What Should Amtrak Change?

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TheCrescent

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It is both politically and practically naive to believe that it is even possible to spend all, or even a substantial portion beyond what is clearly specified in the legislation, of the $66 Billion, on the NEC without facing significant rescission threat. The language in the legislation does not allow anything of the sort. I would urge people to please read the legislation before coming up with pie in the sky ideas for how an actual appropriation should be spent.

Bill Flynn has already stated that a significant portion of $44B of the funds will be spent on the NEC. He stated that repeatedly. I have read the legislation.
 
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The first thing Amtrak should change is its "leadership". Their failures since Covid began are extensive and the result of inability to make the right decisions, incompetence, and possibly intentional efforts to make LD service untenable in spite of their charter. And those failures have been part of a continuing failure prior to that time.

A clean sweep, now that new leadership can come up with the best use for the new money.
 
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Secondly, there are far too many people who take one train ride and then say "never again" because the train was six hours late. Amtrak needs to get the trains running on time. Every dollar they spend on lawyers to fight corrupt freight railroad execs in the courts or at the STB, every dollar they spend on buying track out from under the freight railroad execs, will reap far more ridership than any price changes ever could.
I don't think buying track is the answer. Having the government using eminent domain to take the dispatching, IMHO, will work better. The FAA runs airline dispatching.

It's not the track ownership that is the problem. It is the use and sharing of the track. Brightline and FEC Railway did it right - they set up a separate company to take requests from both railroads and do the dispatching. Class 1s will never voluntarily give up their "ownership" of dispatching so it needs to be done by someone independent of them. Buying dispatching should cost mush less than buying all that track property.
 

jis

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Bill Flynn has already stated that a significant portion of $44B of the funds will be spent on the NEC. He stated that repeatedly. I have read the legislation.
Yes. It is around $44 Billion of that pot, not the entire $66 Billion. It is spelled out in the legislation. There is nothing to argue about it. It is what it is.

The good news is that it is only part of the total funds available at the disposal of the NEC Commission. and the $44 Billion won't just benefit Amtrak. There are associated beneficiaries and there will be additional leveraged funds from states. For example, only half of the Gateway Tunnel is federally funded. The other half comes from the two states involved.

Afterall the biggest user of the NEC in NJ and through the Gateway Tunnels is not Amtrak. It is NJ Transit, and the biggest user of Penn Station is not Amtrak, it is LIRR. So of necessity it has to be a partnership among all with funds coming from multiple sources.
 

TheCrescent

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Yes. It is around $44 Billion of that pot, not the entire $66 Billion. It is spelled out in the legislation. There is nothing to argue about it. It is what it is.

The good news is that it is only part of the total funds available at the disposal of the NEC Commission. and the $44 Billion won't just benefit Amtrak. There are associated beneficiaries and there will be additional leveraged funds from states. For example, only half of the Gateway Tunnel is federally funded. The other half comes from the two states involved.

Afterall the biggest user of the NEC in NJ and through the Gateway Tunnels is not Amtrak. It is NJ Transit, and the biggest user of Penn Station is not Amtrak, it is LIRR. So of necessity it has to be a partnership among all with funds coming from multiple sources.

Yes. We're aware--particularly those of us who travel frequently on the NEC.
 

Ryan

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If we are serious about eliminating air travel along the Northeast Corridor, we need to build much better rail connections to the airports.
If we eliminate air travel along the NEC, nobody will have any reason to go to an airport. Someone going from Boston to Philly on the train almost certainly isn't going to need to get to the airport in either city.
 
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I see that you’re trying really hard to make friends online, but another approach might work better.
Let me make more of an effort to be diplomatic; I meant no offense, as I merely disagreed with you and was mindful of my language, but alas, let me try a different approach.

Everything you just described isn’t unique to the NEC. The midwest probably has some of the greatest potential for rail expansion in the country, and it would be foolish not to invest funds there. Trying to turn the LSL into a more corridor centric route rather than a LD train should be a focus.

Battery-operated locomotives are coming, and expensive electrification might not be needed soon.

Everything I’ve read, watched, and heard regarding battery operated locomotive suggests that it is a technology that will not get very far with rail travel (if you have sources saying otherwise, please do share). There might be some potential with freight, but if you’ve ever driven a Tesla, you’ll know that driving higher speeds renders that longevity of your battery useless.

For trains traveling faster than 79mph (which should be a goal of all corridor-based passenger rail), exclusively battery operated locomotives will be incredibly inefficient, and won’t work. Hybrid trains make more sense, which is why they are being discussed for Amfleet replacement Siemens train sets.
 
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If we eliminate air travel along the NEC, nobody will have any reason to go to an airport. Someone going from Boston to Philly on the train almost certainly isn't going to need to get to the airport in either city.
Tell that to all of the people who, for example, connect through JFK with a final destination somewhere else along the corridor.
 

jis

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Tell that to all of the people who, for example, connect through JFK with a final destination somewhere else along the corridor.
I think what good corridor service can substantially reduce is O/D air travel where both the O and D are on the corridor. Indeed people who are originating at a corridor location and connecting through another corridor airport to off corridor final destination or vice-versa would tend to still fly unless there is rail to air connection facilities as good as say at Amsterdam Schiphol at the main connect air hubs.

The present service patterns being discussed in NEC Futures seem not to be addressing that too seriously, so it is less likely to happen unless the approach changes.
 

JWM

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Frankly, a large amount of the Midwest track should be improved to FRA Class 7 Standards (125 mph) in order to make train travel more time competitive. Also, more direct routing on some runs as well. The Cincinnati-Chicago portion of the "Cardinal" is a sick joke. In 1952 the trip took 5:30 both ways. Today the "Cardinal" takes 9:19. It should be possible to upgrade the old New York Central/Illinois Central route with a lot of 125mph running as, once away from southeastern Indiana the route is flat. They could also pick up a lot of Indianapolis-Chicago traffic, too.
 
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...would tend to still fly unless there is rail to air connection facilities as good as say at Amsterdam Schiphol at the main connect air hubs.

Thus my comment...

If we are serious about eliminating air travel along the Northeast Corridor, we need to build much better rail connections to the airports.

Amsterdam Schipol is exactly what I had in mind.

Whether or not we have the public will to do it is another question. But my statement stands - if we genuinely want to eliminate air travel along the NEC we need much better rail connections to the airports.

That issue aside, it would be nice to see better partnerships between airports and Amtrak. For example, Hartford (BDL) could easily have a shuttle meet trains at the Windsor Locks the station. That would make the train a viable option over driving for people who live between New Haven and Vermont.
 
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jis

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Frankly, a large amount of the Midwest track should be improved to FRA Class 7 Standards (125 mph) in order to make train travel more time competitive. Also, more direct routing on some runs as well. The Cincinnati-Chicago portion of the "Cardinal" is a sick joke. In 1952 the trip took 5:30 both ways. Today the "Cardinal" takes 9:19. It should be possible to upgrade the old New York Central/Illinois Central route with a lot of 125mph running as, once away from southeastern Indiana the route is flat. They could also pick up a lot of Indianapolis-Chicago traffic, too.
I agree completely in principle. But to get to Class 7 it will cost quite a bit to handle all those grade crossings, which will have to be either closed or equipped with very expensive barriers or over/under passed. A first good step may be to go for universal Class 6 and then do selective stretches upgrade to Class 7 opportunistically, just to better manage the logistics and budgets and spread the goodiies out a bit more broadly.

But for heavens sake, please have someone other than the trio of Amtrak, Illinois DOT and UP manage it ;)
 
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I don't think buying track is the answer. Having the government using eminent domain to take the dispatching, IMHO, will work better. The FAA runs airline dispatching.

It's not the track ownership that is the problem. It is the use and sharing of the track. Brightline and FEC Railway did it right - they set up a separate company to take requests from both railroads and do the dispatching. Class 1s will never voluntarily give up their "ownership" of dispatching so it needs to be done by someone independent of them. Buying dispatching should cost mush less than buying all that track property.

I completely agree with this.
Neroden has a point, but I really think nationalizing dispatching will fix so many of the problems, and will have the best chance of actually happening, given it already exists in within the FAA.

Convincing the government to buy up tracks by the billions will be a hard sell. Convincing them to instead spend far less and just take control of dispatching may actually work.
 
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Neroden has a point, but I really think nationalizing dispatching will fix so many of the problems, and will have the best chance of actually happening, given it already exists elsewhere.
I wonder what the legality of this would be.

Nobody owns the air, so it was easy for the government to step in and take control of dispatching aircraft. And presumably airports welcomed air traffic controllers on their property for ground operations. (To complicate things, some smaller airports have contracted controllers who are not federal government employees.)

Whether or not eminent domain could be used to take over dispatching of private property is an interesting question.

Eminent domain is the stick, but perhaps a carrot would work better. The freight railroads could save money on dispatching if they just let the feds take over... and then the feds could institute fees once the ink is dry. 😝
 
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If we eliminate air travel along the NEC, nobody will have any reason to go to an airport. Someone going from Boston to Philly on the train almost certainly isn't going to need to get to the airport in either city.
Um! Nobody other than those in the NEC that want to go to Europe or Atlanta or Hawaii or DFW or China or ...

And of course, don't forget those those coming from all those places.

And think of the financial and convenience benefits to those from Mali or Latvia who want to get to Ocean City, NJ! They could fly into Philadelphia, Wilmington, JFK, Newark or the lowest cost airport that was convenient! :)
 

JWM

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I agree completely in principle. But to get to Class 7 it will cost quite a bit to handle all those grade crossings, which will have to be either closed or equipped with very expensive barriers or over/under passed. A first good step may be to go for universal Class 6 and then do selective stretches upgrade to Class 7 opportunistically, just to better manage the logistics and budgets and spread the goodiies out a bit more broadly.

But for heavens sake, please have someone other than the trio of Amtrak, Illinois DOT and UP manage it ;)
You are correct on the grade crossings, but they should be attended to. I have to add that the NEC allows Class 7 speeds with conventional
equipment in some areas. I remember three years ago going from Prague to Berlin on a Czech train having a wonderful dinner with nothing
moving on the table at about 200 Km/h. We can only dream. Want to see the next generation of overnight travel. Check out
Midnight Trains (midnight-trains.com) .
 

denmarks

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Give a first class amenity package to sleeper passengers. It could include sample toiletries, pad of paper, pen, deck of cards, comb, toothbrush, etc. I've seen some over the top packages in some high first class airlines. With the amount I am paying for a sleeper comparable to first class air travel why not include something that cost $5-10.

Include an entertainment system in rooms. There can be a selection of movies, view forward from the front of the train, and a map showing where the train is.
 

jis

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You are correct on the grade crossings, but they should be attended to.
Sure, it is just a question of dealing with the realities of funding.
I have to add that the NEC allows Class 7 speeds with conventional equipment in some areas.
Of course. There is no restriction on conventional (so called Tier I) equipment where the track is capable of handling 200kph on the NEC. But those are the areas that are sealed corridors, i.e. no grade crossings.
[/QUOTE]
 

Joe from PA

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Overall, I think Amtrak is doing fine with what they have. I rode Brightline when it first started running between West Palm and Lauderdale. The 45 minute trip took almost 2 hours to crawl passed the many in-town road crossings. Two people plus a few cars had previously been hit.
Now, as far as "wishing" goes...A open-back (old-style) observation car would have me forking over an extra $1,000. to ride the entire NYC to Miami trip in April. Start the trip in a coat, and end it in shorts. Would anyone else want to join me?
 

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joelkfla

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Give a first class amenity package to sleeper passengers. It could include sample toiletries, pad of paper, pen, deck of cards, comb, toothbrush, etc. I've seen some over the top packages in some high first class airlines. With the amount I am paying for a sleeper comparable to first class air travel why not include something that cost $5-10.

Include an entertainment system in rooms. There can be a selection of movies, view forward from the front of the train, and a map showing where the train is.
How many people don't travel with their own comb and toothbrush? Seems like a waste. It's different on an airplane, where most passengers don't have easy access to an overnight bag.

Pad & pen would be nice, and a few toiletry samples, but earplugs and sleep mask would be the most useful. Other items could be available from SCA upon request, with a note in the room stating so, as used to be the case for many hotel chains.
 

TheCrescent

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I still have a Viewliner mug and amenity kit from I think 1996, and back then they had video monitors in the rooms.

A sleep mask would useful for Amtrak to give as part of an amenity kit.
 
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If we eliminate air travel along the NEC, nobody will have any reason to go to an airport. Someone going from Boston to Philly on the train almost certainly isn't going to need to get to the airport in either city.
Sure, we'll have a reason to go to the airport. Let's say I wanted to fly to London, or New Delhi.......
Good connections to airports along the NEC would allow me to use any gateway airport along the line, thus maximizing my choice of non-stop flights for a US gateway. My only alternative is to take a puddle jumper from BWI to the gateway airports and change planes. I've done that, and it's not the most comfortable experience.
 

TheCrescent

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It is both politically and practically naive to believe that it is even possible to spend all, or even a substantial portion beyond what is clearly specified in the legislation, of the $66 Billion, on the NEC without facing significant rescission threat. The language in the legislation does not allow anything of the sort. I would urge people to please read the legislation before coming up with pie in the sky ideas for how an actual appropriation should be spent.

Trains magazine has a big article in the current issue about this exact topic, describing all of the NEC projects that will be funded through this legislation.
 
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