Why aren't overnight trains able to compete with flying?

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Exvalley

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One thing the airlines have figured out is how to extract money from business trave
Certainly people travel to Orlando and Vegas for business, I know I have!
Both of those cities have a very robust convention business.
 

Tlcooper93

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Well... depends on the airline and the time of flight. Certainly people travel to Orlando and Vegas for business, I know I have! But I’ve been on flights to both where the vast majority were certainly in tourist mode.

I’m trying to think if I’ve ever been on a flight that seemed as exclusively business as the Acela between Washington and NYP.
The difference in purpose of travel between Acela passengers and NE Regional passengers is remarkable. The type of people you encounter on the Acela (especially in first class) is mostly non-leisure travel.
Very interesting!

Of course, this is undoubtedly due to the fact that Boston, NYC and DC are all on the Acela route.
 
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Bob Dylan

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Well... depends on the airline and the time of flight. Certainly people travel to Orlando and Vegas for business, I know I have! But I’ve been on flights to both where the vast majority were certainly in tourist mode.

I’m trying to think if I’ve ever been on a flight that seemed as exclusively business as the Acela between Washington and NYP.
In the old days of the "Eastern Shuttle" between Washington,Boston.and New York, there were mostly Business Travelers during the week, and on the Metro Liners and Acelas on the NE then and now.
 

nendee

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many in business go to vegas or Orlando at least twice a year (pre-Covid). Technology/Business-conventions are a must attend for many in business.
 

Trollopian

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The problem with battery technology is only now the environmental impact of manufacturing them and disposing of old ones starting to get attention. Advocating them as the ideal replacement for fossil fuels may amount to short-term virtue signalling more than actual practicality.
And the environmental cost of the electric power generation required to recharge them. Most of the U.S. grid is still "dirty" and reliant on fossil fuels, especially to satisfy marginal demand. An interesting article on why the environmental benefits of electric vehicles are probably exaggerated: Is It Time to Go “All In” on Electric Vehicles? | Econofact.

The U.S. likes subsidies and dislikes taxes. Never mind that a carbon tax is the obvious way to go and would let the market, not central planners, pick the winners and losers.
 

Exvalley

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And the environmental cost of the electric power generation required to recharge them. Most of the U.S. grid is still "dirty" and reliant on fossil fuels, especially to satisfy marginal demand.
I agree with you that our grid is much "dirtier" than it should be.

However, EVs are still much cleaner as far as fuel is concerned even if the fuel comes from coal or gas electric plants. This is because EVs are MUCH more efficient than gas powered vehicles. The article you cited completely failed to factor this in.

My EV goes about 240 miles on a full charge in warm weather. The energy equivalent of a full charge is equal to about 2.1 gallons of gasoline. If I use the heat, the range drops to about 130 miles in the winter, but that's equal to about 65 miles per gallon - and that's in the absolute worst winter weather.
 

Qapla

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I’ve never seen airplanes full of business travelers. Certainly you’ll see business travelers on an airplane but there are many routes (Orlando, Vegas) where you’re likely to see all tourists.
I think you are making my point ... many of the posts I read about LD travel not being practical seem to concentrate on "business" travel, especially when compared to flying - so, one would think that only business people fly.

The fact is, planes, trains and cars carry business and pleasure travelers on a regular basis and there are room for all these modes of transportation. Improving the rail system in this country does not mean the death of cars or planes - as many seem to make it sound.
 
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Like everything else, future technology will find a "greener" way to produce electric storage devices and recycle them when the time comes. And wind, solar, and hydro-electric production of electricity will make that "greener", as well....
 

DonNewcomb

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.......hey don't realize that it is actually faster than flying. .....
In cases where that's true, well and good. There are places, between which, it makes no sense to fly. Almost anywhere in the Acela corridor, for instance. In my particular case, any place between here and Atlanta, it's quicker to drive and any place beyond Atlanta, it's more convenient to fly. The train's only on the radar for whimsy's sake.
 

George Harris

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I agree with you that our grid is much "dirtier" than it should be.

However, EVs are still much cleaner as far as fuel is concerned even if the fuel comes from coal or gas electric plants. This is because EVs are MUCH more efficient than gas powered vehicles. The article you cited completely failed to factor this in.

My EV goes about 240 miles on a full charge in warm weather. The energy equivalent of a full charge is equal to about 2.1 gallons of gasoline. If I use the heat, the range drops to about 130 miles in the winter, but that's equal to about 65 miles per gallon - and that's in the absolute worst winter weather.
These MPG equivalence numbers sound very extreme. I would love to see the calculations that produced these values. Also not being considered would be the needed increase in capacity of our electrical system, and the number of houses/apartments that would need upgrades in the capacity of their service entrances in order to have the capacity to charge the cars. Never forget the issues with materials, manufacturing, and disposal of the batteries. I am sure by now most of us have learned that batteries in our phones and computers have a finite life. Cars will not be any different, except the batteries will be MUCH larger.

When we go back to building large nuclear plants we might be getting more rational, but as long as we are generating electricity using current other-than-nuclear technology we won't be.

The reason we see no electrification on freight lines is that it makes no sense. We actually are electrified, it is just that the engine is carrying the power plant on its back. The weight on drivers is required for traction, particularly in territory with significant grades. The modern diesel is sufficiently efficient that it is questionable whether the efficiency of central plant generated BTU's produced would be enough to balance out transmission losses and additional system maintenance sufficiently to make it viable over the current diesel locomotive, which far exceeds that of steam locomotives or even the earlier diesel models.
 

Larry H.

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This no doubt has been pointed out already, I haven't read every page, but the cost is surely a factor. The article a couple days ago from a reporter between NY and Chicago pointed out it cost over 500 dollars in a roomette, the cheapest bedrooms on the trains, or to fly in a few hours for 80.00 or so dollars. That makes a big difference to many. Yes I enjoy the trip and time doesn't matter, but the fare structure from the days of "Streamliner" service in the 50s has changed putting ever more cost on a bedroom fare. I know some here will say not, but I distinctly recall in the early 60s that a step up to a room over the cost of coach was far less than they charge today. And often the trains ran with 5 or more sleepers for those cost. Not to mention usually deluxe first class lounges and often dinner and observation domes and rear fan tail seating. So we pay way more and in reality get a much downgraded product in many cases. Hopefully Amtrak is learning finally that people do want a decent meal other than a radar range heater substandard concoction they get to day, or did get for the past couple years. The person on the Lake Shore mentioned that the food was near junk status he couldn't even stand to eat. I had a couple of those my self on the City of New Orleans and that alone has often kept me from taking the train again. Who knows how many have been driven off by the mismanagement of the trains.
 

Danib62

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And the environmental cost of the electric power generation required to recharge them. Most of the U.S. grid is still "dirty" and reliant on fossil fuels, especially to satisfy marginal demand. An interesting article on why the environmental benefits of electric vehicles are probably exaggerated: Is It Time to Go “All In” on Electric Vehicles? | Econofact.

The U.S. likes subsidies and dislikes taxes. Never mind that a carbon tax is the obvious way to go and would let the market, not central planners, pick the winners and losers.
I agree with you that our grid is much "dirtier" than it should be.

However, EVs are still much cleaner as far as fuel is concerned even if the fuel comes from coal or gas electric plants. This is because EVs are MUCH more efficient than gas powered vehicles. The article you cited completely failed to factor this in.

My EV goes about 240 miles on a full charge in warm weather. The energy equivalent of a full charge is equal to about 2.1 gallons of gasoline. If I use the heat, the range drops to about 130 miles in the winter, but that's equal to about 65 miles per gallon - and that's in the absolute worst winter weather.
Also fails to consider that a gas car will always be a gas car whereas our mix of energy sources for electrical generation is transitioning more and more to renewables.
 

jruff001

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So, were the freight railroads actually "losing" money or just not making "enough profit" for the bean counters?
From my understanding (which does not include purely speculative conspiracy theories), in probably 99% of the cases they were actually losing money.

But, it really doesn't matter. If they could have made more money running a freight train over their limited infrastructure than they could have made running a passenger train, they would want to get rid of the passenger train. And in fact they would have had an obligation to their owners / shareholders to do so.

It's like wondering why an airline doesn't fly from A to B nonstop because "no doubt that route would be profitable." Maybe, but if it can use the same airplane to fly from C to D (or A to C, or whatever) nonstop instead and make even MORE money, that is what it is going to do with its limited resources.
 

zephyr17

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According the Fred Frailey in Twilight of the Great Trains, SP kept close track of directly attributable above the rail cost. If a train was breaking even, they'd leave it alone. Once it went in the red, they'd go after it. They then used allocated indirect costs to make cost performance look worse to regulators.

Also in Twilight of the Great Trains passenger-friendly Santa Fe, in deciding whether or not to join Amtrak, estimated that passenger losses would wipe out all freight profits by 1975 if Santa Fe had to operate their entire then existing fleet, as the legislation called for.

Yes, the losses were real. Bear in mind, to discontinue a train they had to prove it was a "burden" on interstate commerce to the ICC. They could not just discontinue trains at will.
 

crescent-zephyr

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It's like wondering why an airline doesn't fly from A to B nonstop because "no doubt that route would be profitable." Maybe, but if it can use the same airplane to fly from C to D (or A to C, or whatever) nonstop instead and make even MORE money, that is what it is going to do with its limited resources.
What major airlines (other than southwest) have flights that aren’t nonstop?
 

jis

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How do people tell if someone is traveling for business or pleasure just looking at them?

The reason I ask is that my entire department back in HP which was involved in standards and architecture work and endlessly traveled on business to various corners of the world to attend meetings, generally traveled in jeans and T shirt kind of outfit and half of them refused to pull out their laptops other than to watch movies on flight. How would you differentiate such a traveler from a leisure traveler?

For this reason I suspect the eyeballed estimate of business travelers is most likely an undercount.
 
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