Short Consists of Long Distance Trains

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toddinde

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Make that read Amtrak planned not to run many long distance trains in the future. Congress upset their apple cart, but not unexpectedly.

Amtrak management seemed to almost intentionally fail to read the tea leaves on the Congressional mandate to return to daily operation. It was in the works for months before it passed and was fully expected to pass.

It wasn't unexpected. It was lack of planning.
Absolutely. Amtrak frequently doesn’t understand their own business. I hope they’re getting better. It seems like VP Harris is pretty good. I would like to see more over overnight, longer corridor trains similar to the Caledonian Sleeper in Great Britain.
 

toddinde

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If they really put cars into unmaintained long term storage, they need to all be fired and the company needs a reset.
They did, and admit they did. They did not believe that funding would be there in the future for the long distance trains. They believed their own rosy propaganda about the wonders of the NEC and the uselessness of long distance service. Congress and the American people had other ideas.
 

Tlcooper93

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Whole lotta assertions here with almost no facts to back them up.

Unless you've got inside information to share, you have no idea what Amtrak management was planning.
Completely agreed.
Amtrak is a pretty poorly run company. To suggest there is some kind of devious scheme to covertly but decisively drop the LD routes implies quite a bit of planning and prowess that I don’t think they have.

More realistically, I think Amtrak has a far more nuanced and complex relationship with their LD routes than we think. Some of these routes have guaranteed funding due to the provincial way in which our government system works. I highly doubt Amtrak wants to unequivocally dump the California Zephyr.

Until we get inside ears, I’d suggest we chill with the silly conspiracy theories, and be a little more deliberate with our language.
 
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TheTuck

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Im surprised at Mr. Selden on this one. In previous speaking engagements, he has touted the notion to "never believe in conspiracy when simple incompetence is a viable explanation." In a recent Trains Mag article by Bob Johnston, he explains Amtrak's lackluster decisions during covid to sideline equipment and furlough too many employees. He also highlights how the cost-cutting culture played into these decisions. Sure looks like incompetence to me!
 

Amtrakfflyer

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People seem to forget the history of Gardner and this management overall. They are on record as only wanting to run 5-6 long distance routes with less than daily service this was 3.5 years ago. The code word used back then was “experimental” trains. Again they are on record as being hostile to long distance routes. How anyone can say there’s no evidence is beyond me. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. We’ve smelled smoke on every front for at least 4 years. From 121 days required now to refund a long distance sleeper ticket to Amtrak’s refusal to just put Acela meals on East coast trains. The list is probably 30 items of downgrades that for the the part are head scratching and only apply to long distance trains. They have gone out of their way to attack long distance trains in just about every aspect. There’s no denying it.
 
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jis

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The word was "experiential."
Indeed.

It should also be noted that until very recently, barring a few random Senators and Congresspeople to the contrary, the appropriations that were handed to Amtrak on an ongoing basis, except for occasional one year enthusiastic spurts, basically carried the message to wind things up so as to reduce subsidies to minimum if not zero. Of course the Board and their appointees acted accordingly, some more reluctantly and some less. Some were forced by internal intrigues managed either by the Board or explicitly direct interference by some specific Republican members of Congress.

The so called incompetence may actually be completely by design to a large extent and is considered to be greatly competent by some powerful folks amongst the paymasters. The corners of the country that really wanted the service fought mightily and actually made gains by hiving off the corridor services from the assault to some extent. That is how the LD trains fell into the cracks. Funny thing is legislators from the states that benefit most from LD service were more active than others in trying to kill the LD trains. It was a religious matter of faith for them with no logic beyond that.

It is only within the last year or two, post Anderson that the overall attitude of the legislature seems to have shifted some. But we'll see how much fortitude is involved going forward, won't we?
 

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To suggest there is some kind of devious scheme to covertly but decisively drop the LD routes implies quite a bit of planning and prowess that I don’t think they have.
It wasn’t covert; Anderson freely admitted he was fine with turning long distance routes into half-bus and half-rail monstrosities and the same board that hired him is still in power at Amtrak today.

For train lovers, the moment of truth was when Anderson initially refused to put up funds to improve a 400-mile stretch of the Southwest Chief between Dodge City, Kan., and Albuquerque. Anderson said it would be more prudent to run a bus between the two cities instead. “The idea that Amtrak would think about replacing passenger service with bus service for 400 miles and believe that we would still have a long distance passenger train service is something I can’t get over,” Senator Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, scolded Anderson in a hearing in June. The Senate ordered Amtrak to run the train and forget about buses. Fine, says Anderson, but he hasn’t given up on his plans to segment some routes.
 
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neroden

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Funny thing is legislators from the states that benefit most from LD service were more active than others in trying to kill the LD trains. It was a religious matter of faith for them with no logic beyond that.
So, the funny thing is, Amtrak management under Anderson appears to have been politically tone-deaf, and completely misread the situation. In a way nobody who was paying attention would ever have misread it.

While the Republican legislators from a bunch of states like Idaho, North Dakota, Mississippi, and Arkansas will say lots of negative things about Amtrak, the moment you come for THEIR train, they'll be demanding that you keep it running, and with tablecloths and steak, too! Every Amtrak management since the first has run up against this. Most of them, including Boardman and Moorman, understood the politics of it; Anderson clearly didn't.

I went through pro- and anti-Amtrak votes by Congressmembers at one point, and in nearly the entire country, every district with an Amtrak station serving it has a Congressmember who votes for Amtrak service, regardless of party or ideology. The exceptions, Congressmembers who vote against service to their own communities, are mostly in a string running along the Sunset Limited route, which makes it all the more remarkable that the SL is still running.

Those who knew the political landscape knew that an attack on the Southwest Chief would round up half a dozen Senators and a dozen Representatives to breathe fire at Mr. Anderson, which is exactly what happened. Attacking the Southwest Chief was political idiocy of the first order -- I have to suspect that whoever suggested it to Mr Anderson was actually trying to get Mr Anderson fired. They more or less succeeded. Don't tell the anti-long-distance saboteurs, but if they'd actually been trying to dismantle services competently, they would have gone after the Sunset, which lacks the political backing.

Mr. Anderson made other exceptionally stupid moves. Many stations had lost their Amtrak-employed agents with little outcry under Boardman. Mr. Anderson's administration tried to remove an agent from *Cincinnati*, which sparked a backlash which restored agents at dozens and dozens of other stations. It's almost like his underlings, told to make "cuts", made cuts in the ways designed specifically to create maximum backlash, and Mr. Anderson was too stupid to realize what was being done.

It's possible to *both* be maliciously trying to dismantle the long-distance services, *and* to be incompetent while trying to do so. Mr. Anderson achieved that combination.
 

Ryan

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Not to mention the fact that his gambit was for entities other than Amtrak to make with the funding for the SWC route.

Since that occured, the world will never know if was serious about the bus thing or it was a clever ploy that worked.
 

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Not to mention the fact that his gambit was for entities other than Amtrak to make with the funding for the SWC route. Since that occured, the world will never know if was serious about the bus thing or it was a clever ploy that worked.
So in your view it is easier to believe that Anderson's attacks on the Southwest Chief were part of a secret conspiracy to secure more funding so that no buses would ever be needed, despite the fact that Anderson never implied or acknowledged any such motive and had to be told to keep running those trains against his own judgement?
 

lordsigma

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So in your view it is easier to believe that Anderson's attacks on the Southwest Chief were part of a secret conspiracy to secure more funding so that no buses would ever be needed, despite the fact that Anderson never implied or acknowledged any such motive and had to be told to keep running those trains against his own judgement?
Anderson would probably tell you he was successful. While they didn’t allow the bus plan which may have been their ideal, they coughed up a whole bunch of money to address the issue which I’m sure was a plan B. They probably viewed it as they’ll either let us cut it or they’ll throw money at us so it’ll be a win win.
 

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Anderson would probably tell you he was successful. While they didn’t allow the bus plan which may have been their ideal, they coughed up a whole bunch of money to address the issue which I’m sure was a plan B. They probably viewed it as they’ll either let us cut it or they’ll throw money at us so it’ll be a win win.
Anderson never struck me as the sentimental type and love or hate him when he said he wanted something done he usually meant it. Witness his swift and decisive action to permanently retire the PPC fleet before a buyer could be found. I've seen no evidence that Anderson ever said or implied he was happy the Southwest Chief would remain viable under his watch. In fact he continued to push his bus-rail plans even after sufficient funding was secured.
 

Ryan

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So in your view it is easier to believe that Anderson's attacks on the Southwest Chief were part of a secret conspiracy to secure more funding so that no buses would ever be needed, despite the fact that Anderson never implied or acknowledged any such motive and had to be told to keep running those trains against his own judgement?
In my view, we don't know what he was doing, and as such decline to cite or accept those actions as evidence of anything for or against the LD trains.

Likewise with the PPC - if the stated reason (maintenance on unicorn cars of sufficient age that all repair parts had to essentially be custom made from scratch) is taken at face value, then pulling them from service ASAP to stop the bleeding makes sense. They lost less money with them sitting there awaiting a buyer then they would continuing to keep them on the road. Same story with Ocean View.

Personally, I don't like it because I like nice things, but there's a believable narrative where Anderson DGAF about those nice things and was playing the role of a cold, hard, business man that was cutting the expensive things but not as a part of a "secret conspiracy" to eliminate LD train travel along routes like the SWC.
 
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enviro5609

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In my view, we don't know what he was doing, and as such decline to cite or accept those actions as evidence of anything for or against the LD trains.

Likewise with the PPC - if the stated reason (maintenance on unicorn cars of sufficient age that all repair parts had to essentially be custom made from scratch) is taken at face value, then pulling them from service ASAP to stop the bleeding makes sense. They lost less money with them sitting there awaiting a buyer then they would continuing to keep them on the road. Same story with Ocean View.

Personally, I don't like it because I like nice things, but there's a believable narrative where Anderson DGAF about those nice things and was playing the role of a cold, hard, business man that was cutting the expensive things but not as a part of a "secret conspiracy" to eliminate LD train travel along routes like the SWC.
It’s a rational excuse, but it doesn’t mean it was a good decision. Aging assets do cost more to maintain— but they can also be unique profit centers and attractors. It just requires more vision than leadership had at the time.

Aren’t the St. Charles Streetcars in New Orleans even older (about to turn 100), and also require every replacement part to be custom fabricated? The New Orleans RTA isn’t exactly flush with cash, but they keep them running. They have modern streetcars running on other lines, but choose to keep the ~100 year old cast iron green cars on the St. Charles line. And its not like the San Francisco trolley or some experiential tourist attraction. Paying ridership includes *both* tourists and regular folks who use it to get around. They cost more to maintain, but they also drive ridership and are the crown jewel of what would otherwise be just another cash strapped public transit system.
 

joelkfla

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And its not like the San Francisco trolley or some experiential tourist attraction. Paying ridership includes *both* tourists and regular folks who use it to get around.
I assume you're talking about the cable cars.

First of all, a cable car is not a trolley car. By definition, a trolley car is electrically powered from an overhead wire.

Secondly, I don't know about today, but when I lived in SF some 40 years ago, the cable cars were used by both tourists and locals. True, tourists outnumbered locals, but there were always riders hopping on or off along the route. Cable car fares have nowadays become excessive, but they are still included in all monthly passes.

SF also has the historic streetcars running on Market St. & beyond, which are mostly PCC's but with a smattering of other cars from various cities. They were brought back by popular demand, and are heavily used by locals at regular fare.
 

enviro5609

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I assume you're talking about the cable cars.

First of all, a cable car is not a trolley car. By definition, a trolley car is electrically powered from an overhead wire.

Secondly, I don't know about today, but when I lived in SF some 40 years ago, the cable cars were used by both tourists and locals. True, tourists outnumbered locals, but there were always riders hopping on or off along the route. Cable car fares have nowadays become excessive, but they are still included in all monthly passes.

SF also has the historic streetcars running on Market St. & beyond, which are mostly PCC's but with a smattering of other cars from various cities. They were brought back by popular demand, and are heavily used by locals at regular fare.
My mistake.

In New Orleans we are just as protective of the correct nomenclature. Its a streetcar, not a trolley. If someone asks about the trolley you know they are from out of town.

My only experience with the cable cars in SF was as a tourist as a kid many years ago. Didn't realize locals used them as well. It seemed like we were all packed in just to ride it for the experience. But its been so long and I was so young its hard to really remember.

That is a shame about the prices. Fare prices really do dictate what kind of usage it gets (tourist vs. locals). Not sure about the cable cars in SF, but in New Orleans the Streetcar is $1.25 one way and has been for years. Same fare as the bus with a free transfer in system. So while there are definitely tourists, it is just another part of the public transit network and treated as such by the locals.

Great to hear about the Market St. streetcars!
 
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zephyr17

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San Francisco Muni also runs historic trolleys as well as cable cars. They run a fleet of PCCs painted in historic liveries of various transit systems (including my beloved Pacific Electric) on the "F" line that goes between Fishermen's Wharf and the Castro along the Embarcadero and Market St.
 

Cal

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San Francisco Muni also runs historic trolleys as well as cable cars. They run a fleet of PCCs painted in historic liveries of various transit systems (including my beloved Pacific Electric) on the "F" line that goes between Fishermen's Wharf and the Castro along the Embarcadero and Market St.
It's truly a shame how LA's network used to be compared to now. I was on a Wikipedia binge last weekend looking at old lines, it's kind of amazing how much is left of some of the lines all things considered. The fact that some bridges and tracks are still in place is amazing. And some ROW (specifically the Santa Ana branch) is very visible on Google (technically Apple) maps.
 
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