"
 

Cal

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I'm sorry. What? I do not see a reason to spend money on a transportation system that gets less bang for your buck because "sOmE PeOpLe dOn't lIkE FlYiNg"
But why spend money on a transportation system when we already have one that we could add to? Or why not have both.
 

Crowbar_k

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Jun 23, 2020
Messages
61
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. Your, options are taking Amtrak which has a departure in the afternoon, but that requires an overnight trip. Another option is 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. The Amtrak ticket cost $103 for coach, which you will have to sleep in. Want to be comfortable overnight? $377. A one way flight from Havre to Seattle costs slightly less than $130. So yes. The train is slightly cheaper, but the time savings are enormous, and there are probably other indirect cost that make the train end up costing more (time off work, expensive train food, ect...). If you want to someplace farther than Seattle, such as LA, the air service has Amtrak beat be a long shot. So, I think the EAS is a much better options for rural communities like this and I think it should be expanded include more communities.
 

Willbridge

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To add a bit more context to what I said, I believe rural communities would be much better served by the Essential Air service, or even a bus service. This would connect people to much more destinations faster and more efficiently than a long overnight train. So no. I don't really see the need for more long distance trains, except for maybe another auto train.
There are some problems with the bus approach and these were identified in the 1970's as major stretches of the Interstate system were completed.

1. If the bus is not on a limited access highway through passengers do not want to ride it. That killed a lot of the Trailways routes that were on fast highways like US20 but were rejected versus Greyhound on I-80/84, even though running times were similar.
1.b. Notice that the surviving Amtrak transcon routes have substantial segments that are not paralleled with Interstates.
2. What's also important -- and why Greyhound on the Interstate took about the same time as Trailways on US20 -- is that buses have to wind on and off of the limited access highways. The old bus routes went right through town. Just one of many examples: at North Platte there's a semi-failed strip mall where the UP station used to be, right in a bleak downtown. When Overland Greyhound buses pulled in there, hotels and other amenities were within walking distance. Now (pre-pandemic info) the intercity buses stop at a convenience store and Taco Bell on the edge of town. There is no true sidewalk on the bridge over I-80 to get into town. It's a compromise. And, unlike most of the stops between Omaha and Denver there are motels nearby, although without sidewalks.
2b. The result is that a train making the same number of stops as the bus is substantially faster in its own right and usually better situated in relationship to the city.
3. And, properly operated, through passengers will not be bothered by the occasional train stops. In the photo, Train 6 has dropped half as dozen of us in downtown McCook on US34. It's rolling in seconds after three or four people boarded. The twice daily Trailways buses no longer serve McCook because it's not on an Interstate. But thanks to the maligned LD train I was able to walk to my motel and enjoy a carless visit to an interesting city.

2016 Summer 124f.jpg

It was the birthplace of the last liberal Republican senator from Nebraska. Here I am trying to explain rail passenger politics of today to him.

2016 Summer 158k.jpg
 

MARC Rider

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Baltimore. MD
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. Your, options are taking Amtrak which has a departure in the afternoon, but that requires an overnight trip. Another option is 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. The Amtrak ticket cost $103 for coach, which you will have to sleep in. Want to be comfortable overnight? $377. A one way flight from Havre to Seattle costs slightly less than $130. So yes. The train is slightly cheaper, but the time savings are enormous, and there are probably other indirect cost that make the train end up costing more (time off work, expensive train food, ect...). If you want to someplace farther than Seattle, such as LA, the air service has Amtrak beat be a long shot. So, I think the EAS is a much better options for rural communities like this and I think it should be expanded include more communities.
There is a subset of the population who can't fly for medical reasons. This is not only for psychological reasons (flying phobia) but also because the 8,000 ft. equivalent cabin pressure of commercial aircraft exacerbates many medical conditions. There are thus good policy reasons for having a decent system of land-based public transportation, especially in the case where medical conditions that prevent flying also may prevent a person from driving.

Of course, the cheapest and most flexible way to provide land-based public transportation would be to subsidize bus lines. It would certainly be easier to start a bus service running on existing public highways than to have to obtain expensive rail equipment and then have to fight with the privately owned railroads to use their tracks. Bus service doesn't have to be the crammed torture ride of popular imagination. Sure, I wouldn't want to ride in a bus for more than 10-12 hours at a time, but then, I don't drive more than 10 hours before I start looking for a motel. Yes, I prefer to ride trains, and I think that good rail service would attract more riders than good bus service, but both are needed. In fact, it might be wise to start expanding land-based public transportation with bus corridors, and if these are popular, consideration should be given to starting a rail service. 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.
 

Crowbar_k

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 23, 2020
Messages
61
There is a subset of the population who can't fly for medical reasons. This is not only for psychological reasons (flying phobia) but also because the 8,000 ft. equivalent cabin pressure of commercial aircraft exacerbates many medical conditions. There are thus good policy reasons for having a decent system of land-based public transportation, especially in the case where medical conditions that prevent flying also may prevent a person from driving.

Of course, the cheapest and most flexible way to provide land-based public transportation would be to subsidize bus lines. It would certainly be easier to start a bus service running on existing public highways than to have to obtain expensive rail equipment and then have to fight with the privately owned railroads to use their tracks. Bus service doesn't have to be the crammed torture ride of popular imagination. Sure, I wouldn't want to ride in a bus for more than 10-12 hours at a time, but then, I don't drive more than 10 hours before I start looking for a motel. Yes, I prefer to ride trains, and I think that good rail service would attract more riders than good bus service, but both are needed. In fact, it might be wise to start expanding land-based public transportation with bus corridors, and if these are popular, consideration should be given to starting a rail service. 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.
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.
 

Crowbar_k

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 23, 2020
Messages
61
Bus service doesn't have to be the crammed torture ride of popular imagination. Sure, I wouldn't want to ride in a bus for more than 10-12 hours at a time, but then, I don't drive more than 10 hours before I start looking for a motel. Yes, I prefer to ride trains, and I think that good rail service would attract more riders than good bus service, but both are needed.
1617771449052.png
I definitely wouldn't mid riding 10 hours on this.
 

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McIntyre2K7

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Jun 30, 2020
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Tampa, FL
But would the buses the routes receive actual get busses like these? 🤔
No they would not. They would probably have a regular coach bus that seats 50 people. From the photo above it looks like it barely sits 30 people. I would assume moving those 30 people on the bus above is going to cost each passenger over $100 one way. I think Crowbar fails to realize is that with those types of buses every seat is full and just like Red Coach and Volane they are going from city to city with no stops at small towns in-between. (I'm using his Harve, MT to Seattle suggestion he added in a previous post. )
 
Joined
Jan 31, 2020
Messages
2
The gap left between Louisville KY and Nashville, TN is absolutely a poor decision. The route should be Chicago to Florida with no gaps. There has to be a way to get from the midwest and northwest states to Florida without having to go through Washington DC.

Also there should be a route New York to St. Louis via Albany, Empire corridor, Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, St Louis and intermediate points.

By offering these two routes you allow northeast to southwest service bypassing Chicago and northwest to southeast service bypassing Washington DC. In doing so this frees up capacity through Chicago and Washington DC and allows a huge ridership increase nationally.
 

VentureForth

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Jan 23, 2007
Messages
5,897
Location
West Melbourne, FL
The gap left between Louisville KY and Nashville, TN is absolutely a poor decision. The route should be Chicago to Florida with no gaps. There has to be a way to get from the midwest and northwest states to Florida without having to go through Washington DC.

Also there should be a route New York to St. Louis via Albany, Empire corridor, Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, St Louis and intermediate points.

By offering these two routes you allow northeast to southwest service bypassing Chicago and northwest to southeast service bypassing Washington DC. In doing so this frees up capacity through Chicago and Washington DC and allows a huge ridership increase nationally.
It appears that any potential route from Chicago to Miami would be extremely circuitous at best. CSX has the most available routing, but to capture the biggest cities in between, ie: Indianapolis, Louisville, Nashville, Atlanta would require negotiations with short lines or very long detours on the Class I's. For example, Chicago to Indianapolis is pretty straight shot CSX. But from Indianapolis to Louisville, you'd have to tack on at least 100 extra miles to go through Cincinnati or Evansville. Otherwise, you're on a short line for the direct route. From there, you can stay on the CSX to Atlanta. From Atlanta to Jacksonville, the most direct route would be on the Black Stallion (NS) to Jesup then track the Silvers. Only problem is that you would gain Macon, but lose Savannah. Oh sure, you could follow the old Nancy Hanks II into Savannah for a few more passengers and two more hours of run time. In fact, NS already has PTC on that route because of hazmat hauling. Really creating a loooong time table here. Already you are talking about a Silver Star level of service requiring a minimum of three, maybe 4 trainsets. Maybe truncate at Jacksonville and either provide a through coach to Miami on the Silvers or require a transfer. But everyone wants one seat rides.

Some good news... taking a car from Chicago to Jacksonville on most direct route would be about 1,100 miles. If you were to drive the best train routing and including Savannah and Cincinnati, it would be only 1200 miles.

Or, get a ticket on Spirit airlines, R/T for $68 and smell your next seat passenger's new deodorant for a mere 3 hours.

I love riding the train. But it just doesn't make much sense any more than a fax machine or a telegram any more.
 

MARC Rider

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Messages
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Baltimore. MD
The gap left between Louisville KY and Nashville, TN is absolutely a poor decision. The route should be Chicago to Florida with no gaps. There has to be a way to get from the midwest and northwest states to Florida without having to go through Washington DC.

Also there should be a route New York to St. Louis via Albany, Empire corridor, Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, St Louis and intermediate points.

By offering these two routes you allow northeast to southwest service bypassing Chicago and northwest to southeast service bypassing Washington DC. In doing so this frees up capacity through Chicago and Washington DC and allows a huge ridership increase nationally.
Having a through train between Chicago and Florida might not be the highest priority at first, but the route should be filled by passenger trains of shorter distance with no gaps in service. As the people in that part of the country start seeing passenger rail as a viable alternative, a through train could be added later at less initial cost, because the capital expenditures have already been borne by relatively frequent corridor service. I'm curious about the gap between Louisville and Nashville. Perhaps there was some sort of practical reason why Amtrak decided to omit that part of the routing, like track in poor condition or extreme reluctance of the host railroad to work with Amtrak on that part of the route.
 

Seaboard92

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Dec 31, 2014
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South Carolina
Also there should be a route New York to St. Louis via Albany, Empire corridor, Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, St Louis and intermediate points.
That actually isn't possible the old Big Four route from Cleveland to Indianapolis splits a bit further north of Columbus. The line splits at Gallion, OH and then hits Marion, Bellefontaine, and Sidney on the Ohio side, and Muncie and Anderson on the Indiana side. The EX Pennsy line you would need to get Columbus, Dayton/Springfield is long since abandoned and ripped out.

It appears that any potential route from Chicago to Miami would be extremely circuitous at best. CSX has the most available routing, but to capture the biggest cities in between, ie: Indianapolis, Louisville, Nashville, Atlanta would require negotiations with short lines or very long detours on the Class I's. For example, Chicago to Indianapolis is pretty straight shot CSX. But from Indianapolis to Louisville, you'd have to tack on at least 100 extra miles to go through Cincinnati or Evansville. Otherwise, you're on a short line for the direct route. From there, you can stay on the CSX to Atlanta. From Atlanta to Jacksonville, the most direct route would be on the Black Stallion (NS) to Jesup then track the Silvers. Only problem is that you would gain Macon, but lose Savannah. Oh sure, you could follow the old Nancy Hanks II into Savannah for a few more passengers and two more hours of run time. In fact, NS already has PTC on that route because of hazmat hauling. Really creating a loooong time table here. Already you are talking about a Silver Star level of service requiring a minimum of three, maybe 4 trainsets. Maybe truncate at Jacksonville and either provide a through coach to Miami on the Silvers or require a transfer. But everyone wants one seat rides.
Actually the shortline you are referring to the Louisville & Indiana is not quite what you are thinking of. It's signaled CTC, it has 40-60 mph track the whole way. It's fairly straight. It's not your normal shortline partially because CSX has put a lot of money into maintaining it because their Cincinnati-Louisville line is so congested it was faster and easier to rebuild the shortline EX PRR, and part of the B&O Cincinnati-St. Louis line than do the improvements out of Cincinnati. So the L&I is actually a very good railroad up there on the same level with Buckingham Branch.

Actually the most direct route is to go via NS Atlanta-Macon-Cordelle-Jacksonville but that requires a backup move in Jacksonville. But if you didn't want the back up move you could go Atlanta-Macon-Cordelle on NS and switch to CSX to Waycross-Folkston-Jacksonville. Of course you could just stay on CSX from Atlanta to Jacksonville via Cordelle. The best spot to put in the middle of the night is Atlanta-Jacksonville because that population is so low while the rest is fairly high. Of course that busts connections in Chicago but oh well. You should be able to land in 91s slot out of Jacksonville and 92s slot into JAX. So if you did that you could then shift 91 into the slot of 97 you could then shove 97 back a few hours which could save a set on its equipment. Giving you a far better inner Florida corridor using long distance services.

Having a through train between Chicago and Florida might not be the highest priority at first, but the route should be filled by passenger trains of shorter distance with no gaps in service. As the people in that part of the country start seeing passenger rail as a viable alternative, a through train could be added later at less initial cost, because the capital expenditures have already been borne by relatively frequent corridor service. I'm curious about the gap between Louisville and Nashville. Perhaps there was some sort of practical reason why Amtrak decided to omit that part of the routing, like track in poor condition or extreme reluctance of the host railroad to work with Amtrak on that part of the route.
It's CSX and it is all 60 mph track so its in good condition. I also don't think it is as high trafficked as it once was.
 

John Bredin

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Dec 18, 2007
Messages
813
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suburban Chicago (Buffalo Grove)
I'm sorry. What? I do not see a reason to spend money on a transportation system that gets less bang for your buck because "sOmE PeOpLe dOn't lIkE FlYiNg"
A long-distance train is more bang for your buck, not less. Many towns aren't on an LD route. For those that are, though, service connecting a town to the rest of the nation daily can be justified by only a relative handful of people boarding daily, where it would definitely not be for even a "puddle-jumper" aircraft. Stated another way, a plane that would need to make 10 stops to justify operating it would be a wasteful joke, but a train that makes 10 (or 20 or 30 stops over enough distance) is doing exactly what a train is supposed to do.

Amtrak doesn't stop at every little town along its LD routes, to keep from slowing the train unduly. But if Amtrak ran two or three trains daily on each LD route, either:
1) one could be designated as the slower train that makes small-town flag stops, or
2) flag stops could be distributed across the trains by which one is going through an area during decent hours (6am-midnight, or something like that).

The biggest expense of LD trains is equipment, a fleet of cars adequate to run two or three decent-sized trains a day on each LD route. Not cheap, but hardly a budget-buster in the federal budget. Towns can pay for their own stations, whether it be a platform and shelter, a room or two in the old depot (donated by the chamber of commerce or tourism board, even), or a full depot. The other facilities for LD trains (cleaning, maintenance, food) are often shared with corridor trains at terminal cities, and that would be even more true if there were more corridors.

The capital to make a rail line suitable for LD service depends in good part on how fast you want the service to go, and while an LD train shouldn't creep along at 30 or 40 mph for too long, it doesn't need 90 or 110mph trackage throughout to be useful transportation. (Being able to go 90 or 110 mph when an LD train is in corridor territory is very useful, but those capital works would be justified by the corridor trains with faster LD trains being a welcome side-effect.) In my opinion, an LD train needs to be on average as fast as driving the same distance or between the same points when driving stops are taken into account. One of the principal advantages of a train over driving is that, while trains stop for stations, they don't need to stop for a half-hour to eat or seven hours to sleep. Yes, some people drive with a lead foot and an iron butt, but a service doesn't have to outrace those people to be practical to the traveling public as an average, as most other people have bladders and stomachs and eyelids that get heavy once a day. :)

The nation, the government, is not so broke that we can't afford frequent corridor service in the well-populated areas and a base of LD service to fill in the gaps between those corridors. In my opinion, both are legitimately matters for the federal government, and rules borne out of a fear of "free-loading" like the 750-mile rule, or the suggestion that the feds shouldn't spend money on trains that don't cross state lines, are short-sighted. States willing to pay more for more than a base level of service should get it, but the ability of an American taxpayer to get to Houston, or Nashville, or Phoenix by some base level of service should not be wholly dependent on the will of state officials or barred by the ideology or ignorance of the same.
 

Cal

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Messages
996
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Socal
The capital to make a rail line suitable for LD service depends in good part on how fast you want the service to go, and while an LD train shouldn't creep along at 30 or 40 mph for too long, it doesn't need 90 or 110mph trackage throughout to be useful transportation. (Being able to go 90 or 110 mph when an LD train is in corridor territory is very useful, but those capital works would be justified by the corridor trains with faster LD trains being a welcome side-effect.) In my opinion, an LD train needs to be on average as fast as driving the same distance or between the same points when driving stops are taken into account. One of the principal advantages of a train over driving is that, while trains stop for stations, they don't need to stop for a half-hour to eat or seven hours to sleep. Yes, some people drive with a lead foot and an iron butt, but a service doesn't have to outrace those people to be practical to the traveling public as an average, as most other people have bladders and stomachs and eyelids that get heavy once a day. :)
I couldn't agree more!
 

Crowbar_k

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 23, 2020
Messages
61
The gap left between Louisville KY and Nashville, TN is absolutely a poor decision. The route should be Chicago to Florida with no gaps. There has to be a way to get from the midwest and northwest states to Florida without having to go through Washington DC.

Also there should be a route New York to St. Louis via Albany, Empire corridor, Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, St Louis and intermediate points.

By offering these two routes you allow northeast to southwest service bypassing Chicago and northwest to southeast service bypassing Washington DC. In doing so this frees up capacity through Chicago and Washington DC and allows a huge ridership increase nationally.
I agree. There should definatly be a route between Louisville and Nashville. However, the problem is that the only existing trackage between those two cities isn't very straight or direct, so that route would probably be unnecessarily long and slow
 

tricia

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Aug 23, 2011
Messages
1,241
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Spring Creek, NC
A long-distance train is more bang for your buck, not less. Many towns aren't on an LD route. For those that are, though, service connecting a town to the rest of the nation daily can be justified by only a relative handful of people boarding daily, where it would definitely not be for even a "puddle-jumper" aircraft. Stated another way, a plane that would need to make 10 stops to justify operating it would be a wasteful joke, but a train that makes 10 (or 20 or 30 stops over enough distance) is doing exactly what a train is supposed to do.

Amtrak doesn't stop at every little town along its LD routes, to keep from slowing the train unduly. But if Amtrak ran two or three trains daily on each LD route, either:
1) one could be designated as the slower train that makes small-town flag stops, or
2) flag stops could be distributed across the trains by which one is going through an area during decent hours (6am-midnight, or something like that).

The biggest expense of LD trains is equipment, a fleet of cars adequate to run two or three decent-sized trains a day on each LD route. Not cheap, but hardly a budget-buster in the federal budget. Towns can pay for their own stations, whether it be a platform and shelter, a room or two in the old depot (donated by the chamber of commerce or tourism board, even), or a full depot. The other facilities for LD trains (cleaning, maintenance, food) are often shared with corridor trains at terminal cities, and that would be even more true if there were more corridors.

The capital to make a rail line suitable for LD service depends in good part on how fast you want the service to go, and while an LD train shouldn't creep along at 30 or 40 mph for too long, it doesn't need 90 or 110mph trackage throughout to be useful transportation. (Being able to go 90 or 110 mph when an LD train is in corridor territory is very useful, but those capital works would be justified by the corridor trains with faster LD trains being a welcome side-effect.) In my opinion, an LD train needs to be on average as fast as driving the same distance or between the same points when driving stops are taken into account. One of the principal advantages of a train over driving is that, while trains stop for stations, they don't need to stop for a half-hour to eat or seven hours to sleep. Yes, some people drive with a lead foot and an iron butt, but a service doesn't have to outrace those people to be practical to the traveling public as an average, as most other people have bladders and stomachs and eyelids that get heavy once a day. :)

The nation, the government, is not so broke that we can't afford frequent corridor service in the well-populated areas and a base of LD service to fill in the gaps between those corridors. In my opinion, both are legitimately matters for the federal government, and rules borne out of a fear of "free-loading" like the 750-mile rule, or the suggestion that the feds shouldn't spend money on trains that don't cross state lines, are short-sighted. States willing to pay more for more than a base level of service should get it, but the ability of an American taxpayer to get to Houston, or Nashville, or Phoenix by some base level of service should not be wholly dependent on the will of state officials or barred by the ideology or ignorance of the same.
Bravo. :)

May I add that as we transition away from fossil fuels, a national train network with reasonable frequencies will be a huge asset for fuel efficiency?
 

west point

Conductor
Joined
Jun 9, 2015
Messages
2,409
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
 

me_little_me

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,856
I definitely wouldn't mid riding 10 hours on this.
I would. Ten hours on a train in coach is hard for some of us old people but at least we can get up and walk to the cafe and/or lounge car or even walk end to end on the train just to walk.

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.
 

sttom

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 23, 2019
Messages
692
A long-distance train is more bang for your buck, not less. Many towns aren't on an LD route. For those that are, though, service connecting a town to the rest of the nation daily can be justified by only a relative handful of people boarding daily, where it would definitely not be for even a "puddle-jumper" aircraft. Stated another way, a plane that would need to make 10 stops to justify operating it would be a wasteful joke, but a train that makes 10 (or 20 or 30 stops over enough distance) is doing exactly what a train is supposed to do.

Amtrak doesn't stop at every little town along its LD routes, to keep from slowing the train unduly. But if Amtrak ran two or three trains daily on each LD route, either:
1) one could be designated as the slower train that makes small-town flag stops, or
2) flag stops could be distributed across the trains by which one is going through an area during decent hours (6am-midnight, or something like that).

The biggest expense of LD trains is equipment, a fleet of cars adequate to run two or three decent-sized trains a day on each LD route. Not cheap, but hardly a budget-buster in the federal budget. Towns can pay for their own stations, whether it be a platform and shelter, a room or two in the old depot (donated by the chamber of commerce or tourism board, even), or a full depot. The other facilities for LD trains (cleaning, maintenance, food) are often shared with corridor trains at terminal cities, and that would be even more true if there were more corridors.

The capital to make a rail line suitable for LD service depends in good part on how fast you want the service to go, and while an LD train shouldn't creep along at 30 or 40 mph for too long, it doesn't need 90 or 110mph trackage throughout to be useful transportation. (Being able to go 90 or 110 mph when an LD train is in corridor territory is very useful, but those capital works would be justified by the corridor trains with faster LD trains being a welcome side-effect.) In my opinion, an LD train needs to be on average as fast as driving the same distance or between the same points when driving stops are taken into account. One of the principal advantages of a train over driving is that, while trains stop for stations, they don't need to stop for a half-hour to eat or seven hours to sleep. Yes, some people drive with a lead foot and an iron butt, but a service doesn't have to outrace those people to be practical to the traveling public as an average, as most other people have bladders and stomachs and eyelids that get heavy once a day. :)

The nation, the government, is not so broke that we can't afford frequent corridor service in the well-populated areas and a base of LD service to fill in the gaps between those corridors. In my opinion, both are legitimately matters for the federal government, and rules borne out of a fear of "free-loading" like the 750-mile rule, or the suggestion that the feds shouldn't spend money on trains that don't cross state lines, are short-sighted. States willing to pay more for more than a base level of service should get it, but the ability of an American taxpayer to get to Houston, or Nashville, or Phoenix by some base level of service should not be wholly dependent on the will of state officials or barred by the ideology or ignorance of the same.
Adding up to 3 long distance trains a day would make sense on the long distance routes. Most of them, even the ones out west had 3 and 7 trains per day. Going up to 3 and having them alternate the smaller stops is a good idea. I do think in addition to that, adding a 2 round trip per day coach trains across the network in a similar manner as the Palmetto would also make sense to cover all the small stops. Yes some people will be wanting to get from Fort Morgan, CO to Nevada, but most people's long distance trips are between 100 and 300 miles. On the Zephyr for example, having a supplemental Chicago-Omaha trains, Omaha-Denver trains, A Chicago-Denver Nightjet style service, a Denver-Salt Lake train and a Salt Lake-Reno train to supplement the small towns would make sense on top of 2-3 Long Distance trains. Fun news on the Reno-Oakland front, Nevada's new rail plan finally calls for extending the Capitol east of Auburn. And if Amtrak gets money, this might actually happen pending equipment availability. If they run as frequently as the current buses do, I will be abusing this new service a few times per year.

One the driving front, driving times that people post are fictions unless you are traveling at 0 dark 30 when no one but the truck drivers are awake. I can not tell you a time when I actually made the drive from the East Bay to Reno and didn't hit traffic somewhere between Concord and Auburn. Not only that, but there are some pretty hairy turns on 80 that I have taken at 60 mph that have no business being rated for that speed. I have no idea why there aren't people crashing into semis or flying off the mountain on a daily basis on that stretch of highway.

I mentioned this in a post, but asking for $3.35 billion to subsidize "state" routes and more Palmetto style routes is more of a reasonable ask than this absolute crap map that Amtrak has given the rest of the country so the NEC gets funded. I do think there should be a mandate on Amtrak to actually use this funding in the states specified and run trains even if the state bars its DOT from working with Amtrak. Should states that bar their DOTs from working with Amtrak on service that will essentially cost them nothing face any penalties? Maybe. My personal opinion on the matter is that they should be a lower priority for capital funds, but they shouldn't be left without service because of some nonsense about trains being a communist plot or whatever. As much as the likes of Scot Walker and John Kasich ran against Amtrak, I seriously doubt train funding was a motivating factor in more than 2% of the people who voted for them voting for them.

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.
 

Josh M

Train Attendant
Joined
May 30, 2015
Messages
51
Location
Ferndale, MI
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.
In 2019 on my way home from vacation, I took the bus connection from TOL to DET after getting off the LSL. That 45-minute bus ride was the only terrifying part of my entire 2-week vacation. A semi cut us off in a downpour just north of Monroe; everyone who had been dozing off was awake very quickly after the driver slammed on the brakes and we nearly careened into the dividing wall. I couldn't imagine doing that for a long distance trip!
 
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