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Triweekly service will be overshadowed by drop in revenue

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Trogdor

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What’s the actual fuel efficiency of a long-distance train? Most of the arguments in favor of fuel efficiency for passenger rail (that I’ve seen, anyway) use data that are based on a commuter train. So, a locomotive pulling somewhere between 500 and 1000 passengers in 7 or 8 cars or what have you.

On a good day, a LD train might typically carry 300 or so at its max load point.

Some time back, someone posted on here real-world fuel burn numbers for a transcontinental flight vs. that of a long-distance train calculated based on data that I believe they obtained from whatever public info Amtrak releases. The results...were not favorable to Amtrak LD trains in terms of fuel burn per passenger-mile.
 

joelkfla

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During the early days of COVID-19, when things first got "locked down" - Amtrak was still running their normal schedules for LD trains. The lack of riders did not reduce the fuel they spent each day. However, the air and road traffic dropped considerably. Maps of air quality shoed a marked improvement in air pollution worldwide.

It would seem that LD trains are a better mode of travel for the environment - if people weren't in such a rush.
A true HSR transcontinental line could get folks from NY to LA overnight, but 3 days on the current system is just too much for most non-railfans, and especially at $940 in a roomette.

If they built it, would people ride it, over an airline flight? Heck yes, IMO! 19 hours in a roomette-like accommodation with reasonably decent food would be very doable.
 

Exvalley

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What’s the actual fuel efficiency of a long-distance train? Most of the arguments in favor of fuel efficiency for passenger rail (that I’ve seen, anyway) use data that are based on a commuter train. So, a locomotive pulling somewhere between 500 and 1000 passengers in 7 or 8 cars or what have you.

On a good day, a LD train might typically carry 300 or so at its max load point.

Some time back, someone posted on here real-world fuel burn numbers for a transcontinental flight vs. that of a long-distance train calculated based on data that I believe they obtained from whatever public info Amtrak releases. The results...were not favorable to Amtrak LD trains in terms of fuel burn per passenger-mile.
My recollection is that Amtrak is not any better (long distance point to point) than modern aircraft. The equation favors Amtrak for shorter trips.

Also, the same people who espouse the environmental benefit of Amtrak don’t want to see any reduction in service (unlike the airlines) during this crisis. That seems to be inconsistent.

I believe that rail plays an important role in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but it requires greater electrification and looking in the mirror about leisure trips.
 
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west point

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What if only 1 - 2 % of present airline passengers desire to drop flying on airplanes due to Covid-19 and want to take an Amtrak train when the routes agree ? Can we imagine the demand for seats on Amtrak that would occurr ? We already see that on the NEC for pre non Covid-19 demand.
 

jruff001

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I agree money needs to be available for all types of travel - I just think Amtrak needs to be FULLY FUNDED since it is OWNED by the Gov't .... not get the table scraps left after giving airline and trucking the lion's share.
What do you mean when you by "FULLY FUNDED"?

This is, in part (and a large part at that) due to the fact that Amtrak does not advertise - of those 99.999% how many are even aware of Amtrak.
People are choosing to fly instead of taking the train coast to coast (for example) not because of a lack of advertising, but because it takes four days.
 
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Qapla

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Amtrak is owned by the US Gov't. It has been operating for enough years that, by now, they should know what the true cost of running it is per year. That much money should be budgeted for Amtrak - the revenue they garner from ticket sales should be "extra" or used to off-set the operating cost ... not the other way around.

The Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Secret Service, IRS, FCC, SEC, FDOT and other Gov't "services" do not need to sell tickets to obtain their budget. No one complains if they do not "make a profit" and have to be given money to operate. They are granted a budget that will meet ALL of their expected expenses for the year.

That is what I mean by "Fully Funded".

It is true that the majority of travelers may not want to take 3-4 days to cross the country (then again, how do you explain the number who drive to their vacations) but, like was said, the numbers could be as high as 99.999% of people are not using Amtrak. That number may not drop to the point it would pose a threat to airline like numbers for travelers - but, if the number of travelers raised by 2% due to advertising it would make a huge difference in the revenue garnered by Amtrak and not have a devastating impact on the airlines.
 

Exvalley

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I’m pretty sure that Amtrak has done a lot of research into advertising and it’s effectiveness - especially because they have advertised in the past.
 

Qapla

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I’m pretty sure that Amtrak has done a lot of research into advertising and it’s effectiveness - especially because they have advertised in the past.
Like the research they did into meals and dining service ....

It is more likely they had the budget reduced so that advertising went the same route good food went - only sooner

They did a lot of things in the past they no longer do - not because it isn't wanted, needed or appreciated ... those things fell to budget cuts in the far-fetched idea they should "make a profit" when they should be a Gov't service NOT a Gov't "Company"
 

Exvalley

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when they should be a Gov't service NOT a Gov't "Company"
If you think that Amtrak will feel the need to advertise MORE if they are a 100% funded government service (rather than their current company charter), I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

I don’t think you understand advertising when you suggest that Amtrak is no longer advertising because their budget has been reduced. Leaving aside the argument as to whether or not Amtrak’s budget has been reduced, the point of advertising is that the money spent on advertising is fully offset by increased earnings derived from the advertising. Amtrak has clearly decided where that line is drawn and has budgeted accordingly.

You may disagree with where they have drawn the line, but without seeing their research you are just guessing.
 

west point

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IMHO there will not be advertising on any route until capacity on that route has the ability to be dramatically increased. Pre Covid -19 capacity on most routes was constrained on one or more segments.
 

jruff001

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Amtrak is owned by the US Gov't. It has been operating for enough years that, by now, they should know what the true cost of running it is per year. That much money should be budgeted for Amtrak - the revenue they garner from ticket sales should be "extra" or used to off-set the operating cost ... not the other way around.
Thanks for the response. Can you clarify, does "fully funded" mean the amount to operate the Amtrak network in 2019 (I am trying to pick the most recent pre-Covid time frame); or can Amtrak unilaterally decide each year what trains and routes they want to operate, and Congress is obligated to provide that much money, no questions asked, in order for you to consider Amtrak "fully funded"?

The Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Secret Service, IRS, FCC, SEC, FDOT and other Gov't "services" do not need to sell tickets to obtain their budget. No one complains if they do not "make a profit" and have to be given money to operate. They are granted a budget that will meet ALL of their expected expenses for the year.

That is what I mean by "Fully Funded".
You seem to be under the impression that there is a two-step process for funding various government agencies:

Step 1: The agencies decide what they want to spend for the year.

Step 2: Congress simply "grants" them the amount necessary to meet those expenses, and no one complains.

That's really not how it works at all.
 

Qapla

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I know it is not "that simple" ... but these other Gov't services are not expected to "make a profit" like Amtrak is - THAT is my point. If the funding for Amtrak was on par with the funding for other Gov't services the "profit" argument would be moot.

What I do not understand is why so many people on an Amtrak forum, one designed for railfans, seem to be so against trains receiving proper funding and seem to extoll the "virtues" of other forms of travel over riding the rails.

If I have not made clear what I mean by "fully funded" by now, I don't think continuing to "explain" it will do any good - enjoy the thread ...
 

Exvalley

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What I do not understand is why so many people on an Amtrak forum, one designed for railfans, seem to be so against trains receiving proper funding and seem to extoll the "virtues" of other forms of travel over riding the rails.
Perhaps it is because choice is a good thing. Not everyone can take four days to go from one coast to the other. There is nothing wrong with having a healthy rail infrastructure, road infrastructure and air infrastructure. If one segment is lacking, then by all means address it - but we shouldn't rob Peter to pay Paul.
 

jruff001

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What I do not understand is why so many people on an Amtrak forum, one designed for railfans, seem to be so against trains receiving proper funding and seem to extoll the "virtues" of other forms of travel over riding the rails.
If that is directed to me (which it seems to be), where did I ever say or imply that I am against funding Amtrak? I am not. (Although we might disagree about what "proper" funding is.)

And I have definitely not extolled the virtues of other forms of travel over riding the rails. In fact, just the opposite - I have made several posts about how much I enjoy traveling by train.
 

railiner

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The Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Secret Service, IRS, FCC, SEC, FDOT and other Gov't "services" do not need to sell tickets to obtain their budget. No one complains if they do not "make a profit" and have to be given money to operate. They are granted a budget that will meet ALL of their expected expenses for the year.

That is what I mean by "Fully Funded".
How you can compare Amtrak, to those other mentioned government services, is baffling.
Maybe you think that Amtrak should not charge any fares, but offer their services free of charge? Let the taxpayer's pay for your entire ride?
Fully funded, indeed....:rolleyes:
 

jis

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What’s the actual fuel efficiency of a long-distance train? Most of the arguments in favor of fuel efficiency for passenger rail (that I’ve seen, anyway) use data that are based on a commuter train. So, a locomotive pulling somewhere between 500 and 1000 passengers in 7 or 8 cars or what have you.

On a good day, a LD train might typically carry 300 or so at its max load point.

Some time back, someone posted on here real-world fuel burn numbers for a transcontinental flight vs. that of a long-distance train calculated based on data that I believe they obtained from whatever public info Amtrak releases. The results...were not favorable to Amtrak LD trains in terms of fuel burn per passenger-mile.
Indeed, one of the fundamental problems that Amtrak LD service faces is the ridiculously low capacity per train. Railroading is most efficient when large numbers of people are carried, and when there is a single train a day, that train needs to carry very large number of people to be both cost efficient and energy efficient.

If you want to see what energy efficient LD service looks like, you have to look at China, Russia or India, and the leisure traveling contingent of Amtrak may not really like it all that much. They need the very space that makes Amtrak not as energy efficient as it could be. It just carries too much metal around for too few passengers.

The fact that none of the LD route is electrified also works against pontetial lowering of environmental impact (after all those coal burning plants are discontinued that is. Though the coal burning plants with scrubbers are actually not worse than diesel engines necessarily. It is the Carbon emiission that can be lowered by getting rid of them and replacing them with alternative source, something that is possible to do with electrified railroads.
 

Ryan

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I’m pretty sure that Amtrak has done a lot of research into advertising and it’s effectiveness - especially because they have advertised in the past.
Like the research they did into meals and dining service ....
Is your claim that Amtrak did no research on meals and dining service? Based on... They didn't as you?

[citation needed]
 

daybeers

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What’s the actual fuel efficiency of a long-distance train? Most of the arguments in favor of fuel efficiency for passenger rail (that I’ve seen, anyway) use data that are based on a commuter train. So, a locomotive pulling somewhere between 500 and 1000 passengers in 7 or 8 cars or what have you.

On a good day, a LD train might typically carry 300 or so at its max load point.

Some time back, someone posted on here real-world fuel burn numbers for a transcontinental flight vs. that of a long-distance train calculated based on data that I believe they obtained from whatever public info Amtrak releases. The results...were not favorable to Amtrak LD trains in terms of fuel burn per passenger-mile.
I believe long-distance coach bus is more efficient on a per passenger mile basis than long-distance Amtrak. Part of that is from the frequency. Ridership goes up exponentially the more service is added, especially if you're talking about moving from once per day to a few, or (dear help us) three days a week to daily.

The problem is the current GE Genesis series engines are terribly inefficient and pollute like volcanoes and the Superliner coaches they pull are tanks. The Siemens Chargers will be much better, but there needs to be so much more electrification because those still burn diesel, which is never "clean". Wind and solar are clean. Train travel needs to be competitive to air travel in the U.S. It's not sustainable for so many people to fly. The annual carbon budget everyone should have is almost entirely taken up by the emissions from one passenger on one round-trip flight New York-London or New York-San Francisco.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming people for their choice to fly. The infrastructure all across the United States in nearly every category is crumbling: interstates, bridges, runways, airports, railroads, ports, public transportation, water, broadband internet.....but it desperately needs help.

The climate crisis is looming and we can't continue on the path we're on, with so many people driving and flying everywhere.
 

ShiningTimeStL

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I could come up with a list of 100 things Amtrak can do right now with no additional funding or permission from the government to increase profits and ridership. There is a whole class of people in this country who ride long distance buses and other similar modes of travel who would gladly ride Amtrak from coast to coast, even in coach, on a semi regular basis if it was reasonably affordable and punctual. Big Freight and Amtrak management are the real killers. In essence, corporate greed and corruption are what cause Amtrak to fail. If the right people were put in charge of Amtrak and they were empowered to be able to stand up to Big Freight, Amtrak as a whole could turn a significant profit within a year, if not for the pandemic. But that's just my take. What do I know, I'm one of those millennials that's supposedly to blame for the downfall of traditional dining and whatnot.
 
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jruff001

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If the right people were put in charge of Amtrak and they were empowered to be able to stand up to Big Freight, Amtrak as a whole could turn a significant profit within a year, if not for the pandemic.
I think you are overestimating the leverage Amtrak currently has over Big Freight.

Also it will take a lot more than just on-time LD trains to make Amtrak profitable.
 

ShiningTimeStL

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Oh I understand Big Freight's leverage over Congress, particularly the cherry flavored parts. How then could Amtrak have any kind of leverage over freight? Amtrak can't make any kind of change to scheduling, consist length, route, or a whole slew of other things without the host railroad going ballistic and asking for billions of dollars in track and signaling upgrades.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Some time back, someone posted on here real-world fuel burn numbers for a transcontinental flight vs. that of a long-distance train calculated based on data that I believe they obtained from whatever public info Amtrak releases. The results...were not favorable to Amtrak LD trains in terms of fuel burn per passenger-mile.
That post was a fruit salad of apples and oranges comparisons. The author chose a very specific aircraft and flight profile representing a best-case scenario for the airline whereas on the passenger rail side he used more general real world figures that included an assortment of stops, delays, and decades old hardware. The figures were likely true but also largely irrelevant. An aircraft that attempted to replicate the route of a long-haul passenger train would be a very inefficient operation by comparison. Most airports/airstrips near Amtrak long haul stops are incapable of handling the aircraft presented as competition in that post, most passengers aren't using Amtrak for transcontinental trips, and when I searched for a trip that included both options from my home station and airport none were available. That is not to say there was no value in the post, but it was mostly in the form of an edge case anecdote rather than the vast sea change in efficiency as presented by the author.

Also, the same people who espouse the environmental benefit of Amtrak don’t want to see any reduction in service (unlike the airlines) during this crisis. That seems to be inconsistent.
There is an established history of temporary suspensions quietly morphing into permanent reductions and once a route or frequency is suspended it can be very difficult to bring it back again. This unfortunate reality makes otherwise rational rollbacks disconcerting to many.
 
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tgstubbs1

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The only problem with Amtrak's fuel efficiency is the lack of passengers. Planes don't compare well to a full train. This chart uses a Boeing 737 at 82% capacity. Not the newest, most efficient plane, but the most flown plane overall.
1597275942095.png
 

Skyline

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Like the research they did into meals and dining service ....

It is more likely they had the budget reduced so that advertising went the same route good food went - only sooner

They did a lot of things in the past they no longer do - not because it isn't wanted, needed or appreciated ... those things fell to budget cuts in the far-fetched idea they should "make a profit" when they should be a Gov't service NOT a Gov't "Company"

Public transportation, especially the transport of PEOPLE, should be viewed as necessary infrastructure. Just like highways, waterways, bridges, dams, air traffic control, sewers, tunnels . . . we should all get the point. User fees can cover a percentage of the cost of providing this infrastructure where feasible, but tax dollars cover the rest.

Politicians demagogue this to death -- especially regarding Amtrak and regional commuter transportation -- just to create advertising and talking points they hope the public will swallow. But many of the same politicians and/or political parties see no problem with ponying up half a billion here and there to build new stadiums for sports teams. Crazy?
 
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