Upcoming Amtrak LD Schedule Changes (2021)

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lizpackslight

Train Attendant
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May 9, 2021
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Alabama
That will indeed be interesting
It made for a pretty crowded station. I felt for the agent who called for boarding. She had no mic and had to yell instructions through her mask. It went fine, though. I saw only one person almost miss the Sunset and have to run for it.
 
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merkelman06

Train Attendant
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May 27, 2014
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NS does not handle the train any different with the new schedule vs the old, at least the first few days. Since going into effect on 6/6, it still loses an hour or more between MEI and BHM and has been an hour late or more into NOL every day since going daily. Of course we knew changing the schedule and added padding was not gonna help. Should have just left it on the old schedule if it’s not gonna make any difference.
 

bratkinson

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QB 101
Maybe about 10 years ago, Trains Magazine had a lengthy article about passenger train scheduling. The author had much input from the Amtrak 'schedule guru', who was near retirement at that time.

I got two major takeaways from the article:

1. Going back to early Amtrak, passengers much prefer a slow train that is usually on time vs a fast train that is rarely on time. Other than repeat passengers or railfans that remember such and such a train used to be scheduled for 18 hours and now it's 19 hours, few passengers would realize it's slower than it used to be.

2. A general 'rule' about schedules is that the train will 'consume' all the time in the schedule and then some. Lengthening the schedule does NOT mean it will be on time more often. Instead, it means conductors need not be so 'urgent' to get passengers off and on at each top. So the Crescent will become like the Lakeshore Ltd where 15-20 minute stops are normal at smaller stations. The same is true in business for most projects...projects will 'expand' to fill whatever time is allotted to them. In my contract programming days, we called it 'scope creep'.
 

zephyr17

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Norfolk Southern had better talk to its dispatchers; I sense a lawsuit coming next year if they don't start dispatching the train on time.
Or STB enforcement action once the 6 month monitoring only "grace" period is up.

At first glance, this may be shaping up to be the test whether the STB and FRA are willing to actually use their new passenger delay enforcement powers
 

IndyLions

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Isn’t there some sort of 6 months grace period before enforcement happens? Management could be telling the dispatchers to ignore passenger train priority for a while.

Or maybe they’re just unable to manage a network full of 3 mile trains because it’s impossible (and should never be allowed).

Probably the latter…
 

zephyr17

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What enforcement actions does the STB have available?
Probably fines, but the STB has a wide range of options. The problem was until now, no regulator had any authority to take enforcement action for Amtrak passenger delay, despite Amtrak's statutory right to priority.

The railroads fought this since 2008 when the law was passed and after it was upheld at the Supreme Court, then fought the passenger delay metric the STB proposed (all passengers delayed 15 minutes or more at their destination station). We are now in the 6 month "grace" period on the Crescent where the STB will monitor, but not take enforcement actions.

The RRs fought this hard for 12 years. Hopefully, the FRA and STB will take enforcement actions showing it was worthy of the fight.
 

zephyr17

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Isn’t there some sort of 6 months grace period before enforcement happens? Management could be telling the dispatchers to ignore passenger train priority for a while.

Or maybe they’re just unable to manage a network full of 3 mile trains because it’s impossible (and should never be allowed).

Probably the latter…
Yes, there is a 6 month period once the newly negotiated schedule comes into effect where the STB will monitor, but not take enforcement action.

Hopefully, after 6 months, if this keeps up, the STB will go to NS and say the results are bad, and going forward you will have x fine every day the passenger delay exceeds y.
 

Willbridge

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Denver
I think he is referring to the article many years ago featuring James Larson (spelling?)
I recognize the name from cc's on my correspondence with Art Lloyd (Western Amtrak PR and politics) in the early years of Amtrak. I think that James Larson was part of the inner circle at Amtrak of top managers who wanted to make a success of rail passenger service (see attached).

They've had some other good people in planning and scheduling but then there's a change at the top and people walk or are pushed out. David Gunn brought in well-regarded John Tucker from SEPTA. John's legacy was the addition of one round-trip to the Chicago--Milwaukee service while using one less train-set. He was gathering info for more (he interviewed me in Denver for almost two hours on Western lines), but he died before he could try making changes. I could mention more names but I think they're still doing consulting work.

And, yes, too much fat in a schedule will not cure schedule adherence issues. I experimented with gradually doing that on a bus route and had several bad results.
 

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railiner

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Jim Larson, was Amtrak's vice president of operation's. I had the good fortune to be permitted to ride a couple of "test train's" he ran back in the '80's when I was an employee. I wasn't aware of just what his involvement was in constructing schedules, other than overseeing them. He came to Amtrak from the C&NW, and with his creds, was a well-respected liason between Amtrak, and the host freight railroads.
I came across this publication attributed to him...click on the different images...

 

Palmland

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I came across this publication attributed to him...click on the different images...
Too bad this isn’t available. I suspect current day Amtrak could learn a lot from it. The phrase ‘those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it‘ comes to mind.

i wonder if Amtrak has hired any railroad dispatchers. I suspect many old heads are frustrated with their jobs now and could provide some insight and useful suggestions if hired by Amtrak.
 

Trogdor

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I think he is referring to the article many years ago featuring James Larson (spelling?)
That would have been far more than 10 years ago. From what I can tell, he retired in 1998, 12 years before I started there.
 

Trogdor

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Yes, hire a few in their operating department to work with freight railroads and keep them honest on developing schedules and measuring performance.
Amtrak already works closely with the freight railroads in developing schedules. Any schedule change over a host railroad has to be approved by that railroad, which, in theory, represents that railroad’s acceptance of responsibility to operate the train according to said schedule. Anything that doesn’t work operationally should already be identified by the host railroad prior to their approval.

I’m not sure what you think would be accomplished by hiring former freight railroad dispatchers that couldn’t already be accomplished by the freight railroads upholding their end of the bargain that they agree to whenever they approve a schedule change.
 

jis

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I get the impression that the core problem in this scheduling and OTP struggle is that in reality significantly more that 50% of the operations on many freight lines are what in airline dispatching parlance would be characterized as "Irregular Operations". Given the limited track resources for the demand that is placed on them together with essentially very loosy-goosy operating plan, if there is one at all, is it surprising that it is hard to keep anything on schedule according to what in reality is a non-existent plan? None of this is really accidental. It is a calculated tradeoff.
 

neroden

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Ithaca, NY
I get the impression that the core problem in this scheduling and OTP struggle is that in reality significantly more that 50% of the operations on many freight lines are what in airline dispatching parlance would be characterized as "Irregular Operations". Given the limited track resources for the demand that is placed on them together with essentially very loosy-goosy operating plan, if there is one at all, is it surprising that it is hard to keep anything on schedule according to what in reality is a non-existent plan? None of this is really accidental. It is a calculated tradeoff.
The repeated complaints from freight shippers that their cars aren't arriving on time do tend to point to total, utter incompetence at most of the Class I railroads -- at least CSX, NS, and CN. It seems like on many lines they are not running anything resembling regular operations of a railroad. This is actually why I support nationalization; it's not just for passenger service, it's needed for freight service too.
 
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