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RPA: Developing New Amtrak Corridors Presentation

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rickycourtney

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The unspoken message I got from this presentation...
Rail Passengers Association sees these corridors as a great way to expand passenger rail service in America.
Amtrak sees these corridors as the logical replacement for the long-distance network... unless they also get money to operate the long-distance network in addition to the corridors they want to operate.
 

sttom

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The two corridors that might compete with Brightline will also be serving different areas. The point of a corridor isn't just end to end travel, it's the towns that are served in between them. And given that Brightline is having problems selling bonds for it's Vegas line, it's future is up in the air for the time being.
 

sttom

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My main is with the RPA document is that it's not very robust. Its mostly additions to existing corridors and maybe netting 10 new corridors. To make a difference in our transportation network, they should be planning to open 10 a year, not 1 a year for 15 if they're really lucky. Which the public at large could be talked into. People like trains for the most part. No one likes sitting in traffic or dealing with an airport for a short trip.
 

ShiningTimeStL

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When I saw articles about Amtrak putting in serious commitment towards the Chicago-Twin Cities and Phoenix-Tuscon corridors, in the midst of the virtual obliteration of LD service, I knew something was terribly, horribly wrong.

THAT BEING SAID,

If the government turns blue and historic levels of funding are approved with protections for long-distance service... this is some of the best news we've had in a long time. IF all that funding doesn't get sucked into the black hole of NEC infrastructure work, with superliner replacements and numerous other things on top of that...

And on top of that, within the next 15 years, we could have supersonic airliners and battery powered passenger drones. We certainly will within the next couple of decades. If we want passenger rail to survive, let alone compete, we need a 10 year plan at the least. 5 would be optimal, Brightline seems to be moving along quite briskly.
 
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joelkfla

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The two corridors that might compete with Brightline will also be serving different areas. The point of a corridor isn't just end to end travel, it's the towns that are served in between them.
OK, but is there enough traffic using those intermediate stops to support multiple trains a day, when traffic between the major population centers is being siphoned off by competition?

And I fear that if Amtrak advances quickly on ORL-TPA, Brightline might just cancel their extension -- which would be shame.
 

Qapla

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Tampa already runs from ORL-TPA ... and they were running daily when Brightline decided to extend to Tampa. They are going to Orlando first, planning Tampa next and have more distant plans to connect JAX.

The difference is, Brightline plans to run multiple trains a day - Amtrak will never compete with that in Florida
 

joelkfla

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Tampa [Amtrak] already runs from ORL-TPA ... and they were running daily when Brightline decided to extend to Tampa. They are going to Orlando first, planning Tampa next and have more distant plans to connect JAX.

The difference is, Brightline plans to run multiple trains a day - Amtrak will never compete with that in Florida
Well, the discussion is about Amtrak's plans for future corridor service, which implies multiple trains a day. So ... we agree.
 

NativeSon5859

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Do I see New Orleans - Baton Rouge on that map?

I doubt it’ll happen.

KCS has already said they don’t want to deal with passenger trains on that segment. Entirely new track would have to be built. Even if they could convince KCS, who’s going to come up with the $80 million to rebuild the spillway trestle alongside US61 which right now is only good for 10mph running?
 

sttom

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OK, but is there enough traffic using those intermediate stops to support multiple trains a day, when traffic between the major population centers is being siphoned off by competition?
In Southern California they're would be and probably would in Florida. Los Angeles to San Bernardino to Victorville is a fairly busy trip in its own right. I've met people that lived in the Victorville area and commuted into San Bernardino because housing was cheaper. Vegas would also need the capacity since I-5 is a 2 lane highway for a good chunk of the way to Vegas and that includes people whole would be coming from in between LA and San Bernardino.
 

Ziv

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I may live on the East Coast, but I would be ecstatic if the EB, CZ, CS and SWC were all twice a day each way.
There are at least three problems of course. Lack of equipment, lack of funding for operating expense and lack of demand. I admit that the first two are legitimate problems, at least initially, but I believe that all four trains (well, maybe three of them) could be built up to support twice a day service, demand-wise. But I may be letting my bias sway my opinion...
And demand won't rise until the LD trains come reasonably close to running on time. I don't see that happening anytime soon.

...
"Corridors" need overnight trains too. "Long distance" just means longer corridors, and at least east of the Mississippi, also needs at least 4 trains a day each way. ...
 
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sttom

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On the contrary, I firmly believe it's a fake distinction and they should be treated as one and the same.

But then I live on the New York to Chicago corridor. (Or "LD" route.)

"Corridors" need overnight trains too. "Long distance" just means longer corridors, and at least east of the Mississippi, also needs at least 4 trains a day each way. The Silver Service would get treated better if it were recognized that it's a long corridor; the NEC would get treated better if it was recognized that roomettes overnight on the Night Owl are attractive and popular.

Perhaps a separate category for trains with empty low-population desert crossings like the Sunset Limited -- "rural service" trains?

But the "long-distance" category is nonsense as long as it includes such corridors as New York to Chicago and New York to Miami.

I mean, if you look historically, we're looking at routes which normally had many trains per day. There are high-population cities essentially continuously along the routes.

The rural service trains never had that many trains per day, so maybe they are a separate category. But putting NY-Chicago and NY-Miami in a separate category from Boston-DC is craziness.
There is a difference between a "corridor" and "corridor service". While it might make sense from a planning sense to treat Chicago to New York like a corridor, that doesn't mean that 4 end to end trains would make sense. We don't really think of the Interstates as end to end corridors that should all be 6 lanes in each direction coast to coast, we plan them on a state to state or region to region level. For all we know, it might make more sense to have 6 supplemental round trips between Chicago and Cleveland along the Lake Shore Limited's route and only 2 supplemental round trips daily to New York.

One thing I do think Amtrak needs to consider is making every train with over a 24 hour scheduled run time at least twice daily since half of the places it will travel through will be at night. And I pointed out on another thread, which ever one of the Silvers that go through North Carolina would make a decent connection to New York if it had a second run 12 hours after the first.

Another thing that needs to be considered beyond service level is what the train is trying to do on a functional level. Yes its carry people, but who and why are they riding the train? A supplemental Chicago to Cleveland regional train isn't going to need sleeping cars, but a supplemental train between Los Angeles and Oakland would. The Northeast Regionals, the Acelas and the Long Distance trains are all meant to perform different functions along their respective routes. Distinguishing routes by functions allow Amtrak to tap different market segments which is good for it to do so, if management was interested in running a good service and fighting Congress with the funding to do so. But treating the Lake Shore Limited and the Silvers like really long Northeast Regionals isn't any better for planning than the 750 mile rule.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Amtrak sees these corridors as the logical replacement for the long-distance network... unless they also get money to operate the long-distance network in addition to the corridors they want to operate.
The money Amtrak currently gets is to operate long distance trains.
 

crescent-zephyr

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And I fear that if Amtrak advances quickly on ORL-TPA, Brightline might just cancel their extension -- which would be shame.
Lol. Amtrak... advance quickly?

Brightline will be running that route for years before Amtrak restores daily LD service to Tampa most likely.
 

sttom

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And I fear that if Amtrak advances quickly on ORL-TPA, Brightline might just cancel their extension -- which would be shame.
Why would Brightline cancel their project over an Amtrak train that would run at most 4 times a day on a route that serves different cities that more than likely won't last longer than whatever federal funding gets it going? If Brightline's business proposition is that fragile, they probably won't last anyways.
 

NES28

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Jan 18, 2019
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I was very disappointed by the presentations in the RPA session discussing the FRA Planning process (which calls for fast, frequent service) and Amtrak plans. Jim Matthews (RPA) presented the FRA planning process as the "40 year plan", calling the Amtrak plans for 2-3 trips/day at conventional speeds as the "15 year plan". If the Democrats win White House and Senate they will likely pass something very much the Transportation Reauthorization the House passed in June which has about enough money to implement the FRA plans in 15 years (and calls for a 90% federal share and preference for interstate projects.

Regarding the "corridor concept, earlier commenters are absolutely correct. Chicago-New York and Chicago-Florida are continuous "corridors; there is no logical place to break them at any point along the way. I have prepared the attached CHI-NYC schedule with, essentially a 2 hour headway, but omitting the segments that arrive or leave endpoints in the middle of the night (this is based on some speedup in the CHI-CLE and BUF-NYP segments). A similar schedule could be prepared for CHI-ORL. I think that FRA staff would agree with this concept. I was very disappointed that RPA stated that thru service would not make sense. I understand that Amtrak is stuck by its focus on the 750 mile rule. However, I think that this schedule would make money, so there would be no operating deficit to pay for.
 

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joelkfla

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Why would Brightline cancel their project over an Amtrak train that would run at most 4 times a day on a route that serves different cities that more than likely won't last longer than whatever federal funding gets it going? If Brightline's business proposition is that fragile, they probably won't last anyways.
Both companies would be drawing from the same market. I assume their projections were based on being the only rail transportation between ORL & TPA, aside from once daily, unreliably scheduled Amtrak service. It's possible that the added competition could reduce their ability to raise funds, or increase the time to profitability.

I'm not an MBA. I don't have business planning experience. I'm not saying they will or should cancel if Amtrak finalizes multi-train per day service. I'm just saying it seems to be a possibility.
 

Katibeth

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Any chance service would ever be restored from Texas to Florida as it used to be? And perhaps additional service in Texas? Just curious.
 

NSC1109

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MI
When I saw articles about Amtrak putting in serious commitment towards the Chicago-Twin Cities and Phoenix-Tuscon corridors, in the midst of the virtual obliteration of LD service, I knew something was terribly, horribly wrong.

THAT BEING SAID,

If the government turns blue and historic levels of funding are approved with protections for long-distance service... this is some of the best news we've had in a long time. IF all that funding doesn't get sucked into the black hole of NEC infrastructure work, with superliner replacements and numerous other things on top of that...

And on top of that, within the next 15 years, we could have supersonic airliners and battery powered passenger drones. We certainly will within the next couple of decades. If we want passenger rail to survive, let alone compete, we need a 10 year plan at the least. 5 would be optimal, Brightline seems to be moving along quite briskly.
I think Chicago-MSP has been in the works for a long time. It’s a viable higher-speed corridor that if done right could be a great addition to the Chicago Hub Network.
 

west point

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How about abandoning the Sunset extension for only served Pensacola and Tallahassee cities. Instead run a second train NOL - ATL by either the present Crescent route or better still CSX NOL - Mobile - Motgomery-LaGrange - ATL ? Then run the train ATL - Macon - Valdosta - JAX - On to Florida destinations. I would like to see some one calculate the difference in times by this longer route and populations served.
The CSX route does cover the gulf casinoes
 

crescent-zephyr

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I'm not saying they will or should cancel if Amtrak finalizes multi-train per day service. I'm just saying it seems to be a possibility.
Why are you saying that? Amtrak is cutting service right now and Brightline is constructing track. There’s like 1% possibility in my book.
 

sttom

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Both companies would be drawing from the same market. I assume their projections were based on being the only rail transportation between ORL & TPA, aside from once daily, unreliably scheduled Amtrak service. It's possible that the added competition could reduce their ability to raise funds, or increase the time to profitability.

I'm not an MBA. I don't have business planning experience. I'm not saying they will or should cancel if Amtrak finalizes multi-train per day service. I'm just saying it seems to be a possibility.
There are also the in-between markets that need to be looked at as well. Brightline as planned will serve up to Cape Canaveral which is a far more fruitful market that what Amtrak would serve between Miami and Orlando. Which are tourist markets that Amtrak wouldn't be directly competing in on top of local traffic that would be generated on the line.

Amtrak might be able to better serve Miami to Tampa on its route, but given how limited the service on new State Sponsored Routes are, it's not going to be as effective as a train running hourly or even every other hour.

Then there is the possible service to Jacksonville. If they continue up the FEC, Brightline would serve Daytona Beach and other tourist markets. Which they would have a monopoly on with or without a direct connection with Amtrak.

The only place Amtrak might complicate Brightline, and this is a serious maybe is between Orlando and Tampa. But a train running less than every other hour isn't really going to be that big of a deal compared to a train every hour.

Amtrak's best proposition would be that their local service would better connect to the rest of their network. But, since Amtrak isn't planning on offering better connections from Florida to points north, that possibility is effectively a moot point.

All of this is also hinges on Florida DOT being involved with planning of this, which they haven't shown any interest in. Given than, it's more likely that Brightline goes under than Amtrak Florida becomes a reality. And Brightline flopping is more than likely going to be the origin of Amtrak Florida than Florida legislature realizing trains are good and cars are bad.
 

NES28

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How about abandoning the Sunset extension for only served Pensacola and Tallahassee cities. Instead run a second train NOL - ATL by either the present Crescent route or better still CSX NOL - Mobile - Motgomery-LaGrange - ATL ? Then run the train ATL - Macon - Valdosta - JAX - On to Florida destinations. I would like to see some one calculate the difference in times by this longer route and populations served.
The FRA SE Regional Rail Plan (Phase 1 completed in 2017, but not currently available online) Identified a direct Atlanta-Macon-Jacksonville-Orlando as a Core Express corridor with very high potential (hourly service). It also identified New Orleans-Mobile-Montgomery-Columbus (GA)-Atlanta as a good Regional corridor (4-8 trips/day). Pensacola is hard to serve.
 

Qapla

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Have you traveled on I-4 between Tampa and Orlando? They keep having to expand the number of lanes and it is still crowded. There are enough people going between Orlando and Tampa on a daily basis that Amtrak and Brightline would not exhaust the market - only improve it once people realized that trains ran that often as long as they have adequate parking at the stations.
 

jiml

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Have you traveled on I-4 between Tampa and Orlando? They keep having to expand the number of lanes and it is still crowded. There are enough people going between Orlando and Tampa on a daily basis that Amtrak and Brightline would not exhaust the market - only improve it once people realized that trains ran that often as long as they have adequate parking at the stations.
It sure wouldn't hurt business for people stuck in their cars to see even an Amtrak train zip by in the median or parallel to the highway. We do Tampa to Lakeland every year and it's not getting any better.
 
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