Service Reductions effective October 1

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Qapla

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
992
In our area the city busses are operated by the city. They offer huge discounts to students so they don't actually make money. They often ran space occupancy even before the virus at certain times of the day. With the virus, the ridership is very low.

That has not stopped the City from running the busses! Since the are "funded" they never looked at them as a "profit making enterprise" so, even if ridership is lower than usual, their "losses" are no greater now than they were before - since they don't have "losses" ... they are funded!

Amtrak should be funded the same as the city busses are here. If the funding covered their operation it wouldn't matter if they were had low ridership during recovery ... it doesn't cost any more to run them nearly empty as it does to run them completely full - if you are not trying to "make a profit" and you fund the operating cost the trains could continue to run just like the busses are here.
 

toddinde

Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 23, 2015
Messages
116
God I hope you are right
Don’t get me started on the NEC market share argument. If 5,000 people board annually in a city of 10,000 that’s market share through the roof. No city in the NEC can match that. Amtrak might have 100% of the intercity public transportation ridership there, and generate far more economic activity as a percentage in that community. The NEC has its place, and I’m not proposing to cut it back to only three days per week, but the rest of the country deserves rail service as well.
 

DryCreek

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Feb 15, 2015
Messages
288
Amtrak should be funded the same as the city busses are here. If the funding covered their operation it wouldn't matter if they were had low ridership during recovery ... it doesn't cost any more to run them nearly empty as it does to run them completely full - if you are not trying to "make a profit" and you fund the operating cost the trains could continue to run just like the busses are here.
A classic case of government inefficiency. While not trying to make a profit makes sense, running a transportation service without looking at efficiency modeling is a waste of taxpayers money. Running under-capacity at the same scheduling just because the money has already been appropriated and needs to be spent is a prime example of why some folks feel the government is incapable of providing any service in a cost-efficient and practical manner.
While I'm not for the idea, I almost can see the point of some who insist that maybe complete privatization of Amtrak would be the best solution. Let it stand on its own, allow more flexibility for negotiating labor rates, allow free enterprise to decide exactly which routes make money. If a route doesn't see enough ridership to justify continued operation, then seek subsidies or grants if the region must be served. Or, allow those routes to be government operated at the same level of efficiency as the local transportation authorities.
 

20th Century Rider

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
472
A classic case of government inefficiency. While not trying to make a profit makes sense, running a transportation service without looking at efficiency modeling is a waste of taxpayers money. Running under-capacity at the same scheduling just because the money has already been appropriated and needs to be spent is a prime example of why some folks feel the government is incapable of providing any service in a cost-efficient and practical manner.
While I'm not for the idea, I almost can see the point of some who insist that maybe complete privatization of Amtrak would be the best solution. Let it stand on its own, allow more flexibility for negotiating labor rates, allow free enterprise to decide exactly which routes make money. If a route doesn't see enough ridership to justify continued operation, then seek subsidies or grants if the region must be served. Or, allow those routes to be government operated at the same level of efficiency as the local transportation authorities.
Well said, although the fact that roadbeds and tracks are extremely limited, expensive, and difficult to maintain, passenger rail is a complex issue to tackle. I do have hope that a possible new administration will energize our hopes for high speed rail.
 

sttom

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2019
Messages
489
A classic case of government inefficiency. While not trying to make a profit makes sense, running a transportation service without looking at efficiency modeling is a waste of taxpayers money. Running under-capacity at the same scheduling just because the money has already been appropriated and needs to be spent is a prime example of why some folks feel the government is incapable of providing any service in a cost-efficient and practical manner.
While I'm not for the idea, I almost can see the point of some who insist that maybe complete privatization of Amtrak would be the best solution. Let it stand on its own, allow more flexibility for negotiating labor rates, allow free enterprise to decide exactly which routes make money. If a route doesn't see enough ridership to justify continued operation, then seek subsidies or grants if the region must be served. Or, allow those routes to be government operated at the same level of efficiency as the local transportation authorities.
The problem with privatization is that no one really wants to run what Amtrak has to. And that is the rub, private industry gave up on passenger trains so they got the government to take it off their hands. And with how small the rail industry is in this country, leaving "private enterprise" to fend for itself will lead to higher capital costs because there won't be economies of scale. Even in the UK, the paragon of rail privatization, none of the "private" operators have the same purchasing power that British Rail had when it existed. And to top it off, most of the "private" operators are the state owned companies from the rest of Europe.

As for cost efficiencies, what has private transportation options really gotten us? Paying to check luggage when it was already in the price of a ticket? Shrinking leg room? Getting rid of food? Abandoning services to counties with millions of people in it? That is what the airlines have done over the years. Express bus companies have proliferated in the last 10 years or so, but they travel from city center to city center ignoring the surrounding suburbs. Its been mentioned many times on here that Greyhound has been axing service to rural areas and smaller suburbs for years.

My point is, private industry only wants what makes them money, not what is in the public interest. And its not in the public interest to be sitting in hours of traffic because some auditor decided that your local Greyhound stop outside the 7-11 wasn't worth keeping around. Lifeline service is always something that is going to be kicked off onto the government because no one wants to deal with it. And outside of the NEC, Amtrak is a life line service for most of its passengers! Whatever deal sweeteners we could give European state owned railways to operate Amtrak lines, we could put less into Amtrak and have a better service so long as that is paired with firing the Board and replacing them. If you want to talk corruption, why should real estate investors be allowed to control publicly owned resources that they can sell for their own benefit?
 

Willbridge

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
401
Right now in the passenger transport industry (which includes airlines) it is all about short-term cash flow to pay the bills, not long-term strategy.

I think we all know that cutting frequency also cuts revenue even more and vice versa with increasing frequency ("double the frequency, triple the revenue"), and obviously running trains 3x/wk instead of daily leads to huge net inefficiencies with crew scheduling.

But if the overall effect of these changes leads to a slower cash bleed, that is what it is all about and is what they need to do right now, unless Congress wants to pony up.
A detailed analysis of the Empire Builder shows that the change may net no savings. If I can't find it posted here, I'll do it in a separate posting so it can be moved if it is covered elsewhere.

I've also found in my files that the last time they pulled this Congress voted enough extra money to get past the 1996 election and then the plug was pulled on the Desert Wind and Pioneer. Ridership on those trains fell almost exactly the same percentage as service was cut.
 

Willbridge

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
401
A classic case of government inefficiency. While not trying to make a profit makes sense, running a transportation service without looking at efficiency modeling is a waste of taxpayers money. Running under-capacity at the same scheduling just because the money has already been appropriated and needs to be spent is a prime example of why some folks feel the government is incapable of providing any service in a cost-efficient and practical manner.
While I'm not for the idea, I almost can see the point of some who insist that maybe complete privatization of Amtrak would be the best solution. Let it stand on its own, allow more flexibility for negotiating labor rates, allow free enterprise to decide exactly which routes make money. If a route doesn't see enough ridership to justify continued operation, then seek subsidies or grants if the region must be served. Or, allow those routes to be government operated at the same level of efficiency as the local transportation authorities.
The problem with complete privatization is whether any of the new operators, likely to be European national carriers, would ever get phone calls returned from Omaha. And in fact, European private operators are in dire straights right now.
 

Willbridge

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
401
Here's the cover memo from a man who has made a living running rail tours and is himself widely respected in the industry:

Mark Meyer, an RPA At Large Council Representative today, in his professional life spent his career working in the rail industry (BNSF and its predecessors), primarily handling duties such as crew
assignments, locomotive utilization, and rolling stock assignments. He has authorized me to share this with you as well as on other forums, and I thought you could very effectively understand it. It's a true read, but worth the time! His contacts are at the end of the report. Obviously it is essential he be credited for this work.

Mark got the actual days of the week details of Amtrak's tri-weekly service plan for the EMPIRE BUILDER and looks in detail at the incredible difficulties it will trigger in terms of crew utilization in
particular. This is an exceptional piece of work.

Mark's genuinely informed analysis of crew assignments and forced layovers should convince any competent manager that this tri-weekly option simply does not work-- but we know how many of them there were in Amtrak senior leadership when they "made this decision" in the first place!

To reinforce the "laws of unintended consequences" that this sort of action triggers, let me offer a bit of 1990's era Mercer-cuts history worth sharing from my personal business experience:

The Mercer cuts had the CZ effectively running daily CHI/SLC and then four days a week to SFO and three (as the DESERT WIND) to LAX. My company, Rail Travel Center, had several tours booked that season on segments using both trains west of SLC that required rebooking. It wasn't just the train that was an issue. If we were supposed to get off in Reno on Thursday and suddenly the train was actually arriving now on Saturday, EVERY tour component--hotels--motor coach for off-train--sightseeing--meals--etc had to be redone. Ok, bad enough!

But then Amtrak realized they were in a crew rotation problem similar to what Mark outlined. Crew layovers were too long. They changed operating days again!

We had to reboot everything a second time. This wasn't just annoying. We lost clients who might accept one change to their vacation dates--but not two! We lost deposits in some cases. We had to revise some promised tour sightseeing components--because we could be planning to ride a
tourist railroad--as an example--on Sunday, but now would arrive on Monday, when they did not run. This meant degrading promised vacation content. Not a good way to please customers. Rarely could we set up economically a charter train on a no service day--although a few times we did at a real loss to keep clients loyal to us.

Obviously this did more harm to a tour company than an individual--but faced with this kind of chaos many (most?) passengers would just dump Amtrak and drive or do a fly--drive vacation on the days they wanted.

Also it is worth noting that Amtrak's other option to move crews home is to fly, bus (unlikely given the bus industry cuts), taxi or deadhead the crew back. On the idiotic SILVER METEOR four days per week schedule starting next week perhaps a Thursday Jacksonville-Florence crew could deadhead back on the AUTO TRAIN, but on SILVER STAR days a long tax/limo ride is going to be essential, or Amtrak will be paying for four hotel nights out (of course this won't happen--it's taxi/limo for sure--not cheap) at least for crews on the last day of each three day cycle.

This plan is meant to fail.

Carl H. Fowler
Emeritus Past Vice Chair: Rail Passengers Association
President: CHF Rail Consulting LLC
Member: Vermont Rail Advisory Council

(All opinions expressed are my own)
 

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tricia

Conductor
Joined
Aug 23, 2011
Messages
1,065
Here's the cover memo from a man who has made a living running rail tours and is himself widely respected in the industry:

Mark Meyer, an RPA At Large Council Representative today, in his professional life spent his career working in the rail industry (BNSF and its predecessors), primarily handling duties such as crew
assignments, locomotive utilization, and rolling stock assignments. He has authorized me to share this with you as well as on other forums, and I thought you could very effectively understand it. It's a true read, but worth the time! His contacts are at the end of the report. Obviously it is essential he be credited for this work.

Mark got the actual days of the week details of Amtrak's tri-weekly service plan for the EMPIRE BUILDER and looks in detail at the incredible difficulties it will trigger in terms of crew utilization in
particular. This is an exceptional piece of work.

Mark's genuinely informed analysis of crew assignments and forced layovers should convince any competent manager that this tri-weekly option simply does not work-- but we know how many of them there were in Amtrak senior leadership when they "made this decision" in the first place!

To reinforce the "laws of unintended consequences" that this sort of action triggers, let me offer a bit of 1990's era Mercer-cuts history worth sharing from my personal business experience:

The Mercer cuts had the CZ effectively running daily CHI/SLC and then four days a week to SFO and three (as the DESERT WIND) to LAX. My company, Rail Travel Center, had several tours booked that season on segments using both trains west of SLC that required rebooking. It wasn't just the train that was an issue. If we were supposed to get off in Reno on Thursday and suddenly the train was actually arriving now on Saturday, EVERY tour component--hotels--motor coach for off-train--sightseeing--meals--etc had to be redone. Ok, bad enough!

But then Amtrak realized they were in a crew rotation problem similar to what Mark outlined. Crew layovers were too long. They changed operating days again!

We had to reboot everything a second time. This wasn't just annoying. We lost clients who might accept one change to their vacation dates--but not two! We lost deposits in some cases. We had to revise some promised tour sightseeing components--because we could be planning to ride a
tourist railroad--as an example--on Sunday, but now would arrive on Monday, when they did not run. This meant degrading promised vacation content. Not a good way to please customers. Rarely could we set up economically a charter train on a no service day--although a few times we did at a real loss to keep clients loyal to us.

Obviously this did more harm to a tour company than an individual--but faced with this kind of chaos many (most?) passengers would just dump Amtrak and drive or do a fly--drive vacation on the days they wanted.

Also it is worth noting that Amtrak's other option to move crews home is to fly, bus (unlikely given the bus industry cuts), taxi or deadhead the crew back. On the idiotic SILVER METEOR four days per week schedule starting next week perhaps a Thursday Jacksonville-Florence crew could deadhead back on the AUTO TRAIN, but on SILVER STAR days a long tax/limo ride is going to be essential, or Amtrak will be paying for four hotel nights out (of course this won't happen--it's taxi/limo for sure--not cheap) at least for crews on the last day of each three day cycle.

This plan is meant to fail.

Carl H. Fowler
Emeritus Past Vice Chair: Rail Passengers Association
President: CHF Rail Consulting LLC
Member: Vermont Rail Advisory Council

(All opinions expressed are my own)
Wow. Thoughtful and very detailed. Consider just this bit, backed up by thorough analysis in the letter: "It’s very likely that the increased cost of deadheading crews over multiple crew districts could actually exceed the cost of daily operation." And that's in addition to all the other costs and areas where the percentage of savings gained by cutting frequency is considerably smaller than the percentage of trains lost.

Thanks for posting this.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
7,958
Very impressive response to Amtrak's "plan"...thanks from me too, for posting.
All I can say is let's hope that this statement is true, and if so, successful: {quote}" (And yes, I have considered this to be ploy by Amtrak to receive the additional funding as to not need to implement such a Draconian plan.)"
 

nferr

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Feb 24, 2009
Messages
277
In our area the city busses are operated by the city. They offer huge discounts to students so they don't actually make money. They often ran space occupancy even before the virus at certain times of the day. With the virus, the ridership is very low.

That has not stopped the City from running the busses! Since the are "funded" they never looked at them as a "profit making enterprise" so, even if ridership is lower than usual, their "losses" are no greater now than they were before - since they don't have "losses" ... they are funded!

Amtrak should be funded the same as the city busses are here. If the funding covered their operation it wouldn't matter if they were had low ridership during recovery ... it doesn't cost any more to run them nearly empty as it does to run them completely full - if you are not trying to "make a profit" and you fund the operating cost the trains could continue to run just like the busses are here.
Except Amtrak is not funded that way. Most of their operating funds come from ticket sales. The Federal government gives then an amount set every year during the budget process. It's not an unlimited amount to cover an unlimited amount of shortfall. They have to live with the amount the government has allocated and their own revenues.
 

Qapla

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
992
Except Amtrak is not funded that way. Most of their operating funds come from ticket sales.
I know they are not funded that way - that was my point .. they could/should be.

Amtrak has been running long enough that they should have a pretty good idea of what it costs annually to run and that amount should be set aside/budgeted. There would be no "shortfall" if they were fully funded. When was the last time they complained that the Navy had a shortfall?

Additionally, ticket revenue could be used to improve Amtrak to help reduce future needs.

Instead of viewing Amtrak as a "profit business" that needs "help" because they cannot make it on ticket sales alone ... they need to change that to viewing Amtrak the same way they view Air Traffic Control, Homeland Security, and other services and fully fund them.

In other words, if the Gov't is going to own them - they should "OWN" them and fully fund them ... if they want it to be a business, they need to sell it to real business people (hard to do when there are not really any business that want that debt and risk)
 
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Crowbar_k

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 23, 2020
Messages
15
If this goes into effect, I wonder if service will be supplemented on the Lincoln Service. Honestly, that would probably be an improvement.
 
Joined
Apr 27, 2009
Messages
4
You are entitled to know the schedule... and although you will be entitled to a refund, customers should be treated better. It seems that they haven't finalized the schedule and are waiting to see what happens with the pandemic. Finally, many many others are in the same situation as you. Wishing you well!
[/QUOTE Thanks 20th Century Rider for your reply.
 

Willbridge

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
401
From a reliable source, the cutback continues.

Rick Peterson, manager of the Amtrak California Thruway service, retires July 24. Part of a buyout of 510 employees nationwide. Amtrak Oakland operation center will oversee the program for the state.

Orange Belt bus line, an oldie operator in Central California, will close up shop. Doing business has gotten too expensive. [Orange Belt is a holdover from regulated days.]

And on August 1, Thruway makes many changes. Due to reduced funding from the State of California.

In the south its all gone, except Los Angeles, Ontario-San Bernardino and Riverside.

No Santa Barbara, No Torrance, no Long Beach, No Las Vegas, No Victorville/Lancaster, no Indio/Palm Springs, no Hemet.

In the north, reduction in schedules, think the only route cut is Stockton -Oakland.

Subject to changes with hardly any notice.


[The Las Vegas reference is to the Las Vegas -- Los Angeles link. The Las Vegas -- Kingman link with the SW Chief still shows in the reservation system, run by an independent operator.]
 

Willbridge

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
401
It seems that any time someone looks at the economics, they keep coming to the same conclusion...

 

Crowbar_k

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 23, 2020
Messages
15
I can't stand David Peter Alan. He is so out of touch and thinks that there is this grand conspiring to eliminate the long distance routes for no reason, which does not make any sense when you start to think about it. I do not necessarily agree with Amtrak's plan to cut the long distance routes but I still can't stand him.
 

dogbert617

OBS Chief
Joined
Aug 19, 2016
Messages
836
From a reliable source, the cutback continues.

Rick Peterson, manager of the Amtrak California Thruway service, retires July 24. Part of a buyout of 510 employees nationwide. Amtrak Oakland operation center will oversee the program for the state.

Orange Belt bus line, an oldie operator in Central California, will close up shop. Doing business has gotten too expensive. [Orange Belt is a holdover from regulated days.]

And on August 1, Thruway makes many changes. Due to reduced funding from the State of California.

In the south its all gone, except Los Angeles, Ontario-San Bernardino and Riverside.

No Santa Barbara, No Torrance, no Long Beach, No Las Vegas, No Victorville/Lancaster, no Indio/Palm Springs, no Hemet.

In the north, reduction in schedules, think the only route cut is Stockton -Oakland.

Subject to changes with hardly any notice.


[The Las Vegas reference is to the Las Vegas -- Los Angeles link. The Las Vegas -- Kingman link with the SW Chief still shows in the reservation system, run by an independent operator.]
So Bakersfield-LA buses will still run, to bridge the gap in train service between those 2 places? If that bus didn't run, I'd be really surprised. Too bad Amtrak probably won't get approval anytime soon, to run trains through the Techaciapi(sp?) Loop.

And that's a heck of a letter that was written there, to show how really bad that less than daily service would end up being on the Empire Builder. I can only imagine the less than daily service that was just implemented on Silver Star in early July, will only really annoy riders in the Carolinas, Lakeland and Tampa, and Okeechobee. Granted there is a slightly less impact in Lakeland and Tampa, since Amtrak just instituted bus service between those 2 places and Orlando(to connect to Silver Meteor) that runs, on the days Silver Star doesn't run. But I really think cutting any service is terrible, since I greatly worry once it's cut, it'll probably be very hard to see service come back for a long time if ever. And as we all know service was cut that used to go into places like Ocala, FL and Waldo, FL(which was the Amtrak train that used to go through those communities? and has been replaced by bus service), and of course there's the issue of Sunset no longer running east of New Orleans. Even though a regional train will soon start to Mobile, service should fully be restored on this route east to Jacksonville and Orlando for sure!

If this goes into effect, I wonder if service will be supplemented on the Lincoln Service. Honestly, that would probably be an improvement.
I'm nervous it won't, since as it is all regional Amtrak Midwest trains with several trains a day(Lincoln Service, Illini/Saluki, IL Zephyr/Carl Sandburg, Wolverine, Hiawatha) are still running at reduced levels. Honestly, I don't even want to see this reduction to 3 days a week service occur, which really will hurt ridership a lot! And I remain convinced if 7 days a week service existed for the Cardinal instead of 3 days a week service, that perhaps the staffing at Cincinnati probably wouldn't have been cut.
 
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tricia

Conductor
Joined
Aug 23, 2011
Messages
1,065
It seems that any time someone looks at the economics, they keep coming to the same conclusion...

Thanks for posting. Well worth a read not just for its detailed analysis about how cutting freqency loses rather than saves money, but also for related points--such as Amtrak's removal of schedules from its website suppressing demand, and much more.
 

bms

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 29, 2018
Messages
83
But I really think cutting any service is terrible, since I greatly worry once it's cut, it'll probably be very hard to see service come back for a long time if ever. And as we all know service was cut that used to go into places like Ocala, FL and Waldo, FL(which was the Amtrak train that used to go through those communities? and has been replaced by bus service), and of course there's the issue of Sunset no longer running east of New Orleans. Even though a regional train will soon start to Mobile, service should fully be restored on this route east to Jacksonville and Orlando for sure!
Well said. Because of the Sunset Limited, I do not trust that the cuts are really temporary. It would be one thing if Amtrak just came up with the idea this year, but Amtrak had been trying to cut dining car meals and long distance service for a few years before the virus existed.
 

Qapla

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
992
Many of the businesses that are able to continue operation during this critical time have developed new and innovative ways to operate and entice customers. These innovative ideas usually do NOT include cutting their mainstay service ... just an alternative way of doing it - even if it means using more people to do the same job - thus resulting with a smaller profit % while generating more business, which, in turn, generated greater profits.

Amtrak's mainstay is providing daily service. Reducing that portion of their business is NOT the way to increase profits!
 

Exvalley

Service Attendant
AU Supporter
Joined
Jul 7, 2020
Messages
101
Amtrak's mainstay is providing daily service. Reducing that portion of their business is NOT the way to increase profits!
I appreciate your sentiment, but look at the airlines. They have absolutely slashed capacity, which often results in lengthy connections. Thanks to a resurgence of Covid-19, especially in the south, the airlines are eliminating many of the flights that they were going to add in August and September. This isn't about increasing profits. This is about survival.

We all obviously hope that the government continues to support Amtrak in a way that will result in continued daily operations. But the market is what it is. People don't want to travel. It's just that simple. Even if Amtrak could innovate and convince people that riding on Amtrak is 100% safe, people still aren't ready for the destination itself.
 

bms

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 29, 2018
Messages
83
I appreciate your sentiment, but look at the airlines. They have absolutely slashed capacity, which often results in lengthy connections. Thanks to a resurgence of Covid-19, especially in the south, the airlines are eliminating many of the flights that they were going to add in August and September. This isn't about increasing profits. This is about survival.

We all obviously hope that the government continues to support Amtrak in a way that will result in continued daily operations. But the market is what it is. People don't want to travel. It's just that simple. Even if Amtrak could innovate and convince people that riding on Amtrak is 100% safe, people still aren't ready for the destination itself.
Two of the three trains I rode last week were sold out (albeit with plenty of seats empty due to single travelers being guaranteed two seats). With the economy opening, plenty of people need to travel and don't feel safe on a plane right now. Trains provide by far the best social distancing compared to planes or buses. If Amtrak would just keep the same service, this is a great opportunity to attract new riders and increase its market share.
 
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