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

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cirdan

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No. It does not, and there is absolutely no space to expand it to have such either.
Absolutely.

However, when they started on this project, there could have been space. After all, the original station on ths site must have handled much longer trains.

And possibly had more platform tracks too, although I'm not sure about that one.

So I wonder, was the present station maybe designed that way on purpose to keep Amtrak from even getting ideas?
 
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jis

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Absolutely.

However, when they started on this project, there could have been space. After all, the original station on ths site must have handled much longer trains.

And possibly had more platform tracks too, although I'm not sure about that one.

So I wonder, was the present station maybe designed that way on purpose to keep Amtrak from even getting ideas?
No. Initially the original three track station was only for Brightline paid for by them. Then Miami Dade and Tri Rail came up with the money for adding a platform and two tracks. That pretty much filled up the available space without serious redesign. And of course someone had to pay for that and no one cared. Meanwhile they could not get Amtrak even to move a few miles down to the airport, so no one had any incentive to expend energy on what was seen as an uncooperative Amtrak. It’s as simple as that.

Of course additionally Brightline did not want any interstate entanglements either. Which just made it an even steeper hill to climb.
 

cirdan

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I meant the original Flagler era station must have been bigger and handled longer trains. So it would hypothetically have been possible to build a sttaion on that site with capacity for longer trains.

So either the planners of the new station didn't believe longer trains would ever happen. This is the most likely option.

Or possibly, but much more unlikley, they did think of it, but then realized that might be giving Amtrak ideas.
 

jis

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I meant the original Flagler era station must have been bigger and handled longer trains. So it would hypothetically have been possible to build a sttaion on that site with capacity for longer trains.

So either the planners of the new station didn't believe longer trains would ever happen. This is the most likely option.

Or possibly, but much more unlikley, they did think of it, but then realized that might be giving Amtrak ideas.
I don't think Amtrak was part of any consideration in the design. Indeed initially neither was Tri-Rail. It was shoehorned in later, and pretty much filled up all the available space. I don;t think anyone in Florida feels particularly threatened by the existence of Amtrak service.

The Brightline platforms can accommodate 10-11 car consists. The Tri-Rail side is a bit shorter.

The platforms in the new station are much broader than in the original station, which had 7 tracks. The current station has 5, and some of the original station's space is also taken over by the Metro tracks. So there really is no space for additional tracks unless they are put above the current tracks, which is impossible since there are two huge building atop the station. All of that went through a regular EIS process, and no one, including Amtrak said anything when things could have been changed. Most likely that is because no one was ready to bring any additional money beyond that required for Tri-Rail to the table anyway.

The block between 3rd St and 2nd St which would be where any longer platforms would extend into, apparently had been disposed off for the Government Center Metro Station Parking Lot a while back and was not easily retrievable. So the station ends at 3rd St.
 

MARC Rider

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I'd be perfectly happy for Amtrak to start using the station at the Miami airport, as originally planned. It has pretty good transit connectivity, and sits right underneath the airport rental car center. It would certainly be better than the current Amtrak Miami station, which has an inconvenient walk in a marginal neighborhood over to the nearest Metro station or a $20+ taxi ride to the airport to pick up a rental car. I don't even want to know what a taxi ride to downtown Miami or Miami Beach would cost.
 

jis

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Amtrak's current plan as articulated by Amtrak's Strategic Planning guy at the RPA Webinar back in September, is to work towards increasing service in Florida, not cut it. So all this talk about Amtrak cutting service south of Orlando may just be a tad getting ahead of ourselves here.

Incidentally taking all that trouble to change from Amtrak to Brightline at Orlando will save someone about two hours, assuming they were traveling by the Meteor and assuming it takes zero time to effect the transfer.

At present we don't quite know what the exact running time will be for the Brightline service. They have never ever reached their promised running time between Miami and West Palm Beach yet.
 
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Qapla

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If swapping trains at Orlando comes with a layover between trains it could take longer than just staying on the Silver

... of course, they could always make a new daytime "Florida River Runner" that would go from JAX to TPA to MIA using the tracks that run through Waldo/Ocala/Lakeland or Plant City - turning Auburndale to go through Avon Park/Sebring/Okeechobee on it's way to MIA ... and does not need to go to Orlando (hey, we can wish, can't we)
 

Larry H.

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The past is hurting Amtrak. No, I would say that lack of respect for what worked in the past is hurting them. Too many passengers I have run in to often say it will be their first and last trip on amtrak due to poor dining, lack of service or decent lounges.
 

west point

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Thoughts == All these need more equipment which Amtrak does not have.
1. We do not know what actual demand for seats from the NE to Florida can be until space is available of trains having 14 -16 cars.
2. The Palmetto would suffer if extended probably due to Florida passengers and daytime shorts blocking each other from getting seats. However eliminating the NYP - WASH passengers would help make longer distance beyond Savannah have seat available ?
3. Tampa actually needs more service, Tampa to SE Florida has largest number of passengers for Star. That is a great filler for the end of a route. As well there are many passengers from north that ride to Tampa as well. Remember Columbia and Raleigh are two locations that only the Star services for Tampa. way to have a close station to board for Tampa. The Thruway off the Meteor to Tampa has been observed to have high loads. An additional Amtrak early morning departure from Tampa with late return from Miami would fit in with the cruise ship schedules. Brightline probably would not take away the budget minded possible passengers. Brightline service may even increase Amtrak travel as the possibility of an alternate way to travel will be available.
4. More trains to / from the NE to Florida, Atlanta, Virginia, Tennessee, and lesser extent to Cincinnati cannot happen until the Long bridge 2 additional tracks are in service. IMO the 2 most important projects in the NEC are Long bridge and the Hudson river gateway tunnel bores are completed. Baltimore B & P tunnel bores are next. I hope all three start construction this calendar year or at the latest first half of 2022.
 

neroden

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I'd be perfectly happy for Amtrak to start using the station at the Miami airport, as originally planned. It has pretty good transit connectivity,
With a one-line Metrorail connection to the same location as MiamiCentral, in fact (via Government Center station). Plus Tri-Rail, of course.

and sits right underneath the airport rental car center.
Yes!!!

It would certainly be better than the current Amtrak Miami station, which has an inconvenient walk in a marginal neighborhood over to the nearest Metro station or a $20+ taxi ride to the airport to pick up a rental car. I don't even want to know what a taxi ride to downtown Miami or Miami Beach would cost.
I'm not sure what anti-passenger corporate idiot at Amtrak is preventing Amtrak's move to the airport station, but they would be a good target for firing-for-cause. It shows genuine contempt for Florida and Florida-bound passengers.
 

neroden

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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.
I will remind you what tends to happen to intercity passenger service run by private companies which go under or try to discontinue service, once the service is well-enough established.

Auto-Train ended up in Amtrak. South Shore Line ended up as a state agency. LIRR ended up as a state agency. You get the picture...

I would not be surprised, if Brightline failed commercially, to see them taken over by Amtrak; Auto-Train was, and it was a much less "public service" operation.
 

neroden

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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.
The trivial option is Meadow Woods, which looks like it's going to be built as a Brightline/SunRail transfer station. If Brightline makes it to Disney and that gets built, it would be *most sensible* of Amtrak to start stopping there for Disney transfer passengers (even if Amtrak continues to Tampa and Miami). As well as Orlando Airport transfer passengers. Amtrak's uncooperativeness might prevent them from doing this, but management attitudes can change!

I don't know how fast Brightline can get to Disney. The local governments can and will give them right-of-way access from OIA through Meadow Woods, and Disney will for the station, but I don't know if the state government is capable of causing obstructions, and they seem intent on causing obstructions.
 
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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.
As someone studying urban planning, you do need to keep in mind the travel radius. The train only beats the plane in trips 6 hours or less which is why cities close together such as in the NEC let trains compete and win over the plane. Amtrak connections to an airport would not make that much sense unless it is in one of the cities that has or is promised an Amtrak commuter line such as Phoenix (promised a commuter line). It is a lot better to rely on the city's metro or commuter rail for that job. HSR (High-Speed Rail) run by Amtrak is ultimately a goal since it decreases the drama that train companies in the UK experience. Other countries have a national company so Amtrak will be the same (hopefully) in the future if we continue on. More Amtrak-owned corridors are also a goal I would like to see, even if it is just in and out of metropolitan areas only (they share tracks in the middle of nowhere but separate when they get closer to a city). And finally, for grade separation is a 100% yes. That is definitely needed on all tracks. Grade separation increases safety and allows trains to operate at faster speeds, reducing more space for delays and providing opportunities for shorter time headways as ridership grows. Grade separation's cost will be a bit expensive in old or crowded/tight spaces but it is definitely more worth it in the end. Anyways, that was just my take on how to respond to this message. In short, America is following the path other countries have already experienced and is modernizing to meet that. The past is more so the foundation because Amtrak excels in the smaller things and is continuing to do so, we just need to fix the bigger things such as the network and track quality. Amtrak and the country as a whole is beginning to learn about rail, only time will tell if we have truly learned our lesson or not.
 
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Amtrak connections to an airport would not make that much sense unless it is in one of the cities that has or is promised an Amtrak commuter line such as Phoenix (promised a commuter line). It is a lot better to rely on the city's metro or commuter rail for that job.
Note that where Amtrak has or proposes to serve an airport it is primarily as a suburban stop. It's an alternative to making travelers venture into the core of the city to catch a train, a trip which may well involve heavy traffic at peak times and require people to go the "wrong way". Plane-to-train connections are certainly more than zero in places where Amtrak serves airports, but it's the tiny minority and will probably always be.

Airports can make a great Amtrak stop in many metro areas for few reason:
--The placement of airports (and subsequent decades of development) mean airports tend to be a fair distance from downtown but also still solidly in the urban area. Not too close to downtown to be redundant to a downtown train station, but not too far out of the urban build-up
--Airport areas usually have great roadway and at least fair transit access
--Airport areas usually have great parking infrastructure or the ability to add parking
--Airport areas usually have infrastructure-friendly commercial neighbors and zoning
 
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Good transit networks don't require going to the center to head out, that's simply inefficient and wastes time if that was the case. It's why ring, loop, and outer lines exist. A lot of networks and upcoming ones have outer lines making it easy to transfer without having to "go backward before going forward." Los Angeles for example is planning to have an outer line pass by it aside from its own commuter route between LAX and Union Station. The outer line will let both arrivals and departures access other lines without making unnecessary stops at Union Station, and that is why I prefer cities figuring out their connectivity with their airport a lot better. Or a partnered plan with Amtrak with ownership transferred to the city after the first year(s) of service.

EDIT: The city figuring it out also tends to lower costs and gets more feedback from locals. There's also less of a chance for the line to be isolated and it can function with the network as a whole and thus get far more use out of it.
 

WWW

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Baltimore (BWI) and Milwaukee (MKE {MKA}) come to mind as convenient connections to airline travel
Newark (EWR) may also be in this mix as well as other airports with close by Amtrak Metro Link stations.

As long as rail travel is not encumbered by the security of the TSA - rail is the best way to go !
 

neroden

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Note that where Amtrak has or proposes to serve an airport it is primarily as a suburban stop. It's an alternative to making travelers venture into the core of the city to catch a train, a trip which may well involve heavy traffic at peak times and require people to go the "wrong way". Plane-to-train connections are certainly more than zero in places where Amtrak serves airports, but it's the tiny minority and will probably always be.

Airports can make a great Amtrak stop in many metro areas for few reason:
--The placement of airports (and subsequent decades of development) mean airports tend to be a fair distance from downtown but also still solidly in the urban area. Not too close to downtown to be redundant to a downtown train station, but not too far out of the urban build-up
--Airport areas usually have great roadway and at least fair transit access
--Airport areas usually have great parking infrastructure or the ability to add parking
--Airport areas usually have infrastructure-friendly commercial neighbors and zoning
Yes. IMO the most useful reasons for Amtrak to stop at an airport are (1) to use the airport parking garage -- park and take the train; (2) to get a rental car when arriving on Amtrak -- most airports have on-site rental car operations; (3) for transferring from Amtrak to international airport flights, but this only applies at a few supermajor airports like Newark. The airport stop should never be a substitute for a downtown station, but can make an excellent suburban station.
 

me_little_me

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Yes. IMO the most useful reasons for Amtrak to stop at an airport are (1) to use the airport parking garage -- park and take the train; (2) to get a rental car when arriving on Amtrak -- most airports have on-site rental car operations; (3) for transferring from Amtrak to international airport flights, but this only applies at a few supermajor airports like Newark. The airport stop should never be a substitute for a downtown station, but can make an excellent suburban station.
I would disagree on that.

Airport parking is often outrageous.

Rental cars at airports are just as bad as parking rates. Lots of extra fees.

Amtrak to international flights in most places is not reliable due to arrival lateness except in places like the NEC.

On the other hand,

International Flights to Amtrak are probably a lot more reliable.

Quite often rental car companies have off-airport locations offering cars much cheaper and only a short taxi/Uber ride away from the Airport.

If you have a car, rather than parking it at the airport to take the train, drive to another station with much cheaper or free parking. Who wants to pay as much for parking for a two week Amtrak trip as it costs for the train itself?

I'd rather see non-stop or minimal stop shuttle trains (with room for bags) between the airport and a convenient downtown Amtrak station since that will have lots of passengers who just want to go downtown.
 

MARC Rider

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I would disagree on that.

Airport parking is often outrageous.

Rental cars at airports are just as bad as parking rates. Lots of extra fees.

Amtrak to international flights in most places is not reliable due to arrival lateness except in places like the NEC.

On the other hand,

International Flights to Amtrak are probably a lot more reliable.

Quite often rental car companies have off-airport locations offering cars much cheaper and only a short taxi/Uber ride away from the Airport.

If you have a car, rather than parking it at the airport to take the train, drive to another station with much cheaper or free parking. Who wants to pay as much for parking for a two week Amtrak trip as it costs for the train itself?

I'd rather see non-stop or minimal stop shuttle trains (with room for bags) between the airport and a convenient downtown Amtrak station since that will have lots of passengers who just want to go downtown.
I have rented cars at both airports and in off site downrown locations, and I haven't found a signicant difference between the final price I end up paying.

There are two real advantages to renting a car at an airport over a city location. The first is that the airport sites usually have more cars, so you can rent something cliser to what you ordered. The other thing is that, at least at the larger airports, the rental agencies are open 24/7, which is always a consideration when dealing with Amtrak trains, where there's a good chance of arriving at odd hours or if you arrive or depart on Sunday.. Another issue is if you want to do a one way rental, like I once did between Santa Fe and Denver, the rental company only does them to and from airport sites.
 

danasgoodstuff

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Speaking of the past - I see that Scranton, PA has a new intermodal terminal in anticipation of commuter rail reaching it through the restored Lackawanna cutoff. What do you all think the chances of a restored Phoebe Snow running thru Scranton and Bingham to Buffalo are?
 
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