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Time to Change the Paradigm?

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cocojacoby

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 13, 2014
Messages
394
Can we try some new ideas to restructure Amtrak? Is there some way to radically change the paradigm?

How about a new and improved "Material Handling" concept? Create a high-speed express freight network and combine that train with an Amtrak train. Yes a modern "Mixed Train". Maybe lanes could be developed with the USPS or Amazon or get the Cold Connect back up and running.

Most routes would be only one train a day. Amtrak runs the passenger equipment and infrastructure and the freight railroad operates the train, freight equipment and freight infrastructure. The Amtrak consist basically goes along for the ride in a high-speed freight train.

The host railroad gets to operate the train the way they want and eliminates the pesky separate Amtrak train that always screws things up. There are incentives and rewards for both Amtrak and the host carrier to operate the train efficiently and on time.

This is a good place to bring back an improved RoadRailer or RailRunner product. I read that RoadRailers ran at 90 MPH on the NEC so speed is not a problem.

For example the passenger part of the train leaves a city center. Just outside of the city there is a suburban stop with a small rail yard. The train stops and RoadRailers and/or RailRunner container trailers are added. All is reversed at the other end and everyone is happy. Intermediate locations would also be possible at larger cities.

Priority Express can be rather lucrative I am told especially now with so much online purchasing. What is the cost of adding an Amtrak consist to such a train vs. the cost of running a separate Amtrak train? This could be a win-win for all involved or at least an experiment to at least try somewhere.

How many "Super Priority" containers would be needed to operate such a train say between Los Angeles and Chicago?

UPDATE: To clarify . . . this is a partnership. The freight railroad keeps the revenue from the priority express freight and Amtrak keeps the revenue (and subsidies) from the passenger operation.
 
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NSC1109

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Aug 14, 2016
Messages
368
Location
MI
Pesky? Always screws things up? No.

It’s fair to say that Amtrak has a problem with MRO and a lot of it has to do with a lack of funding. I work for Delta. We replace most of our aircraft once they hit the 25-30 year range. We fly the heck out of those frames. Up until a few years ago, Amtrak was still running equipment that was from the 50s and 60s. Now, Amtrak’s stuff clearly isn’t subjected to the same types of stresses as an airframe is, but the point is: they’re old. Unimaginably old. And Amtrak isn’t ever given the capital to renew their fleet when needed. There was a big hoopla when the Superliners came out. That was in the 70s and 80s for the Superliner I, and the II variant came out in the 90s. You still see the S-I variants running around on the western LD trains, and they’ve been around almost since inception. Mechanical defects are going to happen and unless you either have the capital to support an extensive MRO base to handle those older cars or the capital to do fleet renewals, the problems isn’t going to go away; it’s going to get worse.

Additionally: Amtrak is the victim of Precision Scheduled Railroading, plain and simple. PSR was a ploy to boost the operating ratio of the freight companies and took the idea of “do more with less” to the absolute extreme. Freight trains are now 10000+ feet in length. The infrastructure they run on was (generally) not upgraded to handle consists of that length. As a result, Amtrak gets the boot because they are the only thing that’ll fit in the hole during a meet. Rather convenient, I’d say.

To truly fix Amtrak’s problems, you need the following:

1) Priority over freight plus enforcement capability when freight companies fail to prioritize Amtrak service.
2) Infrastructure that is designed to handle faster passenger trains
3) Permanently increased subsidies from Congress to allow for increased MRO activities as well as eliminating the maintenance backlog on the NEC and other Amtrak-owned facilities and rights-of-way.
4) Capital delivered in addition to the subsidies at fixed time intervals to allow for fleet renewal and upgrades, lowering overall maintenance costs caused by small and elderly subfleets.
5) A board and CEO who understands not just passenger rail, but railroading in general.

You are not going to find any freight company that wants to take on passenger again. It won’t happen. They gave it up 60 years ago. Nixon’s administration didn’t think Amtrak was going to last through 1975, let alone almost 50 years. Instead of throwing our hands up and declaring defeat on a project that was never given a fair shake to start with, maybe we should, I don’t know, maybe try and fund the thing and truly give it the chance to succeed that it deserves.
 

20th Century Rider

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
709
Location
Oregon Coast
INVITE COMPETITION FROM THE PRIVATE SECTOR - just as we've done with the space program. The outcome is better quality, more innovation, and more efficiency. Amtrak is shown to be outmoded and no longer viable. Although we need to get past the pandemic, it would be better for all if the government encouraged this with tax incentives and use of AMTRAK owned infrastructure including right of ways. Not a new idea.

RAILWAY AGE SAID: "The message to the advocacy community is clear: Stop wasting precious time and resources trying to get Amtrak to behave like something it’s not: a federal transportation program. Stop trying to “reform” Amtrak, and stop playing the mug’s game of trying to “save” threatened trains. Amtrak was never designed to be anything more than an exit strategy from the rail industry’s deficits. Passenger rail advocacy that tries to “fix” Amtrak train by train (or meal by meal) while ignoring the need for fundamental policy reform has turned into a bizarre behavioral psychology experiment in which the pigeons keep pecking at the lever even though no more corn comes out. We need to switch from the 1970 rescue model to a 21st-century USDOT agency model designed to build a modern passenger train infrastructure on which private, for-profit companies can operate trains."

Check out what others are saying:




Screen Shot 2020-06-25 at 7.52.31 AM.png
 

NSC1109

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Aug 14, 2016
Messages
368
Location
MI
INVITE COMPETITION FROM THE PRIVATE SECTOR - just as we've done with the space program. The outcome is better quality, more innovation, and more efficiency. Amtrak is shown to be outmoded and no longer viable. Although we need to get past the pandemic, it would be better for all if the government encouraged this with tax incentives and use of AMTRAK owned infrastructure including right of ways. Not a new idea.

RAILWAY AGE SAID: "The message to the advocacy community is clear: Stop wasting precious time and resources trying to get Amtrak to behave like something it’s not: a federal transportation program. Stop trying to “reform” Amtrak, and stop playing the mug’s game of trying to “save” threatened trains. Amtrak was never designed to be anything more than an exit strategy from the rail industry’s deficits. Passenger rail advocacy that tries to “fix” Amtrak train by train (or meal by meal) while ignoring the need for fundamental policy reform has turned into a bizarre behavioral psychology experiment in which the pigeons keep pecking at the lever even though no more corn comes out. We need to switch from the 1970 rescue model to a 21st-century USDOT agency model designed to build a modern passenger train infrastructure on which private, for-profit companies can operate trains."

Check out what others are saying:




View attachment 17847

Read them all. Not remotely convinced by any.

The first article is basically what I've been saying is wrong with Amtrak as it is today: It wasn't expected to survive the 70s, let alone almost 50 years. All our incompetent politicians do is kick the can down the road. It's become a political football. They expect Amtrak to make a profit but they don't provide the money to make the changes needed to create a better service. No one and I mean NO ONE, wants to take on a national network. And throwing it out there piece by piece creates a nightmare scenario of having systems talk to each other, making interline connections, etc. If Amtrak is to be expected to operate competitively, then they need to be given the money to be a competitor. Just throwing out the Republican buzzwords of "free market" and "competition" doesn't solve the issue.

The second article talks about Brightline, and while that's all well and good, there's a pretty glaring elephant in the room that isn't discussed: Brightline was owned by Fortress Investment Group, which also owns FEC. They may be separate companies, but there is a far better operating agreement between those two companies than Amtrak and the other Class I railroads. Right out of the gate, Brightline doesn't really have to deal with one is one of Amtrak's major issues, freight interference.

The third article is about heavy rail transit. It's not about intercity rail and is therefore mostly, but not totally, irrelevant to the topic at hand. Do you seriously expect Amtrak to hand out candy and stuff on Halloween? Conservatives would have a field day with that, going on and on about how it was a grossly inappropriate purchase and how Amtrak isn't fiscally responsible. At the same time, Amtrak has bigger issues to worry about than handing candy out to people on holidays.
 

20th Century Rider

OBS Chief
Joined
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Messages
709
Location
Oregon Coast
The three examples of innovative thinking [above] demonstrate there is hope for rail in North America. Amtrak is no longer viable; private freight lines don't want to accommodate passenger trains, and high speed rail is coming because of environmental concerns, highway crowding, and gas guzzling cars which are destroying the atmosphere. Maybe not in our lifetime, but it is coming. Instead of candy for the Halloween bag, here's a real big mac. It's coming! It's coming!

More forward thinking:



Screen Shot 2020-06-25 at 8.42.37 AM.png
 

me_little_me

Conductor
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,366
Read them all. Not remotely convinced by any.

The second article talks about Brightline, and while that's all well and good, there's a pretty glaring elephant in the room that isn't discussed: Brightline was owned by Fortress Investment Group, which also owns FEC. They may be separate companies, but there is a far better operating agreement between those two companies than Amtrak and the other Class I railroads. Right out of the gate, Brightline doesn't really have to deal with one is one of Amtrak's major issues, freight interference.

The third article is about heavy rail transit. It's not about intercity rail and is therefore mostly, but not totally, irrelevant to the topic at hand. Do you seriously expect Amtrak to hand out candy and stuff on Halloween? Conservatives would have a field day with that, going on and on about how it was a grossly inappropriate purchase and how Amtrak isn't fiscally responsible. At the same time, Amtrak has bigger issues to worry about than handing candy out to people on holidays.
Your comment on the second article ignored part of the equation. Brightline provides nice services for their money and that includes the likelihood that they know how to make money at their stations with good but high end food services and how to do even their lounge efficiently. Their agents and onboard crew look to help, not hinder, passengers.

As to the third, your argument about candy at Halloween is silly. The contention is that even VRE has a far better understanding of small, low cost amenities that make a big impact for little money. Amtrak has tried it in the past but the effort was half-baked because IMHO Amtrak management really doesn't care. And if they couldn't justify to critics spending 10 cents worth of candy on customers who might be spending $50-$2000 on tickets then they need to fire their whole PR department for incompetence. That alone would save more money than the cost of candy. My 9 y/o grandson still remembers the cardboard P42 cutout he got on one trip and it's still around.

You are right that there are bigger issues - funding, host RR issues, management and labor that often don't care but it's obvious that Amtrak doesn't see how poorly they are doing and how it could be if they made an effort. Witness the stupidity of their new scheduling. Heck, they can't even figure out that running a coach train between Tampa and Miami and possibly Tampa to Orlando on off days might be good business when they already have the right to run a train on that route and even have the equipment available although shorter intercity trains in lieu of LD was Anderson's dream!
 

the_traveler

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Whatever siding I'm sitting on!
I agree with you on the lack of inter line agreements!

I remember 40-50 years ago, I could fly from say Albany to Chicago on American and then change to say TWA to Phoenix. Now, you stay on American - even if you have to go thru Chicago and Dallas or LAX.

A few years ago, I flew from Grand Junction, CO to Albany, NY on American. I had to fly GJC-DFW-ORD-ALB. I could have flown on Delta going GJC-SLC-ATL-DTW-ALB instead! :rolleyes:

The trains might have interline agreements, but you might need to change stations. Back 70 years or so, I think Chicago had like 7 different train stations. (Some only blocks apart, some had 2-3 railroads but if you had to switch from say Santa Fe to NYC, you may need to go to a different station across town!)
 

AmtrakFlyer

Train Attendant
Joined
Nov 27, 2016
Messages
96
Talking about the “for profit” language. Hopefully it can be removed sooner then later.

Just got this email today. A lot of double talk for a one page letter. She has voted for Amtrak consistently so I’m a little surprised the letter in my opinion is an negative as it is. She is one of Trumps most vulnerable Senators so she probably doesn’t want to get out of line.
 

Attachments

20th Century Rider

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Messages
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The key paradigm shift needed is to stop treating Amtrak as a "profit-making" enterprise (doomed to failure), and start treating it as an essential public service.
But to take it a step further... if the space program is considered essential, HS rail is even MORE essential. Consider the miracles created by intuitive inventors... a booster rocket that returns to earth and LANDS, and can be re-used again. HS rail travel will be much better for the environment, and will eventually supplement the car and air travel in a more environmentally friendly way. Much innovation to come is beyond what we can even speculate... but it is waiting for us in the future.

The Space Shuttle is to the retrievable booster idea as Amtrak is to HS travel to come... that we can't even imagine.
 

NSC1109

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Aug 14, 2016
Messages
368
Location
MI
The three examples of innovative thinking [above] demonstrate there is hope for rail in North America. Amtrak is no longer viable; private freight lines don't want to accommodate passenger trains, and high speed rail is coming because of environmental concerns, highway crowding, and gas guzzling cars which are destroying the atmosphere. Maybe not in our lifetime, but it is coming. Instead of candy for the Halloween bag, here's a real big mac. It's coming! It's coming!

More forward thinking:



View attachment 17848
And why EXACTLY is Amtrak not viable? I want you to tell me, tell us all, in your own words, why Amtrak is no longer viable as you claim. I have stated time and again that Amtrak was never given a fair shake from the start on ANY front. They weren’t given the money to keep their fleet up or change with the times. Their largest source of capital funding is unstable as it shifts every few years when the party in control of the government changes. There isn’t any enforcement of the “Amtrak has priority” policy. Instead, they’re left to suffer on their own.

Let’s explore some numbers provided by the Rail Passengers Association:

Amtrak's Long Distance business line from 2013 to 2019 has been generally stable in terms of ridership. The same can be said for the State Supported corridor routes. The NEC ridership has been steadily climbing since 2013. You can find them here:


Amtrak was also due to turn its first profit this year, albeit by means that I personally do not agree with. That hardly sounds like an inviable solution to me.

Your comment on the second article ignored part of the equation. Brightline provides nice services for their money and that includes the likelihood that they know how to make money at their stations with good but high end food services and how to do even their lounge efficiently. Their agents and onboard crew look to help, not hinder, passengers.

As to the third, your argument about candy at Halloween is silly. The contention is that even VRE has a far better understanding of small, low cost amenities that make a big impact for little money. Amtrak has tried it in the past but the effort was half-baked because IMHO Amtrak management really doesn't care. And if they couldn't justify to critics spending 10 cents worth of candy on customers who might be spending $50-$2000 on tickets then they need to fire their whole PR department for incompetence. That alone would save more money than the cost of candy. My 9 y/o grandson still remembers the cardboard P42 cutout he got on one trip and it's still around.

You are right that there are bigger issues - funding, host RR issues, management and labor that often don't care but it's obvious that Amtrak doesn't see how poorly they are doing and how it could be if they made an effort. Witness the stupidity of their new scheduling. Heck, they can't even figure out that running a coach train between Tampa and Miami and possibly Tampa to Orlando on off days might be good business when they already have the right to run a train on that route and even have the equipment available although shorter intercity trains in lieu of LD was Anderson's dream!
Trust me, I understand that Brightline offers a great shore-side product, and Amtrak truly needs to work on that and customer service in general. As an example, their social media team on Facebook refers folks to another social media platform and a website for questions regarding specific services. As a consumer, that's inefficient. I don't want to look up more stuff; I want the help quickly. The airlines don't seem to have an issue with it. So that begs the question: are there two different social media teams at Amtrak? If so, why? If not, why is it so difficult for the SM team to get info from Twitter and put it on Facebook?

The third argument, while granted it's a little out there, may not be quite as silly as you think. Amtrak is still dealing with a MASSIVE maintenance backlog on the NEC to say nothing of the rolling stock MRO problems. Spending a not-insignificant amount of money on something like candy system-wide for a one- or two-day promo may score some points with passengers but it would be something that Congress would laugh at. I'm not at all against stuff like that; in fact, I believe it to be very useful from both a marketing and customer service standpoint. However, I would want it to come from some sort of partnership (for example, with Mars), so we still get some risk-sharing out of it plus perhaps some hard currency.
 

20th Century Rider

OBS Chief
Joined
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Messages
709
Location
Oregon Coast
And why EXACTLY is Amtrak not viable? I want you to tell me, tell us all, in your own words, why Amtrak is no longer viable as you claim. I have stated time and again that Amtrak was never given a fair shake from the start on ANY front. They weren’t given the money to keep their fleet up or change with the times. Their largest source of capital funding is unstable as it shifts every few years when the party in control of the government changes. There isn’t any enforcement of the “Amtrak has priority” policy. Instead, they’re left to suffer on their own.

Let’s explore some numbers provided by the Rail Passengers Association:

Amtrak's Long Distance business line from 2013 to 2019 has been generally stable in terms of ridership. The same can be said for the State Supported corridor routes. The NEC ridership has been steadily climbing since 2013. You can find them here:


Amtrak was also due to turn its first profit this year, albeit by means that I personally do not agree with. That hardly sounds like an inviable solution to me.



Trust me, I understand that Brightline offers a great shore-side product, and Amtrak truly needs to work on that and customer service in general. As an example, their social media team on Facebook refers folks to another social media platform and a website for questions regarding specific services. As a consumer, that's inefficient. I don't want to look up more stuff; I want the help quickly. The airlines don't seem to have an issue with it. So that begs the question: are there two different social media teams at Amtrak? If so, why? If not, why is it so difficult for the SM team to get info from Twitter and put it on Facebook?

The third argument, while granted it's a little out there, may not be quite as silly as you think. Amtrak is still dealing with a MASSIVE maintenance backlog on the NEC to say nothing of the rolling stock MRO problems. Spending a not-insignificant amount of money on something like candy system-wide for a one- or two-day promo may score some points with passengers but it would be something that Congress would laugh at. I'm not at all against stuff like that; in fact, I believe it to be very useful from both a marketing and customer service standpoint. However, I would want it to come from some sort of partnership (for example, with Mars), so we still get some risk-sharing out of it plus perhaps some hard currency.
You have sent a strong message, and in commonality we both support a vibrant passenger system; I salute you!

But your point of view hasn't changed my perspective, and the thoughts of many others. If Amtrak were privatized it would be more more efficient. Here's what others are saying...





 

neroden

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Messages
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Ithaca, NY
No private passenger rail service anywhere in the world makes a standalone profit.

You can make a profit by associated real estate development (as in Japan). Or by associated sale of electricity -- this is why the streetcar companies in the US were hammered when they were forced by law to divest from their electricity generation divisions. Or by other synergies. By all manner of things which *benefit from having* transportation. But not as a standalone passenger railroad operation, not since government-subsidized roads started.

I'll be quite specific here: the problem is the cost of right-of-way construction and maintenance. You can make an "above-the-rails" profit. You can't cover the cost of track maintenance, not while competing with government-subsidized roads.

Since government-subsidized roads seem to be here to stay, my solution is simple: the government should build and maintain tracks in the same way it builds and maintains roads. Mode parity. Practically every other country in the world has done this.

Whether operations are private or not becomes less important at that point, though the history of the UK shows that private operations seem to have some serious problems.
 

20th Century Rider

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No private passenger rail service anywhere in the world makes a standalone profit.

You can make a profit by associated real estate development (as in Japan). Or by associated sale of electricity -- this is why the streetcar companies in the US were hammered when they were forced by law to divest from their electricity generation divisions. Or by other synergies. By all manner of things which *benefit from having* transportation. But not as a standalone passenger railroad operation, not since government-subsidized roads started.

I'll be quite specific here: the problem is the cost of right-of-way construction and maintenance. You can make an "above-the-rails" profit. You can't cover the cost of track maintenance, not while competing with government-subsidized roads.

Since government-subsidized roads seem to be here to stay, my solution is simple: the government should build and maintain tracks in the same way it builds and maintains roads. Mode parity. Practically every other country in the world has done this.

Whether operations are private or not becomes less important at that point, though the history of the UK shows that private operations seem to have some serious problems.
Right on! Our government, inclusive of the EPA, has an obligation to the citizenry to meet our transportation needs with respect to the environment... and alleviating congestion on the roads. Most responsible governments financially support public transportation systems as a means to grow the economy. Right now the government is fragmented to the point of being dysfunctional. With strong leadership focused on what is good for all of us... let's just do it!

During the 50's President Eisenhower took on the bold move of creating the interstate system. Construction jobs propelled a robust economy. Now it's time for bringing in a high speed rail system for a comprehensive national system.
 

MARC Rider

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INVITE COMPETITION FROM THE PRIVATE SECTOR - just as we've done with the space program. The outcome is better quality, more innovation, and more efficiency.
Speaking of the space program -- what "competition" from the private sector. It seems that SpaceX is essentially another NASA contractor, which is exactly what Boeing, North American, Douglas et. al. were during the Apollo Program. The only difference seems to be is that the rockets are now being designed by employees of Elon Musk rather than by US Government employees like Werner Von Braun. Everything still needs to be approved by NASA and the launch site is a NASA facility. OK, so Maybe SpaceX does a few private satellite launches (and it wouldn't surprise me if NASA is deeply involved in those as well), but so what?

And, being a lifetime customer of private sector products, I would say that you don't necessarily get "better quality, more innovation, and more efficiency" from the private sector. In fact, in general, "innovation" and "efficiency" are inversely related.
 

20th Century Rider

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Speaking of the space program -- what "competition" from the private sector. It seems that SpaceX is essentially another NASA contractor, which is exactly what Boeing, North American, Douglas et. al. were during the Apollo Program. The only difference seems to be is that the rockets are now being designed by employees of Elon Musk rather than by US Government employees like Werner Von Braun. Everything still needs to be approved by NASA and the launch site is a NASA facility. OK, so Maybe SpaceX does a few private satellite launches (and it wouldn't surprise me if NASA is deeply involved in those as well), but so what?

And, being a lifetime customer of private sector products, I would say that you don't necessarily get "better quality, more innovation, and more efficiency" from the private sector. In fact, in general, "innovation" and "efficiency" are inversely related.
Contractors must compete by creating both innovation and efficiencies. A booster that returns to earth to be re-used again; dynamically designed space capsule with advanced digital technology; and much more as described by reviewers are impressive breakthroughs. So please give examples of how present innovations and efficiencies are inversely related.

Wouldn't it be nice to see such innovations and efficiencies could be applied to developing HS rail in the USA!

 

me_little_me

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Messages
3,366
There is a downside to private running of what was public - they like to cherry pick the profitable things. Many of us have mentioned the fact that one reason for Amtrak is that it acts as (or should act as) a public service. Private enterprise doesn't like doing that. If you think Amtrak dumps baggage handling so they can get rid of local employees, think what private enterprise would do especially for smaller stations. So any thought of private enterprise would have to be a regulated one with enforced requirements ala hotels and restaurants in National Parks.

Given that the government could regulate sans too much politics and keeps the rules at a high level i.e. not too detailed) then private enterprise is at its best. They have the foresight to think up and implement ideas that Amtrak does not. An example would be if the government required free baggage service at any station with over x number of persons per day. A private company could implement remote printing of tags, an onboard baggage person, a fast loading/unloading baggage car capability and/or other features that would provide that service because they have to - and have to do it efficiently to not be a burden on their profits. Amtrak would just rather drop it to save money or do it the old fashioned way, not to save jobs, but because of management inertia.
 

MARC Rider

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There is a downside to private running of what was public - they like to cherry pick the profitable things. Many of us have mentioned the fact that one reason for Amtrak is that it acts as (or should act as) a public service. Private enterprise doesn't like doing that. If you think Amtrak dumps baggage handling so they can get rid of local employees, think what private enterprise would do especially for smaller stations. So any thought of private enterprise would have to be a regulated one with enforced requirements ala hotels and restaurants in National Parks.

Given that the government could regulate sans too much politics and keeps the rules at a high level i.e. not too detailed) then private enterprise is at its best. They have the foresight to think up and implement ideas that Amtrak does not. An example would be if the government required free baggage service at any station with over x number of persons per day. A private company could implement remote printing of tags, an onboard baggage person, a fast loading/unloading baggage car capability and/or other features that would provide that service because they have to - and have to do it efficiently to not be a burden on their profits. Amtrak would just rather drop it to save money or do it the old fashioned way, not to save jobs, but because of management inertia.
You're 100% right about the cherry-picking. This also applies to the controversy over the Postal Service and charter schools.

I don't know about the rest. I don't see any possibility that any sort of private operations could be better in the long term. Passenger rail (and freight rail, too for that matter) has too many fixed costs to be attractive to private-sector investor type managers. And there's no reason why current Amtrak management couldn't be as innovative as anybody else. That they are not might be more related to the individuals involved than how the company is organized. They either don't know enough about rail operations, or they have a fixed idea that, say, passenger ail in the US should be limited to glorified commuter service. I see no reason why contracting with a private company should make any difference. Lots of private companies have clueless management.

And please don't bring up Virgin/Brightline. That operation is primarily a real estate venture, with the train service an "amenity" like the swimming pool at a condo. After they sell all the property and they find out that running the trains is still an expensive grind, let's see how quickly the on-board service levels drop. In fact, at some point in the future, I wouldn't be surprised to see FEC or Fortress, or whoever it is that owns Virgin/Brightline, tries to dump it on the State of Florida or Amtrak. Passenger rail just isn't something that inherently profitable enough to interest the private sector for the long haul.
 

20th Century Rider

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You're 100% right about the cherry-picking. This also applies to the controversy over the Postal Service and charter schools.

I don't know about the rest. I don't see any possibility that any sort of private operations could be better in the long term. Passenger rail (and freight rail, too for that matter) has too many fixed costs to be attractive to private-sector investor type managers. And there's no reason why current Amtrak management couldn't be as innovative as anybody else. That they are not might be more related to the individuals involved than how the company is organized. They either don't know enough about rail operations, or they have a fixed idea that, say, passenger ail in the US should be limited to glorified commuter service. I see no reason why contracting with a private company should make any difference. Lots of private companies have clueless management.

And please don't bring up Virgin/Brightline. That operation is primarily a real estate venture, with the train service an "amenity" like the swimming pool at a condo. After they sell all the property and they find out that running the trains is still an expensive grind, let's see how quickly the on-board service levels drop. In fact, at some point in the future, I wouldn't be surprised to see FEC or Fortress, or whoever it is that owns Virgin/Brightline, tries to dump it on the State of Florida or Amtrak. Passenger rail just isn't something that inherently profitable enough to interest the private sector for the long haul.
Agreed! It's complicated... and most local mass transit systems are funded by the tax payers who have the power to vote for a referendum. Any rail operation is dependent on population density [urban need / taxation funding,] availability of land resources, government support fueled by the vote, and on and on. So in the end, it becomes a good argument that rail transportation is a commodity to serve the public and can only come from the public domain.

Interesting how things have changed... in the past, most rail transit came from private entrepreneurs.

The entire forum has been going around and around in circles regarding rail transit renewal, development needs, and funding; and admittedly so have I. Perhaps some kind of an answer can come from us thinkers that will catch the eye of someone who has the wherewithal to do something.

And then... there's the election ;)
 

west point

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You are right about Cherry picking. The postal service is an example. I cannot remember the number of times have received UPS and FED EX packages thru the post office. Even had to go to PO to sign for said packages sometimes. Note; FED EX and UPS do deliver to my house.
 

me_little_me

Conductor
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,366
I will never be a fan of privatization of any public need, not without significant government oversight and support. That's what we pay taxes for.
Depends whether you are referring to private ownership or operation. Big difference. I'd see private ownership as more of a problem than operation as the owner sets the rules for the operator and can remove the operator for violating those rules.
 
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