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

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20th Century Rider

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I'm kind-a thinking that when it comes to that precious commodity called passenger rail transportation, unifying resources and working cooperatively would be more advantageous that a fierce competitive war.

When the airlines do it they have to merge to pool their resources... then they to realize that unifying resources brings survival of the agency.

We need a cooperative effort with rail transit with the ultimate winner being... the passenger, the environment, and the overall economy. And the agencies survive bringing jobs and economic growth.

Hmmm... that seems just right; let's see what happens after a rough winter subsides, the pandemic retreats, and the economy makes a comeback.

Just daydreaming. but daydreams bring forward thinking. 🌈
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Willbridge

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...............
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The concept of a central station does harken back to the older days of rail travel in this country, and towns like Cleveland, Rochester, Detroit, Buffalo, Portland ME, and Miami (up until recently) have crappy, poorly located stations. Many of the stations that used to exist in these towns, (for example Cleveland), were incredible, centrally located masterpieces. Amtrak stations outside of the NEC have a knack of truly being in the worst locations.

If Amtrak wants better service outside of the NEC it needs better stations. Just look at the CA Zephyr: all CA destinations kind of suck in terms of proximity (with the exception of Sacramento).
Somewhat true but I disagree with your comment regarding Davis and the Sierra California Zephyr stops. They are as close to the town centers as you could get with a main line. Having used every one of the stations between and including Sacramento and Emeryville, I'd say Davis is the best. Second best is Jack London Square, which the CZ falls short of. The worst one is no longer in the picture: Oakland -16th Street.

Correction: I am not now nor have I ever been in the Suisun-Fairfield Station. I forgot about it as it's not a stop on Trains 11/14 but is a stop on Trains 5/6.
 
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Trogdor

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Amtrak could decide to stop serving Tampa after Brightline is up and running there.
That still doesn’t explain why anybody would travel over 200 miles beyond their destination to make the transfer just to come back the way they came from.
 

Chris I

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That still doesn’t explain why anybody would travel over 200 miles beyond their destination to make the transfer just to come back the way they came from.
Given the speed differential, once Brightline opens to Tampa, I think it would make sense to terminate the Amtrak long distance trains at Orlando. Easy transfer to either Tampa-bound, or Miami-bound trains. Definitely more space there to expand, and plenty of other surface transportation options, rental cars, etc. This would also give people both morning and evening arrival options, since Brightline will be much more frequent.
 

jis

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Given the speed differential, once Brightline opens to Tampa, I think it would make sense to terminate the Amtrak long distance trains at Orlando. Easy transfer to either Tampa-bound, or Miami-bound trains. Definitely more space there to expand, and plenty of other surface transportation options, rental cars, etc. This would also give people both morning and evening arrival options, since Brightline will be much more frequent.
Where is this transfer going to take place? At present there are no apparent plans to have a station in Orlando served by both Brightline and Amtrak.
 

Cal

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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:
What is a rail ROW? Right of way?
 

Chris I

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Where is this transfer going to take place? At present there are no apparent plans to have a station in Orlando served by both Brightline and Amtrak.
There are no plans, but I think the Brightline terminal at Orlando Airport would be ideal, and Florida should work to make it happen. The distance from the Orlando Airport station to the tracks just south of the airport is only a few thousand feet. A 4th track could be added at the station for Amtrak. Of course, this would require an interlining agreement with Amtrak/Brightline to work well.

The advantages I see:
1. Both Silver Star and Meteor would terminate here, giving riders morning and afternoon travel options (once daily service returns).
2. The trains could still stop in downtown Orlando, but terminating at the airport provides better options for rental cars, Disney transfers, etc.
3. Riders destined for Miami or the cities between Orlando and Miami will be better served at Brightline stations. There are more of them, the stations have better services, and they are closer to the urban centers. Being able to arrive in downtown Miami is huge. The meteor takes 5.5 hours from Orlando to Miami. Brightline will do it in 3. This more than wipes out any transfer penalty.
4. The Silver Star routing is ridiculous. Orlando down to Tampa and then back up to Lakeland before going down to Miami. That's 7.5 hours from Orlando to Miami. Doesn't make sense to run this section once Brightline has Orlando-Tampa with much faster travel time.
 
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railiner

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Given the speed differential, once Brightline opens to Tampa, I think it would make sense to terminate the Amtrak long distance trains at Orlando. Easy transfer to either Tampa-bound, or Miami-bound trains. Definitely more space there to expand, and plenty of other surface transportation options, rental cars, etc. This would also give people both morning and evening arrival options, since Brightline will be much more frequent.
There are no plans, but I think the Brightline terminal at Orlando Airport would be ideal, and Florida should work to make it happen. The distance from the Orlando Airport station to the tracks just south of the airport is only a few thousand feet. A 4th track could be added at the station for Amtrak. Of course, this would require an interlining agreement with Amtrak/Brightline to work well.

The advantages I see:
1. Both Silver Star and Meteor would terminate here, giving riders morning and afternoon travel options (once daily service returns).
2. The trains could still stop in downtown Orlando, but terminating at the airport provides better options for rental cars, Disney transfers, etc.
3. Riders destined for Miami or the cities between Orlando and Miami will be better served at Brightline stations. There are more of them, the stations have better services, and they are closer to the urban centers. Being able to arrive in downtown Miami is huge. The meteor takes 5.5 hours from Orlando to Miami. Brightline will do it in 3. This more than wipes out any transfer penalty.
4. The Silver Star routing is ridiculous. Orlando down to Tampa and then back up to Lakeland before going down to Miami. That's 7.5 hours from Orlando to Miami. Doesn't make sense to run this section once Brightline has Orlando-Tampa with much faster travel time.
Well if you're going to do that, why stop there?
Should Amtrak terminate its long haul trains coming into Washington, and send connecting NEC passengers onto Acela's? I don't think so....
 

20th Century Rider

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There are no plans, but I think the Brightline terminal at Orlando Airport would be ideal, and Florida should work to make it happen. The distance from the Orlando Airport station to the tracks just south of the airport is only a few thousand feet. A 4th track could be added at the station for Amtrak. Of course, this would require an interlining agreement with Amtrak/Brightline to work well.

The advantages I see:
1. Both Silver Star and Meteor would terminate here, giving riders morning and afternoon travel options (once daily service returns).
2. The trains could still stop in downtown Orlando, but terminating at the airport provides better options for rental cars, Disney transfers, etc.
3. Riders destined for Miami or the cities between Orlando and Miami will be better served at Brightline stations. There are more of them, the stations have better services, and they are closer to the urban centers. Being able to arrive in downtown Miami is huge. The meteor takes 5.5 hours from Orlando to Miami. Brightline will do it in 3. This more than wipes out any transfer penalty.
4. The Silver Star routing is ridiculous. Orlando down to Tampa and then back up to Lakeland before going down to Miami. That's 7.5 hours from Orlando to Miami. Doesn't make sense to run this section once Brightline has Orlando-Tampa with much faster travel time.
Don't underestimate the importance of cities served... and that such routings also provide connections between those cities.
 

Chris I

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Of course then you could make an argument that both could be day trains between those points, needing neither sleepers nor a dining car. Just think how many Amtrak problems you just solved. ;)
Terminating in Orlando brings the run time under 24 hours, which opens up the opportunity to either run with fewer trains, or use the same equipment to double daily service. Using the same equipment, they could run a night train and a day train on each route.

I think all of this concern over an idea to interline with Brightline is a great example of nostalgia hurting Amtrak. If we want quality passenger rail in the US, we need to strive for scheduling and equipment efficiency, running time efficiency, etc.

Southwest airlines doesn't let their airplanes sit parked for 12 hours per day, or allow them to layover at airports for hours at a time. They wouldn't survive if they did. Amtrak gets away with it because they have a monopoly on a given route.
 

jis

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Terminating in Orlando brings the run time under 24 hours, which opens up the opportunity to either run with fewer trains, or use the same equipment to double daily service. Using the same equipment, they could run a night train and a day train on each route.
To reliably run double daily service using four consists the one way running time has to be definitely below 16-17 hours and given schedule unreliability which is the reality today, possibly a little less.

This can possibly be achieved if they operated between Washington DC and Orlando. Managing to do so between New York and Orlando will be tough.
 

crescent-zephyr

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I think all of this concern over an idea to interline with Brightline is a great example of nostalgia hurting Amtrak. If we want quality passenger rail in the US, we need to strive for scheduling and equipment efficiency, running time efficiency, etc.
Nobody is concerned over Amtrak and Brightline interconnecting. I transferred from Brightline to the Silver Star in West Palm Beach. Connections are good, but that doesn’t mean I think Amtrak should force all Miami passengers to change trains in Orlando.

It shouldn’t be Corridors vs. Long Distance. Both are needed and both serve different markets.
 

me_little_me

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Well if you're going to do that, why stop there?
Should Amtrak terminate its long haul trains coming into Washington, and send connecting NEC passengers onto Acela's? I don't think so....
Not a good comparison. The LD train can hit 110mph on the route between WAS and NYP vs the Acela's 150 with both at top speed. So changing trains, having to move baggage and being in a station with LOTS of intercity trains (Amtrak, VRE and MARC) with many of them commuters, would not be the same as changing to a direct, much higher speed train not encumbered by fighting with unfriendly freight lines as the Silvers have to do on the way to Miami.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Not a good comparison. The LD train can hit 110mph on the route between WAS and NYP vs the Acela's 150 with both at top speed. So changing trains, having to move baggage and being in a station with LOTS of intercity trains (Amtrak, VRE and MARC) with many of them commuters, would not be the same as changing to a direct, much higher speed train not encumbered by fighting with unfriendly freight lines as the Silvers have to do on the way to Miami.
It’s literally the same thing. Lol.

It’s forcing passengers to change from a LD train to a corridor train.
 

jis

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On the NEC it is currently 110 vs. 150 for a little ways, but mostly 135, soon to be 125 vs. 160 for a little ways, but mostly 135.

In Florida it is 79 vs. 125 for a little ways, but mostly 110 or 79, with hundreds of grade crossings with intrusion detection. Should be interesting to see how time keeping works out in the real world when faced with Florida drivers.

I really don't see much difference.

What is worse in Florida unless something changes drastically is that connecting from Amtrak to Brightline will involve a station change and no through ticketing.
 
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me_little_me

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It’s literally the same thing. Lol.

It’s forcing passengers to change from a LD train to a corridor train.
No, one saves them hours of time. The Acela transfer would not. Big difference!

And as far as the experience, I'd take Brightline over the Acela if I could only do one (having tried both).
 

IndyLions

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Given the speed differential, once Brightline opens to Tampa, I think it would make sense to terminate the Amtrak long distance trains at Orlando. Easy transfer to either Tampa-bound, or Miami-bound trains. Definitely more space there to expand, and plenty of other surface transportation options, rental cars, etc. This would also give people both morning and evening arrival options, since Brightline will be much more frequent.
What you need to consider is there is absolutely no guarantee Brightline will be around for the long term. Of course, there’s no guarantee Amtrak will be around either but the odds are a lot greater.

So if Amtrak decides to cut Florida services back and depend on Brightline to fill in the gaps – and Brightline decides that they’ve sucked all the money out of real estate in FL that they can and they need to shut things down – then you’re left with no service.

If you don’t think that seems like a likely scenario, ask yourself why they are not running right now. They made a (understandable) business decision based on PTC and Covid - but the result is no service.
 
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