What will the LD network look like in FY 2021?

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Palmland

OBS Chief
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May 25, 2006
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As reported recently, Amtrak will be reducing its operations with FY21 due to the anticipated significant reduction in ridership that is expected. The level of reduction depends on receiving supplemental federal funding. So, I thought it would be interesting (fun?) to speculate on what that would mean to the LD network. Assume the additional funding is received and Amtrak proceeds on the basis they said ”shifting nearly all long distance routes to less-than-daily service”. The exception apparently is Auto Train.

Looking desperately for a silver lining in all this, I think it’s safe to say that equipment availability for both Superliners and Viewliners will not be an issue. That opens the possibility of changing the make up of trains and running them outside of their normal territory – with Viewliners now solely in the east and Superliners mostly in the west. So what would you do if you had to make those tough choices? I’ll speculate just on the part of the network I know best, the Silver Service.

Silver Service is unique in that there are three trains that cover much of the same territory and in Amtrak’s letter, they in fact said the three would be consolidated but gave no details. I am going to assume that this includes not only the Meteor, Star, Palmetto but also the Carolinian since NC would be looking for a way to retain that train but cut its costs. I think the objective should be one through train from NY to Miami and one daytime train that serves the cities now served by the Palmetto, Star, and Carolinian. Both trains should be daily as less than daily doesn’t save that much, loses ridership and confuses everyone. Many crew starts would be eliminated including all of the Star route and reduced frequency NYP-Richmond as well as the Palmetto south of Florence, SC (a current crew change station).

The Meteor would continue on its present route with the southbound schedule an hour later to provide better times for morning arrival in Charleston and Savannah. Northbound the schedule would be two hours later for better arrival times in Richmond. A separate train would operate Orlando-Tampa-Miami on a reduced frequency basis.

The Carolinian would live up to its name. It would leave an hour later ((Palmetto’s time slot) out of NYP to better connect with inbound regional service. At Richmond a Florence, SC section would split and serve Rocky Mount, Wilson Selma, Fayetteville and Florence. The relatively recent additional run thru track in the station could handle this switching. It would leave a half hour or so behind the Carolinian. At Florence thruway buses would connect to Kingstree and Charleston (and maybe a new one to Myrtle Beach). The Carolinian would continue non stop to Raleigh. There it would split again with a section operating on the Star’s route to Columbia. The remainder of the train would continue to Charlotte as it does now.

The Meteor would have full services, such as they are. The Carolinian would have two cafes for each section splitting at Richmond with only one operating into Richmond. No café Raleigh to Columbia (maybe an NC car with vending.) What brainstorming ideas can you come up with om a new look LD network? And let'shope all routes soon returns to ‘normal’!
 

MikeM

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Jun 2, 2009
Messages
508
If Amtrak management holds to the idea of making most LD trains three days a week, I suspect we'll be seeing lots of "Sunset Limited" trains that are hard to plan on, have extravagant overhead relative to passenger loads, and result in railroads later on asking for major payments to resume daily trains. I don't see much equipment moving around between East coast and LD trains. Dinner in a box may be an ongoing "savings", along with reductions in capacity. Seriously doubt Amtrak would take the opportunity to refurbish Superliners that are out of service, other than some minor cosmetics. Anything deeper, like redoing restrooms and interiors won't happen. If there is a change in congress and the White House, you could see things come back some, but the Railroads hate Amtrak LD, and they'll use any openings they can get from schedule reductions to lock Amtrak into new lower levels of train frequencies.
 

jiml

Conductor
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Feb 27, 2019
Messages
1,120
Since this another one of those fun speculative exercises, let's presume there will be greatly reduced service until ridership increases. My guess would be the only daily LD trains would be Auto Train, Lake Shore Limited, Palmetto and maybe the Coast Starlight. Others would probably drop to 3-4x weekly. Examples of how this could work where two trains serve the same endpoints might be Cardinal on present schedule, with Capitol Limited filling days it doesn't run (so 4x); Silvers running on alternate days, so still daily service between primary endpoints, but Tampa and other Star-only destinations 3x per week. A similar concept could be used with Texas Eagle only operating on days it connects with Sunset; Southwest Chief runs on days that combination doesn't serve Chicago-L.A. California Zephyr and Empire Builder would alternate days, maximizing equipment and crew utilization. Trans-border services would not resume, with possible exception of Cascades.
 

Eric in East County

Service Attendant
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When the Santa Fe’s Super Chief made its debut in 1937, it operated as a weekly service. It wasn’t until 1948 that Super Chief passengers had daily departures from Chicago and Los Angeles. If the SWC is reduced to 3 departures from Chicago and 3 from Los Angeles per week, we’ll still be better off than Super Chief passengers in 1937.

Eric & Pat
 

NativeSon5859

OBS Chief
Joined
Aug 5, 2003
Messages
936
In the appendix A of the letter, it said even the Sunset and Cardinal will be reduced. 2X a week?

Seeing as how #1/2 are based in my backyard, I'll just throw out what I'd like to see, knowing full well that it has maybe a 1% chance of happening. But I have to stay entertained somehow.

In an ideal world, I'd have #1 depart NOL at 9:00pm, overnight schedule to Houston, and you'd get to LAX around 5:30pm. This would allow for inbound connections from train #19. On the return, same thing. Schedule #2 so that it leaves LAX at say 7:00am, gets to NOL around 6:30am, in time to connect to train #20, which I'd have run one hour later. I'd rather see this than have the #1/2 schedules link up with the Starlight in LAX, but that's just me.

The Texas Eagle would just have to run with its own equipment all the way CHI-SAS-LAX (3X weekly?) since the new times in what I proposed above would involve massive schedule changes for #21/22 if they planned on keeping the SAS shuffle in tact. And that would mess up connections in CHI, so that's a no go.
 

Thirdrail7

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Silver Service is unique in that there are three trains that cover much of the same territory and in Amtrak’s letter, they in fact said the three would be consolidated but gave no details. I am going to assume that this includes not only the Meteor, Star, Palmetto but also the Carolinian since NC would be looking for a way to retain that train but cut its costs. I think the objective should be one through train from NY to Miami and one daytime train that serves the cities now served by the Palmetto, Star, and Carolinian. Both trains should be daily as less than daily doesn’t save that much, loses ridership and confuses everyone. Many crew starts would be eliminated including all of the Star route and reduced frequency NYP-Richmond as well as the Palmetto south of Florence, SC (a current crew change station).

Just so you know, the Silvers are currently on an alternating schedule. On days the Star runs, the Meteor doesn't. On days the Meteor runs, the Star doesn't. The Palmetto wasn't operating MON-THU between WAS-SAV for most of the month and the Carolinian wasn't operating at all.

So, it was already being done and can be continued if ridership doesn't pick up.

Additionally, I can't imagine any diversion of equipment outside of their normal territory. The whole idea of reducing frequencies is to reduce expenses. I expect to see equipment benched with the rest rotated to allow downtime.

As for the rest of the network, I wish I had an idea but I expect that putting their hands out to Senators while threatening to reduce their frequencies won't go over well....especially when you're still pressing for funds that will benefit the NEC..
 

neroden

Conductor
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Feb 23, 2014
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7,778
The advocacy campaign has already hit Congress -- 1100 emails in one day.

Add your voice.

The so-called long-distance trains are all going to be running daily in 2021 (with the possible exception of the Cardinal and Sunset, but they might be daily to). Because less than daily is *stupid* -- it ends up costing more money in lost revenue than it saves in operations costs, every single time. Congress is having this message delivered, and Bill Flynn is eventually going to have to decide whether to be sensible or listen to idiots.

I would expect, instead, *short consists*. Very short consists, to fit with low demand. Which is OK. So we won't have an equipment shortage, which relieves one problem.
 

Palmland

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May 25, 2006
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815
Yes, I’m aware of those changes. I just think daily service is better and the Silver service route is unique in that by restructuring all trains daily service can be maintained but still reduce crew starts. I am sure there are better options but Amtrak needs to do a little brainstorming and not just do the easy thing by reducing frequencies.
 

Skyline

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Feb 19, 2016
Messages
706
A way to save American LD pax trains is to seriously improve Covid-related sanitation, social distancing, pax screening upon boarding where possible, etc. and make sure the public knows about it so they won't be as afraid to travel. Also, emphasizing sleepers could play an important role in alleviating pax resistance but their cost to pax needs to be reduced to attract more pax. It may be time to separate fares/accommodations from food service and let sleeper pax decide where and how to eat on board -- at their cost. To better utilize diners, open them up to coach pax.

Where possible, add more sleepers if demand is there once lower prices and food options (above) are in effect. Since VIA seems to be reducing service and they have spare rolling stock anyway, maybe Amtrak could temporarily lease some heritage sleepers from Canada to operate on its single-level trains?
 

Palmland

OBS Chief
Joined
May 25, 2006
Messages
815
A way to save American LD pax trains is to seriously improve Covid-related sanitation, social distancing, pax screening upon boarding where possible, etc. and make sure the public knows about it so they won't be as afraid to travel. Also, emphasizing sleepers could play an important role in alleviating pax resistance but their cost to pax needs to be reduced to attract more pax. It may be time to separate fares/accommodations from food service and let sleeper pax decide where and how to eat on board -- at their cost. To better utilize diners, open them up to coach pax.

Where possible, add more sleepers if demand is there once lower prices and food options (above) are in effect. Since VIA seems to be reducing service and they have spare rolling stock anyway, maybe Amtrak could temporarily lease some heritage sleepers from Canada to operate on its single-level trains?
Now there's an idea. Wouldn't it be cool for Amtrak to 'borrow' the Canadian equipment and run it on the CZ. But, I'm afraid that's just us railfans talking.

Certainly the Cardinal is a train that could be reconfigured and return to a Superliner operation with a couple coaches and a SSL. Operate on a daylight schedule Washington to Cincinnati and Cincinnati to Chicago running on alternate days. And, using the VII sleepers, have a single level Capitol originating in NYP with a diner-sleeper-lounge serving all passengers. That could be the primary Chicago train with the LSL as primarily a daylight operation between key cities west of Cleveland but overnight from there into NYP with an early morning arrival to make connections with all northeast cities.

But my point is that this is a good time for Amtrak to experiment with different service levels on the routes and not just a dumbed down same old same old. Lots of good suggestions mentioned by others. Why doesn't Amtrak just ask us?
 
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Qapla

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Jul 15, 2019
Messages
923
I would expect, instead, *short consists*. Very short consists, to fit with low demand.
While this may happen, it is not the best idea. Instead of reducing the size of the consist they should remove every-other row of seats in coach alternating the left and right side of the cars ... and keep the length - that way social distancing would be in effect by default. They should also reduce the cost of sleepers to allow for more people to be able to afford them.
 

railiner

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When the Santa Fe’s Super Chief made its debut in 1937, it operated as a weekly service. It wasn’t until 1948 that Super Chief passengers had daily departures from Chicago and Los Angeles. If the SWC is reduced to 3 departures from Chicago and 3 from Los Angeles per week, we’ll still be better off than Super Chief passengers in 1937.

Eric & Pat
You forgot to mention that when the Super Chief started its once a week service between Chicago and Los Angeles, the Santa Fe had at least three other daily trains making that trip...not to mention the UP, and the Rock Island/SP trains also serving those end points...

So who was 'better off'?;)
 

railiner

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Mar 20, 2009
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It wouldn't be the first time...

View attachment 17616

Picture: Jean-Pierre Brossard - railpictures.ca
That looks more like VIA Rail is borrowing Amtrak equipment....
And certainly not 'the first time' for that. I recall one winter ('84), when Amtrak lent VIA a short 4 car train of Superliner cars (coach, coach-baggage, diner, and sleeper, plus F40, to test between Winnipeg and Edmonton on the 'Panorama' train.
 

jiml

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That looks more like VIA Rail is borrowing Amtrak equipment....
And certainly not 'the first time' for that. I recall one winter ('84), when Amtrak lent VIA a short 4 car train of Superliner cars (coach, coach-baggage, diner, and sleeper, plus F40, to test between Winnipeg and Edmonton on the 'Panorama' train.
That's the Adirondack on one of several occasions where Amtrak has been short of equipment, including following Hurricane Sandy and a couple of US Thanksgiving rushes. The dome came off at Albany.
 

railiner

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Mar 20, 2009
Messages
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That's the Adirondack on one of several occasions where Amtrak has been short of equipment, including following Hurricane Sandy and a couple of US Thanksgiving rushes. The dome came off at Albany.
Oh...sorry...I was just looking at the obvious Quebec location....
 

DCAKen

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2015
Messages
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Instead of reducing the size of the consist they should remove every-other row of seats in coach alternating the left and right side of the cars ... and keep the length - that way social distancing would be in effect by default.
Until you want to use that tray table...
 

west point

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If the general public keeps its attitude of not obeying distancing we may see a rush to travel in 2021 ?
 
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Thogo

Train Attendant
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Oct 19, 2015
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Well, as for the Silver Services/Palmetto/Carolinian, what I would do is keep train 91/92 running daily, turn 97/98 into a Boston-Richmond (NE Regional) round trip running roughly on the Silver Meteor schedule slot between New York and Richmond, but using the Palmetto (or regular NE Regional) equipment. Instead extend 89/90's schedule to Miami (for an arrival in Miami around 9 am and departure around 9 pm the same day, saving one train set in comparison to the Silver Meteor schedules) using the Silver Meteor equipment. Then combine 79/80 with the Silver Star between New York and Raleigh. That would reduce the departures on the A line segment between Petersburg and Savannah from two to one per day each way (at least for stations now served by the Meteor), but that seems reasonable (and the daytime departures are kept). If holiday traffic to Florida warrants, one can always add more cars to either train.

I don't think any other LD trains could use any cuts in frequency or route. The service already is marginal and nowhere near a useful network, cutting it further reduces what little usefulness remains. Running shorter consists on an as-much-as-needed basis might be enough.
 

Green Maned Lion

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There are some, as my governor so childishly labels them, knuckleheads who aren’t obeying social distancing in hard hit areas, they are truly the minority. If you think that Amtrak is going to crack 20 million riders again this decade, I think you have a great deal of wishful thinking.
 

Skyline

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There are some, as my governor so childishly labels them, knuckleheads who aren’t obeying social distancing in hard hit areas, they are truly the minority. If you think that Amtrak is going to crack 20 million riders again this decade, I think you have a great deal of wishful thinking.
I live in Trump Country, rural Shenandoah Valley Virginia. In spite of new Governor's orders mandating face masks inside buildings almost everywhere and on mass transit (which we don't even have!), about a third of the shoppers I saw yesterday at WalMart and Food Lion were maskless (new word!). I actually know some of these folks, and their political leanings. Others, proudly sporting Trump 2020 gear, leave no doubt.

These aren't just knuckleheads. They are part of a political movement led by a President who -- among many other affectations -- refuses to wear a face mask. They are contributing to the pandemic and in a way that promises more deaths. They and their leadership don't care.
 

Green Maned Lion

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I try to avoid putting a political bent on things that don’t need to be politicized. People who are objecting to the the concept that their freedom can be impinged upon in the name of other people’s freedom to not live in fear of catching this disease are, non-partisanly, selfish boogermonkeys. It’s not just a political thing; I know some people who feel that way who don’t support the politics you speak of.

So I just prefer to think of them as selfish jerks, and people who don’t support freedom. Freedom can only reasonably exist when people can be free to not be directed to wear a mask because, simply enough, they understand that they should do so out of respect for their fellow man- and do it without being so requested.

I support freedom fully. People can hold whatever opinions they want, on any subject whatsoever, however repugnant they are to me, and I will defend, to my own death, their right to do so. They can do that under the conditions that they follow the norms, laws, and rules of society, even as they vehemently protest them. People have a right to hate, they have a right to be angry, they have a right to have malice in their hearts and in their souls- so long as they don’t act upon them in a wrongful manner.

I hate masks. I hate this social distancing malarkey. In fact, I think the entire response to the Coronavirus is wrong headed, and that the direct loss of human life that would have occurred with a much more reasonable response is worth the reduced damage that would have happened to the economy.

That is irrelevant. I don’t hate the masks enough to bring risks upon my community. Unless I move out into the wilderness and live off the land, I have to abide a reasonable duty of care and respect for my fellow man.

So stop seeing this as left or right or red or blue. All of that is just upside down. Love thy neighbor as you love thyself. Wear the damned mask.
 

tricia

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I live in Trump Country, rural Shenandoah Valley Virginia. In spite of new Governor's orders mandating face masks inside buildings almost everywhere and on mass transit (which we don't even have!), about a third of the shoppers I saw yesterday at WalMart and Food Lion were maskless (new word!). I actually know some of these folks, and their political leanings. Others, proudly sporting Trump 2020 gear, leave no doubt.

These aren't just knuckleheads. They are part of a political movement led by a President who -- among many other affectations -- refuses to wear a face mask. They are contributing to the pandemic and in a way that promises more deaths. They and their leadership don't care.
You might consider talking with store management about this. If they know that allowing customers to not wear facial coverings is driving away customers concerned about virus transmission, they might be more inclined to enforce a rule of no mask, no entry to the store.
 

Palmland

OBS Chief
Joined
May 25, 2006
Messages
815
I try to avoid putting a political bent on things that don’t need to be politicized. People who are objecting to the the concept that their freedom can be impinged upon in the name of other people’s freedom to not live in fear of catching this disease are, non-partisanly, selfish boogermonkeys. It’s not just a political thing; I know some people who feel that way who don’t support the politics you speak of.

So I just prefer to think of them as selfish jerks, and people who don’t support freedom. Freedom can only reasonably exist when people can be free to not be directed to wear a mask because, simply enough, they understand that they should do so out of respect for their fellow man- and do it without being so requested.

I support freedom fully. People can hold whatever opinions they want, on any subject whatsoever, however repugnant they are to me, and I will defend, to my own death, their right to do so. They can do that under the conditions that they follow the norms, laws, and rules of society, even as they vehemently protest them. People have a right to hate, they have a right to be angry, they have a right to have malice in their hearts and in their souls- so long as they don’t act upon them in a wrongful manner.

I hate masks. I hate this social distancing malarkey. In fact, I think the entire response to the Coronavirus is wrong headed, and that the direct loss of human life that would have occurred with a much more reasonable response is worth the reduced damage that would have happened to the economy.

That is irrelevant. I don’t hate the masks enough to bring risks upon my community. Unless I move out into the wilderness and live off the land, I have to abide a reasonable duty of care and respect for my fellow man.

So stop seeing this as left or right or red or blue. All of that is just upside down. Love thy neighbor as you love thyself. Wear the damned mask.
Well said, GML. It is unfortunate that a medical issue has become a political one. But that die has been cast. We can do our part by not participating in that polarizing discussion. Let's talk about the LD network, and leave the mask discussion to the politicians who are all pretty clueless.
 
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