Texas Eagle to Begin Using TRE Route FTW-DAL!!

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Bob Dylan

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Good news! Goodbye to the infamous Tower 55 backing move for the Texas Eagles into FTW!

According to a Post on trainorders today (12/13) Amtrak and DART have reached agreement on a 10 year Contract to re-route the Texas Eagles #21/#22 on the TRE Route between FTW and DAL. Amtrak will pay an undisclosed annual fee to DART and DART/TRE will pick up certain undisclosed expenses.

The details are hidden behind a paywall, you must be a paid member to read links, so no startup date is mentioned??
 
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SanAntonioClyde

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This means at least 15 minutes saved in schedule, but will Amtrak be able to roll savings up and down the line and adjust future schedules? Will Irving now want service at existing TRE platforms? Time will tell.
 

neroden

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This is a very interesting agreement. It lends credence to those who said that DART was holding up the negotiations. Why? Because *the T* will pay TRE for any incremental costs of the Amtrak service, and for any performance penalties assessed by Amtrak, and for Amtrak's additional insurance costs (required because of the state liability cap which covers DART & TRE). DART won't pay anything. (TRE is a joint project of DART and "the T".)

This will unlock DART's federal ARRA grant to double track from Centrepoint through West Irving stations (the "Valley View Road" area).

Apparently, according to the rumor mill, UP was annoyed by the delay, and told the T that they wouldn't authorize the TEXRail project until Amtrak moved to TRE. So this should gain UP's approval of TEXRail. (TEXRail needs to parallel UP within UP right-of-way for a short distance to get from the Fort Worth station onto the Cotton Belt route; it's not long, but it's a critical section.) TEXRail is going to run high-floor equipment, which will require some new high-level platforms at both of the existing Fort Worth stations.

Apparently the agreement still requires the concurrence of Dallas Garland & Northeastern Railroad, but since they're a short line they'll probably agree (they are pretty much totally dependent on the good graces of everyone else involved in the deal).

Other interesting points: TRE can shut down the line for maintenance for up 20 days per year, whiich must be Sundays and holidays, and Amtrak has to find alternative routes on its own. More days than that, and TRE has to compensate Amtrak.

As for faster Amtrak service: Amtrak is timetabled at 1 hour eastbound Ft. Worth - Dallas, and 1:35 westbound (!!!), presumably due to the Tower 55 moves. TRE is timetabled to take 53 or 54 minutes from Dallas to the ITC, all day long, with lots of stops. Recall that TRE is also locomotive-hauled, so it's just as slow as Amtrak. Amtrak should therefore be able to get a 55-minute schedule in both directions, even if it has to follow a TRE train the whole way; this is probably too generous an allowance, as Amtrak should be able to pass some TRE trains.

There are also 20 minutes scheduled for the Dallas stop in either direction. At Fort Worth, there is a 22 minute stop scheduled eastbound, and 45 minutes (!!!) scheduled westbound. While some time might be desired for recovery time, I would really expect it to be possible to reduce the westbound time to the eastbound time. So eastbounds should have at least a few minutes taken off the schedule, but westbounds should have over an *hour* taken off the schedule (40 minutes between Dallas and Ft. Worth and 23 minutes at Ft. Worth). This is before considering any reductions in time between Ft. Worth and Cleburne thanks to the Tower 55 work.

Amtrak will probably want to reschedule the westbound substantially. The Texas Eagle / Sunset Limited PIP advised a significantly later departure from Chicago as well as a somewhat later arrival in San Antonio. Amtrak wants to minimize the layover time between the Texas Eagle and Sunset Limited. If the Eagle arrives in San Antonio at, say, 11 PM, and over an hour is chopped out of the schedule, it could depart Chicago at 3:45 PM or later. This would put the overnight segment between St. Louis and Little Rock, which is about as good as you can do.

I would expect the train to be moved over on the current schedule first, and a big schedule change to come a bit later, probably accounting for all the Illinois trackwork as well as the changes in Texas.
 

VentureForth

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Why does there need to be concurrence with the Dingo? DART parallels their ROW IN the East, but I can't think of where it would be affected between Dallas and Fort Worth.

When Amtrak is on time, it is at about the slowest time of day for the TRE. There may be one train to follow, but I doubt there will be any leap frogging. I could be wrong.

5 years in the making? Folks have been looking at this for 15 years.

Finally, as cool as it would be cool to stop in Irving, I don't think there will be a ton of support as one can easily catch the TRE as they have been doing for 15 years to Dallas or Fort Worth. Of course, if my grandma was still alive and lived in South Irving, I may sing a different tune.

I don't know why locomotive-hauled is considered slow. 79 is a good speed - faster than most EMUs in the USA outside the NEC. Isn't Acela and TGV locomotive-hauled? And I see good things coming. With the upgrades and double tracking work finished, maybe we'll see some 90 mph sections, but that's just wishful thinking.
 

OlympianHiawatha

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I was able to take the Texas Eagle over the TRE last summer when it was being rerouted because of the Tower 55 construction and it was so much faster and smoother. We actually arrived FTW early, but that only meant I had to kill off that much more of a layover before the Heartland Flyer.
 

afigg

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This is a clue as to why it took 5-6 years from the 2009 ARRA grant to reach an agreement: "Players involved in the five years of negotiations included DART, Fort Worth Transportation Authority (the T), Amtrak, Union Pacific, FRA, Rail Division of the Texas Department of Transportation, North Central Texas Council of Governments and others." (quote from the TRA post). Almost as many players in this as in the Game of Thrones.

Still, five years to reach a fairly straightforward agreement is a sign of just how slow the US has gotten on infrastructure related projects and getting agreements and decisions pushed through all the bureaucracies. The years of delays on advancing to construction for many of the 2009-2010 ARRA and HSIPR grants have been frustrating.

I would expect the train to be moved over on the current schedule first, and a big schedule change to come a bit later, probably accounting for all the Illinois trackwork as well as the changes in Texas.
The CHI-STL improvements are going to be ongoing through 2017, so it is likely that Amtrak is going to mostly leave the TE schedule alone with some small trimming of padding and adjustments through the next several years. They may leave much of the padding in from FW to Dallas to keep the OTP numbers up.
 

neroden

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I don't know why locomotive-hauled is considered slow. 79 is a good speed -
acceleration, not top speed

The CHI-STL improvements are going to be ongoing through 2017, so it is likely that Amtrak is going to mostly leave the TE schedule alone with some small trimming of padding and adjustments through the next several years. They may leave much of the padding in from FW to Dallas to keep the OTP numbers up.
That would be.... unreasonable. There's well over an hour of unnecessary padding on the westbound. It needs to be taken out. Doing so will still leave substantial padding, because the eastbound is padded for Tower 55 delays too.
If I were Amtrak, I'd make major changes in the westbound schedule fairly soon: take padding out in Texas, arrive later in San Antonio,... and probably add padding further back at St. Louis to account for Illinois trackwork.
 
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Anderson

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I like what Nathanael suggested: Keep the schedule the same on the ends and move padding up to the STL area. Once all of the work is done there might be 60-90 minutes that can be dropped between padding and schedule improvements, but it would be better to have that in the schedule to keep flexibility on the north end as work proceeds.
 

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I'd say the Eagle is already plenty late into San Antonio as it is. If anything it should arrive earlier. Who exactly would benefit from a later arrival into SAS? Certainly not the folks disembarking in San Antonio. I don't see how the folks sleeping through the connection in either of the 421 cars would benefit. Even the folks who cluelessly booked a manual offline connection through SAS would probably prefer an earlier arrival into SAS. At least they'd have something more to do than just sit around admiring the generic waiting room and avoiding random acts of violence. I think the Texas Eagle should arrive as early as possible into SAS. San Antonio still doesn't have a single daytime arrival and yet with this supposed improvement we're already banking on even worse arrivals than before. SAS already has plenty of impractical scheduling and calling times with the Sunset Limited. There's no need to add the Eagle to that list. What's left of the Sunset Limited is likely to be the next LD route to be lost forever. Considering the growth and solidification of the anti-rail political movement making changes that potentially hurt the Eagle in order to help what's left of the Limited seems rather irrational to me.
 
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Anderson

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Also, this is a total aside, but with Texrail in place (and with the longer-term expansions planned) Dallas-Fort Worth is getting a really comprehensive commuter network. It isn't on par with, say, Chicago yet...but it's sure getting there step by step.
 

neroden

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Devil's Advocate, I know you're being a devil's advocate, but anyway...

* The primary benefit from later San Antonio arrivals is, in the long run, later Chicago departures. I wouldn't arrive later than 11 PM, but that's perfectly reasonable if the trains run on time.

* My last spreadsheet estimate says that a daily Sunset Limited would perform better financially than either the Southwest Chief or the California Zephyr. If one train is going to get axed, the Southwest Chief *still* seems most likely, due to the deterioration of Raton Pass, the unwillingness of any of the states to spend any money, and Amtrak or BNSF's resistance to the reroute. If something is going to be lost due to money shortages, saving a daily Texas-Sunset through route as advised in the PIP would actually be a better choice for Amtrak than trying to retain the SWC over Raton. It's not the greatest LA-Chicago route, but it is an LA-Chicago route.
 
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battalion51

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Very glad to hear they're finally going to make this move permanent. Fortunately, with the re-routes this past summer the crews should already be qualified over TRE, so that's one barrier to entry that won't have to be tackled.

As far as the scheduling is concerned, it wouldn't surprise me if the schedule isn't tweaked for some time while they work bugs out of the slotting. If 21 is more than 30-35 minutes late it is entirely possible they will end up following 2923 if not all the way at least part of the way to Ft. Worth. They may be able to slide around them on double track, but as they approach the West End of Double Track near West Irving the meet with 2924 occurs. Similarly if 22 is 20-25 minutes late they're going to follow 2728 for awhile. They could theoretically pass them on Double Track between West Irving and I-35E, but if they don't get around before then, they're not going to since 2728 and 2931 meet at Medical/Market Center. Notwithstanding is the Sunday Maintenance Window where it may still be necessary to "Detour" via UP, so you don't want to lose 30-45 minutes off of advertised time due to detours. Early arrivals are much easier to combat than late arrivals.

It will be interesting to see if there is any move made by Amtrak to attempt to establish Centreport or one of the Irving stations as an unmanned station. Downtown Irving makes sense from the standpoint of bus connections to DART, but Centreport makes sense with the access to free DFW shuttle buses.
 

VentureForth

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Ahhh - Now I can understand a Centreport stop for DFW. Allow folks from Longview, Marshall, heck even Austin take the train to arguably the most important international hub in the US (Certainly in the Top 5).

Sorry everyone. Schedule improvement will be nullified by a stop at Centreport and hundreds of people dis/embarking with suitcases, carry ons, purses, etc.
 
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afigg

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It will be interesting to see if there is any move made by Amtrak to attempt to establish Centreport or one of the Irving stations as an unmanned station. Downtown Irving makes sense from the standpoint of bus connections to DART, but Centreport makes sense with the access to free DFW shuttle buses.
The DART agenda link posted above contains the text of the operating agreement and summary. Excerpt from the summary:

Key points of this Agreement include:

  • Amtrak service on the TRE Corridor consists of one eastbound train and one westbound train daily (with no intermediate station stops) and two non-regularly scheduled round trips per year for service to the State Fair of Texas on the weekend of the University of Texas-Oklahoma University football game.
That precludes adding a stop on the TRE Corridor as it stands. There is a clause in the agreement allowing Amtrak to request modifications to the service with TRE agreeing to it, so there is a path for Amtrak to add a station stop in the future. But they just spent 5 years negotiating the agreement. Doubt that there will be a rush to modify it.
 

Bob Dylan

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Afiggs post pretty much nails it! And with DART now able to get passengers directly to DFW and TRE running from FTW to Centerpoint Station/connections on the bus to DFW ( except Sundays), the chances of any stops being added for the Eagles are about as good as the Congress passing a resolution naming President Obama the Best President Ever born in the USA!! LOL
 
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* The primary benefit from later San Antonio arrivals is, in the long run, later Chicago departures. I wouldn't arrive later than 11 PM, but that's perfectly reasonable if the trains run on time.
I'm no expert on scheduling but I would think I am about as close as you can get to being the TE's target customer (full route travel between both termini, routine sleeper passenger, last minute tickets, etc.) and I find the current schedule already leaves something to be desired. I understand that in most cases Amtrak has no ability to make positive scheduling changes without first paying a ransom to one or more of our freight rail monopolies, so I don't expect perfect scheduling on any LD route. That being said when there is a low cost opportunity to allow for improved scheduling I would hope Amtrak would work toward giving me a schedule that doesn't make multi-modal connections even more difficult or make negotiating private rides even less practical. If Amtrak wants to split the benefit between San Antonio and Chicago that would be fine with me, but punishing San Antonio with even worse arrivals for the exclusive benefit of Chicago area residents would be a great way to send me back to the airlines. I've already abandoned the Sunset Limited route thanks to increasingly poor calling times and now Amtrak has a chance to either improve or degrade the Eagle's schedule as well.

* My last spreadsheet estimate says that a daily Sunset Limited would perform better financially than either the Southwest Chief or the California Zephyr. If one train is going to get axed, the Southwest Chief *still* seems most likely, due to the deterioration of Raton Pass, the unwillingness of any of the states to spend any money, and Amtrak or BNSF's resistance to the reroute. If something is going to be lost due to money shortages, saving a daily Texas-Sunset through route as advised in the PIP would actually be a better choice for Amtrak than trying to retain the SWC over Raton. It's not the greatest LA-Chicago route, but it is an LA-Chicago route.
Which bureaucrats and politicians does your last spreadsheet say will push to fund daily service of the Sunset Limited? How long does your last spreadsheet say it will take the Sunset Limited to pay off millions in ransom money to UP? What reasons does your spreadsheet give for the claim that Amtrak and/or BNSF is/are hesitant to shift the Southwest Chief to the mainline reroute? Reading what you've written so far I'm left with more questions than answers.
 
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battalion51

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It will be interesting to see if there is any move made by Amtrak to attempt to establish Centreport or one of the Irving stations as an unmanned station. Downtown Irving makes sense from the standpoint of bus connections to DART, but Centreport makes sense with the access to free DFW shuttle buses.
The DART agenda link posted above contains the text of the operating agreement and summary. Excerpt from the summary:
Key points of this Agreement include:

  • Amtrak service on the TRE Corridor consists of one eastbound train and one westbound train daily (with no intermediate station stops) and two non-regularly scheduled round trips per year for service to the State Fair of Texas on the weekend of the University of Texas-Oklahoma University football game.
That precludes adding a stop on the TRE Corridor as it stands. There is a clause in the agreement allowing Amtrak to request modifications to the service with TRE agreeing to it, so there is a path for Amtrak to add a station stop in the future. But they just spent 5 years negotiating the agreement. Doubt that there will be a rush to modify it.
Thanks for that info afigg. I guess we're just taking it one step at a time.
 

fairviewroad

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Ahhh - Now I can understand a Centreport stop for DFW. Allow folks from Longview, Marshall, heck even Austin take the train to arguably the most important international hub in the US (Certainly in the Top 5).
I don't think a once-daily, unreliable train will be of much use to people arriving/departing a major airport. Most of Amtrak's other "airport" stations are not served by LD trains. I mean, if you can make a case for stopping in Irving/Centreport for other reasons, fine. But to pretend it would be of use to people catching a flight...well...
 

LDKarr

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Absolutely. I am looking at a two hour drive once I finally do arrive in San Antonio. The scheduled arrival time into San Antonio is already later than I prefer. The sooner I can get there, the better.

If Amtrak wants to split the benefit between San Antonio and Chicago that's fine with me, but punishing San Antonio with even worse arrivals for the exclusive benefit of Chicago area residents would be a great way to send me back to the airlines.
 
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Bob Dylan

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Suggestion; Consider booking your car and getting off in Austin where the Eagle generally arrives between 6:30pm and 7:30pm if nothing has happened on the UP Parking Lot that day!

The rush hour will be over except for the 18 Wheelers on IH35 but with #21/#421 stopping in San Marcos and then taking longer to get from the SA Airport to Sunset Station than from AUS- SAS due to the great circle route around SA, it might be worthwhile!

You didn't indicate where you are driving to but there are short cuts from Austin that don't involve using IH35/ if interested PM me!
 

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In my experience at 6:30PM-7:30PM the I-35 rush hour is hardly over. If you're heading North/South from Austin you might as well have an extended dinner and consider heading out around 9:00PM. It has gotten so bad lately that I'm forced to avoid I-35 except for Saturday and Sunday when the commuters stay home. On the weekends I-35 remains packed with traffic but at least it's moving smoothly between New Braunfels and Buda.
 

neroden

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FWIW, with DART from Dallas to the airport already operating and TEXRail from Fort Worth to the airport planned to start operating ASAP, there will probably not be great pressure to stop at Centrepoint.

I appreciate the argument that the Texas Eagle should have earlier calling times in San Antonio. Looking at it, you're right, it definitely should. San Antonio is gonna remain a poor market, though, with their persistent refusal to fund local public transportation. I guess that means a lot of people are driving a long way to get to the station, though.
 

afigg

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Additional info on the agreement to move Amtrak to the TRE. Star Telegram editorial: Amtraks move is an expensive one for the T. Excerpts:

Ouch! Moving Amtrak trains to the Trinity Railway Express tracks between Dallas and Fort Worth will cost the Fort Worth Transportation Authority $1.07 million per year!

....

Union Pacific wasnt a happy host for Amtrak, either. When the T came asking for trackage rights north of downtown, UP leaders drove a hard bargain: Get Amtrak out of our hair.

Amtrak typically indemnifies owners of the track it uses, but it refused in this case.

So the T ends up paying the $1.07 million a year for a $21 million insurance policy against Amtraks liability for its trains on the TRE tracks.

Even Dallas Area Rapid Transit, which co-owns TRE with the T, refused to help, saying it wasnt part of the Ts deal with Union Pacific.
So Amtrak got the T to pay for the insurance over the TRE segment. Points to Amtrak management. But $1.07 million is a dang expensive insurance rate for a short segment. Has to be more to the story or the T does not have a good insurance broker.
 
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