Restore Passenger Service to Southern Montana?

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jiml

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I count 20. Currently not served are the following:

Juneau, AK - obviously impossible
Phoenix, AZ - formerly served, now bypassed due to track abandonment
Dover, DE - Delmarva Peninsula service looks unlikely at least by Amtrak
Tallahassee, FL - served 1993-2005
Honolulu, HI - obviously impossible
Boise, ID - served 1979-1997, restoring service has a Phoenix-esque track abandonment issue
Des Moines, IA - not served since before Amtrak
Frankfort, KY - infeasible, not on any reasonable route
Baton Rouge, LA - not served since before Amtrak
Augusta, ME - not served since before Amtrak, but a plausible future extension of the Downeaster beyond Brunswick
Annapolis, MD - not on any reasonable route (Baltimore-Annapolis commuter service maybe)
Helena, MT - as discussed in this thread.
Carson City, NV - not feasible (bus from Reno to CZ has often been provided)
Concord, NH - not served since before Amtrak (anyone for Boston-Montreal service?)
Santa Fe, NM - infeasible for long distance, but the Rail Runner has been added
Bismarck, ND - lost service 1979
Columbus, OH - lost service 1979
Pierre, SD - not served since before Amtrak. The tracks are still there but sort of a dead end
Madison, WI - if it happens it'll be a northwestward expansion of Chicago commuter service
Cheyenne, WY - served intermittently by San Francisco Zephyr and later Pioneer.

I assume you'd count Olympia WA and Montpelier VT as "served" since nearby junctions are served and the main lines don't go through the capitals.
That's a really interesting list. VIA has a similar problem in Canada - roughly proportionate (obviously with some of the same limitations with islands and remote northern locations), but still some that should be addressed.
 

Qapla

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In Florida, two of the States major Universities, both State Institutes, do not have passenger service. There is no service for FSU or for UF - which means there is no service from one school to the other, either.

While it would be nice to see service restored to Southern Montana, it would be even nicer to see service restored to some of the areas that already have functional tracks that simply are not being used for passenger service.
 
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According to Amtrak's Route selection manual in 1971 "In general, the route segments selected either covered the largest population or generated the greatest ridership. However, in choosing the northern route rather than the southern, between Fargo and Spokane, the relative absence of alternative modes of transportation along the northern route and the higher ridership of the northern route, weighed significantly in the decision."

Later on the report continues:

"The key decision between Fargo and Spokane is whether to operate the northern route (through Minot, Williston and Glacier Park) or the southern route (through Bismarck, Billings and Missoula). The northern route contributes much higher ridership than the southern route (although the southern route has a 50 percent population advantage); it is shorter and more than one hour faster, and the intermediate cities (and Glacier Park) have little other transportation available to them, while the southern route is served by an interstate highway and good air service. The northern toute serves Glacier Park directly."
 

neroden

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Somehow Butte is just always getting the worst of everything.
My mom's home town.

More on topic, I'd ride the North Coast Hiawatha to Bismarck, ND. But ND seems even less interested in funding service than Montana does.
 

Matthew H Fish

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According to Amtrak's Route selection manual in 1971 ...
The northern route contributes much higher ridership than the southern route (although the southern route has a 50 percent population advantage); i
I would have to double check, but I think that there has been a pretty drastic change in population in Montana in the last few decades. The Highline was a farming area, and its population has aged and declined. At the same time, southern cities have become tourist or retiree centers. Other than Kalispell, which has grown, all the northern cities have declined, while Billings, Bozeman and Missoula have gotten larger.
 

Daphne312

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I would have to double check, but I think that there has been a pretty drastic change in population in Montana in the last few decades. The Highline was a farming area, and its population has aged and declined. At the same time, southern cities have become tourist or retiree centers. Other than Kalispell, which has grown, all the northern cities have declined, while Billings, Bozeman and Missoula have gotten larger.
Missoula and environs have grown with retirees and CA refugees a strong component. *family members*
 

railiner

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Although not in Montana, but close by, Williston also on the northern route has been a genuine boom town...at least when oil prices were up...
 

toddinde

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Definitely add the southern route, but not at the expense of the Empire Builder which is a popular, established route, serving an extremely underserved area. There is no room for any route cuts in the already skeletal Amtrak system. A growing country needs more trains, not less.
 

jis

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Definitely add the southern route, but not at the expense of the Empire Builder which is a popular, established route, serving an extremely underserved area. There is no room for any route cuts in the already skeletal Amtrak system. A growing country needs more trains, not less.
Agreed. Net growth should be the watchword. Not merely rearranging the deckchairs.
 
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John Santos

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Would this proposed southern route provide service to Yellowstone NP?
When I went to Yellowstone about 5 years ago, I took the LSL to CHI and the EB to MSP. Attended a con there for about 4 days and rented a car on Monday. Drove to Yellowstone (took about 4 days because there is only so much driving I can do in a day), Yellowstone for about 5 days, drove back to MSP, EB and LSL home. (While I was there, Amtrak contacted me and told me the EB was running so late, I couldn't count on the connection, so I moved up the MSP->CHI leg a day, resulting in one less day at Yellowstone. Turned out we made it to CHI in plenty of time for the LSL, but I spent a night and the next day there, which was fun.)
I realized in the midst of this that it would have been smarter to take the EB to somewhere near Glacier and drive south across Montana vs. driving across Minnesota, ND and most of Montana, but it still would probably have take me two days.
In the town of Gardiner, at one of the northern entrances to the park, there were lots of people arriving there on trains, and there were train tracks through the town. I don't know if they are still active tracks, connected to wherever a southern Montana route would run, but I think the scenery and experience would be fantastic.
 

jis

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Back when the NCH was running, I believe Yellowstone was served out of Livingston MT, entering the park through Gardiner.

From EB one would probably choose among Shelby, Havre or Malta, with Havre having the best rental car availability probably.
 
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Palmetto

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Just before Amtrak, the Burlington Northern showed Billings or Livingston as gateways to Yellowstone.
 
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Siegmund

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Livingston-Gardiner passenger service ended in the 50s, and the rails were lifted circa 1981.

A ton of tourists are being transported by bus from Bozeman to Gardiner every day when the Park is open (Bozeman is the nearest airport with scheduled service.) Presumably if a train were reinstated it would be met at either Bozeman or Livingston by buses.
 

jis

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When the Pioneer still ran, you could also access Yellowstone from Pocatello, ID ...
or from Rock Springs, WY...
From Rock Springs WY also when the San Francisco Zephyr ran.
 

railiner

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From Rock Springs WY also when the San Francisco Zephyr ran.
Right...I referenced the Pioneer, because after the SFZ became the CZ, the Pioneer was the last Amtrak train to regularly serve the Wyoming route, in its final version.
 
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Ziv

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Livingston is a great gateway to Yellowstone. It has a lot of good cafes and some decent hotels and Highway 89 is a straight shot south from Livingston, running alongside the Yellowstone River right down center of Paradise Valley. It is an hours drive but a very pleasant hour. Gardiner is a bit of a tourist hub, but north Yellowstone is my favorite part of the Park. You start with the elk at Mammoth Hot Springs, the springs themselves, then head east on the Grand Loop to Blacktail Plateau and Hellroaring Trailhead. As you move on you hit Elk Creek, which is usually a good bet to spot not just elk but bears and buffalo as well. Petrified Tree is kind of cool, but not something I go back to see again and again. Then you have a big choice. Go south to the Great Falls of the Yellowstone via the overhanging cliff or east to the Lamar Valley, the Serengeti of the US, home of truly epic buffalo traffic jams.
I love this place.
Just before Amtrak, the Burlington Northern showed Billings or Livingston as gateways to Yellowstone.
 

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jis

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Right...I referenced the Pioneer, because after the SFZ became the CZ, the Pioneer was the last Amtrak train to regularly serve the Wyoming route, in its final version.
I thought I’d mention the SFZ because there were several years when it was the only train and there was no Pioneer or Desert Wind. Then there was a period when there was a Pioneer which ran only between SLC and Seattle, not serving Rock Springs WY, but of course serving Pocatello ID. Ride on that little train was a special fun experience.
 

railiner

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Until 1960, the UP ran seasonal passenger trains on its branch line to West Yellowstone. At one time it provided 50% of all rail visitor’s to Yellowstone.

Besides the Northern Pacific from Gardiner; other roads getting in on the traffic were: the Milwaukee Road from Three Forks and later, Gallatin; the Burlington Route from Cody; and the North Western to a minor extant through Lander...
 

MARC Rider

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Back when the NCH was running, I believe Yellowstone was served out of Livingston MT, entering the park through Gardiner.

From EB one would probably choose among Shelby, Havre or Malta, with Havre having the best rental car availability probably.
When I took the EB to visit Yellowstone, I got off in Havre. There was a Budget car rental that picked me up at the station.
 
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toddinde

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Madison will be served by way of Milwaukee and Watertown. Logical extension of the Hiawatha and the designated route for the Midwest High Speed Rail project. The Watertown to Madison segment is only 30 miles. The route through Janesville makes no sense, and is a lot of dark railroad with a ton of grade crossings. It also doesn’t take advantage of the most natural market which is Milwaukee to Madison.
That's a really interesting list. VIA has a similar problem in Canada - roughly proportionate (obviously with some of the same limitations with islands and remote northern locations), but still some that should be addressed.
 

MccfamschoolMom

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Madison will be served by way of Milwaukee and Watertown. Logical extension of the Hiawatha and the designated route for the Midwest High Speed Rail project. The Watertown to Madison segment is only 30 miles. The route through Janesville makes no sense, and is a lot of dark railroad with a ton of grade crossings. It also doesn’t take advantage of the most natural market which is Milwaukee to Madison.
Lots of UW-Madison students would take a Madison-Milwaukee train, just like students from Chicago taking the Illini or the Saluki to get to & from UIUC or SIU. I was one of those UW-Madison students in the very early 1980s, and I had to take a combination of 3-4 buses to get home to Kenosha on breaks (Madison-Milwaukee and Milwaukee-Racine via long-distance buses, then a Racine city bus to the UW-Parkside campus, then a Kenosha city bus to the stop nearest Mom & Dad's house if the weather was too foul to walk the rest of the way home).
 

WICT106

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Madison will be served by way of Milwaukee and Watertown. Logical extension of the Hiawatha and the designated route for the Midwest High Speed Rail project. The Watertown to Madison segment is only 30 miles. The route through Janesville makes no sense, and is a lot of dark railroad with a ton of grade crossings. It also doesn’t take advantage of the most natural market which is Milwaukee to Madison.
Lots of UW-Madison students would take a Madison-Milwaukee train, just like students from Chicago taking the Illini or the Saluki to get to & from UIUC or SIU. I was one of those UW-Madison students in the very early 1980s, and I had to take a combination of 3-4 buses to get home to Kenosha on breaks (Madison-Milwaukee and Milwaukee-Racine via long-distance buses, then a Racine city bus to the UW-Parkside campus, then a Kenosha city bus to the stop nearest Mom & Dad's house if the weather was too foul to walk the rest of the way home).
That's what was thought when the project was being prepared in the 1990s and 2000s, and look what happened during the 2010 Wisconsin gubernatorial campaign. We will still have to fight the battles of getting funding, and extending train service in a State where the majority of the residents have no experience taking a train on a regular basis, and also don't use transit. Wisconsin residents drive everywhere. Get ready for all of the anti- train arguments ( ie., "Who's going to ride it?" "It doesn't go through my town," It only goes to Madison," "Cow speed rail," "The Dane Train," etc., etc.) to be deployed when the Hiawatha service extension to Madison returns to the fore.
 

toddinde

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That's what was thought when the project was being prepared in the 1990s and 2000s, and look what happened during the 2010 Wisconsin gubernatorial campaign. We will still have to fight the battles of getting funding, and extending train service in a State where the majority of the residents have no experience taking a train on a regular basis, and also don't use transit. Wisconsin residents drive everywhere. Get ready for all of the anti- train arguments ( ie., "Who's going to ride it?" "It doesn't go through my town," It only goes to Madison," "Cow speed rail," "The Dane Train," etc., etc.) to be deployed when the Hiawatha service extension to Madison returns to the fore.
You’re right! Wisconsin has a reputation as a progressive state, but that’s really not the case. The anti-rail sentiment was ugly, and presented a completely unrealistic picture. I think it is the long tradition of ultra-conservative talk radio in the Milwaukee area and various “think tanks” financed by special interests with long ties to Wisconsin like the Bradley’s, Uhlein’s, Hendricks’s, and like minded outsiders like the Koch’s. Yes, the conservatives killed a good project, but they out organized the folks in favor. Also, extremely dumb, internal arguing by the rail advocates about the Madison Station was not helpful. Some wanted the station at the Madison Airport which would have made the service inconvenient to its largest base of riders. I believe even WisARP came out in favor of the airport station, created turmoil at exactly the wrong time. It’s sad to think what might have been.
 

WICT106

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You’re right! Wisconsin has a reputation as a progressive state, but that’s really not the case. The anti-rail sentiment was ugly, and presented a completely unrealistic picture. I think it is the long tradition of ultra-conservative talk radio in the Milwaukee area and various “think tanks” financed by special interests with long ties to Wisconsin like the Bradley’s, Uhlein’s, Hendricks’s, and like minded outsiders like the Koch’s. Yes, the conservatives killed a good project, but they out organized the folks in favor. Also, extremely dumb, internal arguing by the rail advocates about the Madison Station was not helpful. Some wanted the station at the Madison Airport which would have made the service inconvenient to its largest base of riders. I believe even WisARP came out in favor of the airport station, created turmoil at exactly the wrong time. It’s sad to think what might have been.
WisARP members in Dane County, wanted the station out at the airport because they ( and I ) were concerned about long term parking. Due to Madison's geography, parking downtown has some serious constraints, as Madison's downtown is on an isthmus between two lakes. It places some significant restrictions on all downtown parking, whereas the airport location would be more convenient for the couple of hundred thousand of us who live elsewhere other than downtown. As for the airport being inconvenient, my observation is that University students have never had any difficulty getting to and from the airport.
 
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