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Time to Change the Paradigm?

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jruff001

Service Attendant
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Jan 23, 2020
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Actually you are correct in your first sentenance. Amtrak is a success in that with the exception of Japan and China it has a higher car miles per day than any of the systems we like to admire. Even the HSR trains in western Europe have a much lower mileage per day than Amtrak. Most of the LD trains in the east run 24 = 40 hours before ending thei trips and then turn back in about 14 -20 hours back. The western LD trains are even more used as their routes are up to 60 hours long before reversing.. The last I read Amtrak has about 85 - 90% of cars ready for service. Of course some are not in the best repair for dispatch.
Amtrak equipment travels more car miles per day than other countries' HSR equipment? Hours per day I would believe but miles - I dunno, HSR in Japan, France, etc. rack up a lot more miles per hour than Amtrak's LD trains do. A couple hours per day at those speeds would seem to yield more miles than an Amtrak train does in a day.
 

ehbowen

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Amtrak equipment travels more car miles per day than other countries' HSR equipment? Hours per day I would believe but miles - I dunno, HSR in Japan, France, etc. rack up a lot more miles per hour than Amtrak's LD trains do. A couple hours per day at those speeds would seem to yield more miles than an Amtrak train does in a day.
Well, think about it. Run ten hours in Germany or France and you run out of country. Run twenty hours on Amtrak, and you're not even halfway there!

Also...the other countries have enough spare equipment that a quick turnaround and re-dispatch isn't always necessary. On Amtrak, it usually is.
 

jruff001

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Well, think about it. Run ten hours in Germany or France and you run out of country. Run twenty hours on Amtrak, and you're not even halfway there!
You know trains can turn around and do thing like two hours out A-B, then two hours back B-A, and repeat that a few times per day. Or even go A-B, B-C, then somewhere else. Or A-B, B-A, A-C, then somewhere else.
 

jis

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You know trains can turn around and do thing like two hours out A-B, then two hours back B-A, and repeat that a few times per day. Or even go A-B, B-C, then somewhere else. Or A-B, B-A, A-C, then somewhere else.
Exactly. A Paris to Marseilles is about 480 miles. A single set can do a round trip in a little over 7 hours allowing adequate time to turn. Let's call it 8. A single set can do 2.5 RTs or 5 one ways, in a day. That works out to ~2400 miles. An Amtrak LD train would have to make it from Chicago to Emeryville and then some in 24 hours to beat that.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Well, think about it. Run ten hours in Germany or France and you run out of country. Run twenty hours on Amtrak, and you're not even halfway there!
What does Amtrak do when it runs out of Texas? It keeps on moving into the next state unimpeded. Trains in the European Union can travel across borders in a similar no hassle fashion. As in the US there is a method for tracking passenger movement but it's done behind the scenes without formal processing.

Long term plans include an expanding list of long distance city pairs previously considered unworkable. Imagine walking up to a ticket kiosk in London and seeing Lisbon or Rome on the destination list.

 
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tgstubbs1

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Mar 3, 2020
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Clearly speed isn't Amtrak's strong point. Even though European trains have impressive times they don't compare with air travel. There are other reasons to take the train.
 

MARC Rider

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Clearly speed isn't Amtrak's strong point. Even though European trains have impressive times they don't compare with air travel. There are other reasons to take the train.
Yeah, mainly for serving the intermediate stops. One train can service a large number of city-pairs on the line. And those shorter trips could well be time-competitive with flying when you factor in dealing with all the airport formalities and traffic to and from the airport. It certainly works that way on the NEC. Very few passengers ride all the way from Washington to Boston (or Roanaoke and Boston, or Norfolk and Boston), but the service is highly patronized and considered successful nonetheless.
 
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jis

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Many American analysts and commentators suffer excessively from end-to-end-itis, a disease that cause them to consider only end to end riders to the exclusion of any riders served to/from the enroute stops by the train.
 

MARC Rider

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Is that where the term "flyover country" comes from? :)
There was a period in the 1980s and early 1990s when there was no nonstop service for government travelers between BWI and the west coast, and I ended up spending a lot of time changing planes in airports in various places in the American heartland. Even as recently as 2015, I had to fly to LA for work, and the only flight I could get was a Southwest flight that stopped at Love Field in Dallas. The most out-of-of-the-way flights I ever had were BWI to SFO via DFW, and a flight from Reno to Chicago that actually went west on it's first leg to stop at Sacramento. That was sort of interesting, crossing the Sierra Nevada at relatively low altitude on a clear day.
 

Qapla

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Layovers and plane changes in Atlanta used to be so common there were numerous jokes about having to stop in Atlanta no matter where you were going - like saying to fly from Chicago to NY you would have to change planes in Atlanta.

The fact is, regardless if you want to separate trains by labels like "Long Distance" or "Regional" or "Corridor" - LD trains fill all those slots.

Those going from NYP to MIA are on a LD ride, those who rode from JAX to MIA were taking a regional ride and someone riding from NYP to PHL could be viewed as a corridor train - yet they could all be riding the same Silver train ... so, are the Silvers LD, Regional or corridor?

That is why it does not really work to compare trains to planes. Seldom does the same plane fill all of these categories like many trains do.
 

jiml

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Layovers and plane changes in Atlanta used to be so common there were numerous jokes about having to stop in Atlanta no matter where you were going - like saying to fly from Chicago to NY you would have to change planes in Atlanta.
You've just described the "hub and spoke" system still widely used by airlines. Simply substitute Delta's Atlanta with the hub city of your favorite airline. We're long-time AA flyers and to save money we've often flown out of Buffalo, NY. Until AA merged with US Air, getting from Buffalo to New York, Boston, etc., involved flying through Chicago every time. Great for frequent flyer miles, but not very time-friendly.
 

MARC Rider

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You've just described the "hub and spoke" system still widely used by airlines. Simply substitute Delta's Atlanta with the hub city of your favorite airline. We're long-time AA flyers and to save money we've often flown out of Buffalo, NY. Until AA merged with US Air, getting from Buffalo to New York, Boston, etc., involved flying through Chicago every time. Great for frequent flyer miles, but not very time-friendly.
Northwest Airlines had a code-share agreement with KLM. Back in the 2000s, I took a bunch of trips from BWI to Detroit on Northwest, and I would get seatmates who were flying from Baltimore to Europe, via Detroit.
 

railiner

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You've just described the "hub and spoke" system still widely used by airlines. Simply substitute Delta's Atlanta with the hub city of your favorite airline. We're long-time AA flyers and to save money we've often flown out of Buffalo, NY. Until AA merged with US Air, getting from Buffalo to New York, Boston, etc., involved flying through Chicago every time. Great for frequent flyer miles, but not very time-friendly.
Prior to the merger with US Air, I recall American Eagle operated at least two daily flights between Buffalo and JFK....
 

jiml

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Prior to the merger with US Air, I recall American Eagle operated at least two daily flights between Buffalo and JFK....
JetBlue was the end of those. The same two flights were subsequently moved to YYZ-JFK - almost the same route with better business potential. (Previously all AA from Toronto to New York had served LGA.) Buffalo benefited greatly from the merger.
 

NSC1109

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Aug 14, 2016
Messages
364
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MI
Layovers and plane changes in Atlanta used to be so common there were numerous jokes about having to stop in Atlanta no matter where you were going - like saying to fly from Chicago to NY you would have to change planes in Atlanta.

The fact is, regardless if you want to separate trains by labels like "Long Distance" or "Regional" or "Corridor" - LD trains fill all those slots.

Those going from NYP to MIA are on a LD ride, those who rode from JAX to MIA were taking a regional ride and someone riding from NYP to PHL could be viewed as a corridor train - yet they could all be riding the same Silver train ... so, are the Silvers LD, Regional or corridor?

That is why it does not really work to compare trains to planes. Seldom does the same plane fill all of these categories like many trains do.
It isn't always cut-and-dry like that. There are a number of trains that only dis/embark passengers depending on the location and direction in order to better serve the community. The City of New Orleans for example, picks up passengers at Homewood, IL, going south and only discharges going north, the idea being to prevent siphoning passengers from the corridor trains or Metra (I think some of the Chicago-area ones are actually non-compete agreements with Metra, especially along the BNSF route). Then there are others, mostly on the NEC, that stop at most, if not all, stations and act like all three services, something I personally disagree with in high-traffic areas. There are plenty of Northeast Regional services available, why are we stopping an LD service at a smaller station to act like a corridor train? Ending that practice would shave off running time, but it has to be done tactically; there are some locations (like Homewood) who are better served by it because there is no easy way to get back there from Chicago Union Station; you'd have to walk to Millennium Street from CUS to get to the Metra Electric District then head back south or wait for the Illini/Saluki. But there are others that have so much service it doesn't make sense to stop them there.

You've just described the "hub and spoke" system still widely used by airlines. Simply substitute Delta's Atlanta with the hub city of your favorite airline. We're long-time AA flyers and to save money we've often flown out of Buffalo, NY. Until AA merged with US Air, getting from Buffalo to New York, Boston, etc., involved flying through Chicago every time. Great for frequent flyer miles, but not very time-friendly.
A hub-and-spoke system for Amtrak may not be a bad idea. After all, that is essentially what Chicago is at this point: a massive Amtrak corridor hub. You can connect to other corridor trains (think American Eagle, Delta Connection, and United Express) or to the long distance services (mainline American, Delta, and United). Doing the same for Amtrak could create better connectivity and increase ridership, provided the service has value for money, is sufficiently quick, and has VIABLE connectivity.
 
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