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The obsession with the past is hurting the future of passenger rail

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crescent-zephyr

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Related directly to the OP -

I don’t think the obsession with the past has anything to do with the future of corridor / HSR rail. Long Distance and Corridor trains are 2 separate things and always have been.

Long Distance trains, imho, need to strike a balance of modern amenities and nostalgia. The Pacific Parlor Car was an excellent example. The cars interior was 100% created by Amtrak, yet it had this deluxe nostalgic feel to it along with modern amenities like WiFi. I think the viewliner diners are an excellent example as well.

As DA said, it’s not an either / or. We need good long distance service and good corridor service.
 

IndyLions

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There's a lot of discussion here advocating for a return to the "height of the train travel era".

As railfans, it's always fun to see what once was. However, as far as advocating for the future of rail, arguing for a "return to the old days" in rail is as destined to fail as arguing for a return to the glory days of air travel.

We need to be focused on advocating for services that meet present passenger needs. The much maligned NEC is a success story that models how passenger rail works in the rest of the world and one which we should be working to repeat everywhere else in the country:

A dedicated rail ROW connecting adjacent urban areas and regions that:
1) Is owned and administered by AMTRAK (Just like the roads and airports are largely run by municipalities/with Federal Funding, etc.)
2) Used by commuter rail systems
3) Used by Higher Speed Intercity Rail services run by AMTRAK
4) Directly connected to Intercontinental Airports (like EWR, BWI)
5) Serves as a backbone for extended services outside of the central corridor (Downeaster, Newport News services etc.)

The future of passenger rail are services that meet present needs:

1) Shorter trips between major urban cores that are more convenient than getting on a plane.
2) Replacing "hub flights" with Intercity rail
3) Infrastructure where regional commuter and bespoke private passenger rail services can thrive.

We need MORE NECs throughout the country, expanding out the effectively regional services supported by the LD network if we wish to preserve the national network as a whole.
You make a lot of good valid points, which many others have acknowledged. But I do want to point something out here, at the risk of being obvious.

This is a passenger train forum. Patronized by people who either love trains or train travel. They spend a part of their leisure time chatting about a subject for which they are fond. And some of that chatting will involve, “remember the good all days“, and “wouldn’t it be great if ...”

There is certainly some element of advocacy that goes on here, certainly a fair amount of important information is exchanged, education provided. But in and of itself, it is not primarily an advocacy forum.

When I am advocating for improved rail service - I am not out in public pining for the return of the good old days. Since I live in Indiana - if I’m not talking about the economic benefits of rail, then I might as well hold my breath. I try to convince people that infrastructure in our country is important, transportation is part of infrastructure, and a sensible transportation policy includes many different forms - including air, highway, and rail.

So don’t misconstrue a lot of the ramblings and dreams that you read on this forum. Most of us have the intelligence and the common sense to make cogent arguments and not go into “railfan mode” when we’re out in the real world.

But in this forum, if we can’t let our secret, crazy, nutty, railfan out – then where the heck can we? :)
 

Willbridge

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You make a lot of good valid points, which many others have acknowledged. But I do want to point something out here, at the risk of being obvious.

This is a passenger train forum. Patronized by people who either love trains or train travel. They spend a part of their leisure time chatting about a subject for which they are fond. And some of that chatting will involve, “remember the good all days“, and “wouldn’t it be great if ...”

There is certainly some element of advocacy that goes on here, certainly a fair amount of important information is exchanged, education provided. But in and of itself, it is not primarily an advocacy forum.

When I am advocating for improved rail service - I am not out in public pining for the return of the good old days. Since I live in Indiana - if I’m not talking about the economic benefits of rail, then I might as well hold my breath. I try to convince people that infrastructure in our country is important, transportation is part of infrastructure, and a sensible transportation policy includes many different forms - including air, highway, and rail.

So don’t misconstrue a lot of the ramblings and dreams that you read on this forum. Most of us have the intelligence and the common sense to make cogent arguments and not go into “railfan mode” when we’re out in the real world.

But in this forum, if we can’t let our secret, crazy, nutty, railfan out – then where the heck can we? :)
Having worked in a multi-modal transportation planning office I can report that aviation planners love to talk about Clippers and DC-anything. That doesn't mean that they're going to bring back complimentary champagne or United's Men Only Executive flights.

And port planners can talk about the days when Portland had direct passenger steamers to Shanghai and the jinxed Annie Larsen ran guns from Hoquiam...
 

20th Century Rider

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What's the best candidate for the next NEC?

I might think that based on current frequencies and the regional population, it might by the Pacific Surfliner route. Not quite the NEC, which does have 5 metro areas whose population exceeds 1 million people (BOS, NYC, PHL, BAL, WAS), but the LA - San Diego Region sure has a lot of people. And the routes not only have the Amtrak intercity service, they also have commuter service. Plus, there is extensive rail (or light rail) connecting transit in both LA and San Diego. To truly NEC-ify the route, they need to double track and eliminate grade crossings. Then they might be able to run the trains faster.

The other NEC type corridor that might be built is Chicago - South Bend- Toledo - Cleveland, and Chicago - Detroit - Toledo Cleveland. If you also develop a Cleveland -Pittsburgh and Cleveland - Buffalo corridor, and if you ever get the Keystone West service (Harrisburg - Pittsburgh) running, you'd have corridor service overlapping the two main New York Chicago long-distance routes, which would allow for sharing of overhead costs and improving the financials for the Lake Shore Limited and and New York - Philadelphia - Chicago train. In fact, why not also a Washington - Pittsburgh Corridor, although going over the Sand Patch grade is very, very slow, and there aren't really any big cities in between Washington and Pittsburgh.

Most of these corridors might not serve enough population to justify more than 4-6 trains a day, but the Chicago-Cleveland service might generate enough business to justify hourly service.

Of course, the Southeast high speed rail (even if it's only "higher speed rail") would be a good candidate for an upgrade, and connecting Washington, Richmond and the Carolina Metropolises (Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte) might generate enough business to justify hourly service. These would also provide sharing of overhead costs for the Silver service and the Crescent.

There's certainly enough population in Texas along the I-35 corridor to justify hourly service between the Dallas Ft. Worth Metroplex and San Antonio, but the infrastructure is a little flaky (for example, the rail route bypasses Waco, one of the larger cities between Ft. Worth and Austin), and, of course, this is Texas. For that matter, a corridor connecting San Antonio and Houston, and Houston and the Metroplex would probably do well, too. Again, the only way suitable infrastructure will be built is with public funding, and the only way that's going to happen in Texas is when enough Californians move to Texas to change the political culture. :)

In general, I think the kind of future we should be aiming for is a whole bunch of corridor services (whether HSR or just "higher speed rail") with select long-distance connectors to form a national network. As far as the kind of attentive service that we seem to remember from back in the "good old days", I think that (1) maybe in reality it wasn't always as good as people remember, and (2) that kind of service is long gone from everything else in our society, so why should we expect it on Amtrak trains?
Having lived in STL for 30 years I became well aware of the large traffic volume between STL and CHI... and the HS system is being completed. Both STL and CHI have local mass transit rail passing through each major station. In the past there have been several attempts to build a NEC type shuttle... there are also several new stations completed along the route. Sooo, with so much already in place it would be good to see a modernized and frequent program in place for this city pair.



Propsosed STL CHI HS Train.png
 

anumberone

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Having worked in a multi-modal transportation planning office I can report that aviation planners love to talk about Clippers and DC-anything. That doesn't mean that they're going to bring back complimentary champagne or United's Men Only Executive flights.

And port planners can talk about the days when Portland had direct passenger steamers to Shanghai and the jinxed Annie Larsen ran guns from Hoquiam...
Yeah, it's all in the past. Right of ways, hard to come by, costly. I can't fathom any big changes in the near future.
 
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Larry H.

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I would like to chime in here on what is a luxury train. I am old enough to have ridden several very fine trains. What made them fine, for one thoughtful interior decor, not just cookie cutter sameness. They offered dinning that was worth eating an made the trip more enjoyable. A comfortable lounge not filled with hard back plastic seating and some cheap looking dinning room tables, rather an inviting atmosphere which the classy trains of the past knew well how to offer. A few well placed lamps to break the sameness of the interiors, perhaps a writing table with post cards featuring the train as in the past. Plus the main issue is quality maintained sleepers which to day is a joke for the most part. Also an exterior paint job that spoke to the customer as a name train that meant something. None of these would be difficult to do, but they do make a trip more pleasing especially for the cost Amtrak has decided to foist on the public. In reality the effects I mention are mostly a one time cost, and I would guess would add very little to the cost of running the train other than the diner which luxury train owners knew was a serious draw for its cutomers. A boxed lunch would have been unthinkable. Also the crew would need to be serious about being helpful and doing a good job. I met one business class attendant the last time I went to Chicago on the Saluki, he was delighful and determined to make every passenger feel welcomed. He offered what perks the car did have, a free beverage and a snack included with the fare. He didn't just hide behind the counter and growl at people like so many I have seen. He told me that he wanted to be the best attendant he could be and that Amtrak was training new people to be a pleasure to the paying customer..Those kinds of things make a difference between a boring ride and one you remember. If that is luxury than so be it.
 

railiner

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. Also the crew would need to be serious about being helpful and doing a good job. I met one business class attendant the last time I went to Chicago on the Saluki, he was delighful and determined to make every passenger feel welcomed. He offered what perks the car did have, a free beverage and a snack included with the fare. He didn't just hide behind the counter and growl at people like so many I have seen. He told me that he wanted to be the best attendant he could be and that Amtrak was training new people to be a pleasure to the paying customer..Those kinds of things make a difference between a boring ride and one you remember. If that is luxury than so be it.
I hope that, at least, comes to pass...it would go a long way to improving things, at minimal cost...
 

Deni

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4) Directly connected to Intercontinental Airports (like EWR, BWI)
I know this is a little bit of a bugaboo, but I don't consider having to take a shuttle bus or an "airtrain" from the station to be a direct connection. Especially since you are comparing to European trains. When I've flown in to Rome, Munich, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, among others, I can walk from baggage claim directly to the train station on the airport grounds. That's a direct connection. The U.S. is really bad about train/airport connections, even in the Northeast where it's better than most places.
 

jis

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I know this is a little bit of a bugaboo, but I don't consider having to take a shuttle bus or an "airtrain" from the station to be a direct connection. Especially since you are comparing to European trains. When I've flown in to Rome, Munich, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, among others, I can walk from baggage claim directly to the train station on the airport grounds. That's a direct connection. The U.S. is really bad about train/airport connections, even in the Northeast where it's better than most places.
Just curious.... how do you feel about having to take an APM from the gate area to the central terminal building where baggage claim and C&I are located?

The reason I ask is to figure out whether you simply don't like APMs or your beef is with APMs taking you from baggage claim to a surface transportation facility. Would it be better if you just had a half mile to a mile long walkway instead?
 

Nick Farr

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Just curious.... how do you feel about having to take an APM from the gate area to the central terminal building where baggage claim and C&I are located?

The reason I ask is to figure out whether you simply don't like APMs or your beef is with APMs taking you from baggage claim to a surface transportation facility. Would it be better if you just had a half mile to a mile long walkway instead?
I think the preferable option is having the train station *in* the airport, as in right below the terminal, or a short walk away from it.

The new Berlin Airport has a train station just beneath the terminal, and that should be the standard by which we build new passenger rail terminals. I believe they're in the process of allowing for ICE trains to service that station.

However, there is a tradeoff. Dusseldorf Airport does this well. There is an ICE (High Speed) train station that is connected to the passenger terminal through a "hanging" people mover. This is the best tradeoff for connecting existing HSR alignments with Airports

However, Dusseldorf also has a regional heavy rail station directly underneath one of its airport terminals.
 

railiner

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Doesn't the Philadelphia Airport fit that description? I believe they even have three stops at various terminal locations, for SEPTA trains...
 
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jis

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Frankfurt comes to mind where you have to take an APM to get to the main terminal from its far spread out gate areas, even though if you insist you can walk. But once you are in the main terminal the train station is pretty much right there.

In the Brightline Station being developed at Orlando International Airport, if you arrive at Terminal C you will be able to walk over to the station. From Terminals A and B you will have to take an APM to the station. But then again you have to take an APM from the gate pods to the main building in those terminals too. I kinda like it because it shortens the walk considerably, both to your car and to the train, and the APMs are frequent - every 3-5 mins, and fast. And of course, in Orlando everyone, locals and visitors, are Disney savvy and expect to use things like Monorails and APMs all over the place. :)
 

WWW

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Planes don't fly "city center to city center" - helicopter connections are a thing of the past.
For the most part the NEC does not need the plane.
Chicago's two airports O'Hare and Midway are miles away from downtown - Union Station however
is walkable (or a quick cab ride) - and yes there is metro rail from both airports to downtown but these
are another connection to the problem - object being to reduce that to none.
Baltimore has the airport and train connection close still a surface (shuttle bus) ride.
Milwaukee further out with limited useful times of making a connection to downtown (Amtrak Hiawatha)
St. Paul/Minneapolis Amtrak rail operation not suitable for connected business travel due to scheduling of the Empire Builder.
A second train in the mix may solve the problem (limited stops to Milwaukee and Chicago).
Our member readers would have a better handle on other airport-train station relationships.
Reduction of the number of connections and stops to make travel efficient and time saving.
 

Nick Farr

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Doesn't the Philadelphia Airport fit that description? I believe they even have three stops at various terminal locations, for SEPTA trains...
Sort of. There is a standard gauge SEPTA line that goes directly into the airport.

HOWEVER--it would be possible to realign the NEC using an existing rail ROW on the other side of PA 291 (Industrial Highway) just past Ridley Creek before the Eddystone SEPTA station. It would of course require substantial upgrades, but it would be totally possible to put NEC services directly into Philadelphia Airport. From the Philadelphia Airport Station, Philly airport spur could proceed back to the regular NEC route via the SEPTA airport line--with possibly new track that would need to be built from S 61st through Bartram's garden.
 

Nick Farr

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For the most part the NEC does not need the plane.
Absolutely correct--however, enhancing connections between Passenger Air and Passenger Rail is absolutely something that benefits Rail more than Air travel.

Especially in the NEC--can you imagine if airlines had the option of rebooking passengers on the NEC or getting passengers to other connections via the NEC?
 

caravanman

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Much as I love long distance train travel, it is not essential to do it on one train, so long as one can get from place to place with "joined up travel". For example, I can take the Eurostar to Amsterdam, catch another train to Berlin, and then another to Budapest, etc. There used to be some night sleeper trains, but even without these, spending a night in a cheap hotel and catching a train onward next morning is competitive with Amtrak sleeper prices, in my opinion.
 

Bob Dylan

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Doesn't the Philadelphia Airport fit that description? I believe they even have three stops at various terminal locations, for SEPTA trains...
Portland( Oregon) has a good set up @ the Airport also.

Were hopeful that when the New Line to the Austin Airport is built it will terminate next to or even in the Terminal.
 

Deni

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Just curious.... how do you feel about having to take an APM from the gate area to the central terminal building where baggage claim and C&I are located?

The reason I ask is to figure out whether you simply don't like APMs or your beef is with APMs taking you from baggage claim to a surface transportation facility. Would it be better if you just had a half mile to a mile long walkway instead?
I don't have a problem with APMs for serving large, spread out airports. I don't like that transit stations in the U.S. are not very close to the airports and require APMs (or, more often the case, shuttle buses) to get to them. Nick's answer to this pretty much sums up what more I would have said.

I will say I'm not a fan of not having a choice to walk instead of taking he APM to the terminal. It think one example that drives me nuts is Orlando that has only an APM option when it's a really short distance and could be walked in a few minutes.
 
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Trogdor

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This might be stating the obvious, but the problem with most airport-rail connections in the US is that most airport terminals were build when passenger rail was in decline, and automobile use was on the rise. Therefore, terminals were built with no consideration for intercity rail access. Even those airports that are right next to rail lines have terminals that are too far away to be practical for a direct connection without some intermediate conveyance.

Incidentally, the only place I can think of where you can get off an Amtrak train and walk directly to an airport terminal without needing a shuttle bus or people mover of some sort is Burbank, CA (if there’s another one i can’t think of, let me know as I’m curious to know where it is). Unfortunately, that terminal is so old and hemmed in with no possibility for expansion that they’re actually moving it to the other side of the airport. It will supposedly still be accessible by Metrolink (on another line), but not by Amtrak. I haven’t seen the details to know whether the Metrolink connection will be direct or whether it will require a shuttle. In any event, Burbank isn’t exactly a bustling air hub where such convenience can be taken advantage of.
 

20th Century Rider

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There's a lot of discussion here advocating for a return to the "height of the train travel era".

As railfans, it's always fun to see what once was. However, as far as advocating for the future of rail, arguing for a "return to the old days" in rail is as destined to fail as arguing for a return to the glory days of air travel.

We need to be focused on advocating for services that meet present passenger needs. The much maligned NEC is a success story that models how passenger rail works in the rest of the world and one which we should be working to repeat everywhere else in the country:

A dedicated rail ROW connecting adjacent urban areas and regions that:
1) Is owned and administered by AMTRAK (Just like the roads and airports are largely run by municipalities/with Federal Funding, etc.)
2) Used by commuter rail systems
3) Used by Higher Speed Intercity Rail services run by AMTRAK
4) Directly connected to Intercontinental Airports (like EWR, BWI)
5) Serves as a backbone for extended services outside of the central corridor (Downeaster, Newport News services etc.)

The future of passenger rail are services that meet present needs:

1) Shorter trips between major urban cores that are more convenient than getting on a plane.
2) Replacing "hub flights" with Intercity rail
3) Infrastructure where regional commuter and bespoke private passenger rail services can thrive.

We need MORE NECs throughout the country, expanding out the effectively regional services supported by the LD network if we wish to preserve the national network as a whole.
Don't know if Newark International has been mentioned... an excellent connection with NEC which permits folks to fly in and get almost anywhere they need to go with in the Eastern Megalopolis. All those large cities have extensive mass transit systems.

Would like to see a better connection with Amtrak in Chicago. Seattle / Denver / Portland / St. Louis and many other cities are developing towards this; but we have a long way to go when developing a more extensive Amtrak system that feeds off of and connects larger urban areas... like it does in the NEC.

ewr-to-from-1.jpg
 

WWW

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Anchorage Alaska has a airport connection spur off of the Anchorage Whittier/Seward main line.
Used exclusively by the Cruise Lines (passengers)
This would be a great deal instead of busing from the port.
Trains have spacious accommodations and optional meal service and did I mention the scenery WOW !
Cruise ships dock many miles away and the rail lines go thru several tunnels getting to the city of Anchorage and the airport.
The rails must be getting rusty with the virus shutdown of cruising.

The Alaska Rail Road from the Pacific Ocean to Fairbanks is one trip that should be on everyone's bucket list !
 
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