Would a better plan for Amtrak be more long distance?

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Larry H.

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I was watching televison a couple days ago and a critic of Amtrak was complaining about the suggestion of so many hubs around major eastern cities. His thought was not enough people would ride what is basically a commuter type system to make them work. Got me to thinking that perhaps it would make a lot more sense to provide more long distance trains that would provide much easier access to places we haven't been able to reach by train in a long time. Much of those hub locations don't really add a lot of advantage to what we have now location wise for travel? And the west is barely benefiting by these new plans. Going back to the actual routes Amtrak originally took over and then quickly dumped, would provide a much better advantage to people who wish to travel by rail than keeping them all mostly in the eastern half of the country
 

Tlcooper93

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There's probably several hundred pages worth of reading on this forum over the debate of Corridor/other vs. LD service.
At the end of the day, I don't think its really clear cut whether or not increased LD service (and therefore connecting more remote destinations) would be better for Amtrak.

The suggestion that not enough people would/will ride the NE corridor for any reason, is dubious. Pre pandemic, most NE Regionals and Acelas would sell out, and service fares were far more expensive than they needed to be because of this. If anything, increased service (hence the larger order of new Acelas) would help meet passenger demand.

I could get on board increased westbound service out of the major hubs (especially LSL, CL, and Cardinal). Indeed, increasing connections to the NE Corridor, and furthermore, ridership on the NEC I think is a good thing.
 

Larry H.

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The trouble is those three suggested trains all go to the same hub. We need more hubs so that people can easily take the train and not waste money and sometimes days, to go where they want to go. The northeast does well because its evidently convient, they might not be so busy if you had to travel many hours out of your way just to catch them. The demand in the west is simply unknown due to the lack of service.
 

Tlcooper93

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The trouble is those three suggested trains all go to the same hub. We need more hubs so that people can easily take the train and not waste money and sometimes days, to go where they want to go. The northeast does well because its evidently convient, they might not be so busy if you had to travel many hours out of your way just to catch them. The demand in the west is simply unknown due to the lack of service.
CL goes to WAS, LSL serves both NYP and BOS, and Cardinal serves NYP and in between hubs. All three go via different routes and serve different stations.
 

crescent-zephyr

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My personal belief is that Amtrak’s mission should be long distance trains and that corridors should be the responsibility of state(s). If a state wants to pay Amtrak (California, Michigan, etc.) to operate the corridor that’s fine. But all of Amtrak’s funding should go towards long distance trains connecting America.
 

Brian Battuello

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When we moved to the east coast, we did a lot of travelling up and down the NE corridor. It took me a while to figure out which legs could be done on commuter rail and which ones required Amtrak.

NYC - Philly..............Amtrak is best but you can do NJ Transit/SEPTA (changing in Trenton) if you are really masochistic
Philly-Baltimore.....Amtrak only
Baltimore-DC..........Amtrak or Marc/Penn. Amtrak slightly faster, Marc/Penn somewhat cheaper

As a frequent long-distance Amtrak rider, I've never really thought of the corridor service as a "feeder" to long distance, but then I don't live in one of the intermediate cities.
 

lordsigma

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When we moved to the east coast, we did a lot of travelling up and down the NE corridor. It took me a while to figure out which legs could be done on commuter rail and which ones required Amtrak.

NYC - Philly..............Amtrak is best but you can do NJ Transit/SEPTA (changing in Trenton) if you are really masochistic
Philly-Baltimore.....Amtrak only
Baltimore-DC..........Amtrak or Marc/Penn. Amtrak slightly faster, Marc/Penn somewhat cheaper

As a frequent long-distance Amtrak rider, I've never really thought of the corridor service as a "feeder" to long distance, but then I don't live in one of the intermediate cities.
It can be a feeder - it is for me most of the time I go - I take Springfield - New Haven corridor and NER to connect to long distance trains in NYC.
 

west point

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LD and corridor should be considered to be married at the hip. Each one can feed off the other at connecting locations. If the Atlanta station situation was not so dire then with the proposals it could become a great hub either both more LD and the proposed regional trips.
Some other possible hubs with both are============
BOS / BON;;; Springfield Ma;;; Albany;;; NY-NJ;;; WASH;;; Detroit;;; CLE;;; BUF;;; IND;;; Cincinnati;;; Pittsburg;;; Raleigh;;; CLT;;; JAX;;; NOL;;; MEM;;; STL;;; Kansas City;;; DEN;;; Minneapolis::: Houston;;; Dallas / Ft Worth;;; Omaha;;; Salt Lake City;;; Somewhere on EB and/or Pioneer route;;; ABQ;;; PHX;;; LAX;;; SFO;;; PDX / SEA
 

bratkinson

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On the surface, more hubs may seem like a good option. But the first question that comes to my mind is:

WHERE are you going to put them?
1. Cleveland? On it's one-track station with no room to put more tracks account the light rail line between the Amtrak track and the station?
2. Columbus? Numerous routes in and out of Columbus have been ripped up. And the station? I don't know.
3. Dayton? Routes have been ripped up, and the station that served them all was torn down about 1980.
4. Cinncinatti? Only one track left at CUS and the rest is an intermodal yard.
5. PIttsburgh? The PRR Panhandle line is mostly ripped up and the bridge is now light rail.
6. Atlanta? Peachtree Station is already a bottleneck for NS when a train is at the station. A new station would have to be built. Where?
7. Nashville? Start from scratch.
8. Chattanooga? At the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel?
9. Detroit? Don't even THINK about the former Michigan Central station now Ford Motor Company. Parking was and will soon be non-existent.
and on and on...

And more importantly, just HOW is one to convince the freight railroads to accept (more) passenger trains on THEIR track. Money? WHERE is THAT going to come from?

Ideally, the best place to start Amtrak expansion is to add frequencies to the existing LD routes. Even if some of them a portions of the route such as MSP-Fargo, or something like that. Having a choice of trains end to end is how to lure passengers back to rail. And more importantly, it reduces the station overhead allocated to each train, thereby effectively reducing the costs of running an extra LD train or two on a route.

And finally, got cars & locomotives? The lethargic pace of fleet replacement is a direct result of short sighted management and even shorter sighted Congress. Any and all expansion has to START in Congress!
 

Cal

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This is one very long and subjective debate. They both benefit each-other, one would be more inclined to take the train if there's an easy connection to their suburb than having to drive downtown to the station first. But I think that I agree with @crescent-zephyr, where Amtrak should focus on expanding LD service and let the states handle corridors. There are so many gaps in the national network that could and should be patched up.
 

George Harris

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As to the NJT-SEPTA between NY and Philly: something like 25 years ago I had the need to make several trips between Newark and DC, and would frequently find the trains stated as being sold out. What worked more than once was to do the NJT-SEPTA routine and then get Amtrak out of Philly. From Philly south there would be plenty of space on all the Amtrak trains that I rode. NJT wasn't to bad for speed, but SEPTA was bus route local and slow. Took me about an hour more than if I could have gotten Amtrak all the way. The company would not pay for Acela, so it was regular all the way, and I sure wasn't paying a premium for the relatively small time saving when it was out of pocket. Schedules were coordinated and NJT would even sell through tickets between Newark and Philadelphia, so there was no need to jump off and get another ticket. Plus they were quite a bit cheaper than Amtrak.
 
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Qapla

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Depending on the actual definition of Long Distance ... there are things that definitely need improvement. You used to be able to go from JAX to NOL but that has not been the case ever since Katrina. Although I can understand some of the complaints about the winding route from NOL to JAX when going through Pensacola, if there were a connection from Savannah to Atlanta it would certainly be better than having to go through DC to get from JAX to ATL or NOL.
 

neroden

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Ideally, the best place to start Amtrak expansion is to add frequencies to the existing LD routes. Even if some of them a portions of the route such as MSP-Fargo, or something like that. Having a choice of trains end to end is how to lure passengers back to rail. And more importantly, it reduces the station overhead allocated to each train, thereby effectively reducing the costs of running an extra LD train or two on a route.
If you watch NARP's April Day on the Hill presentation, you'll find that we've even got Stephen Gardner agreeing on this now -- saying this is a good way to start more corridors. I think the poltiical wind is finally behind making the three-a-weeks daily and making the dailies more than daily. The freights will fight it, sadly.

It's been what I've advocated for a while, so I hope progress is made. My first step proposal: TWO A DAY Chicago to New York via Syracuse!
 

Tlcooper93

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If you watch NARP's April Day on the Hill presentation, you'll find that we've even got Stephen Gardner agreeing on this now -- saying this is a good way to start more corridors. I think the poltiical wind is finally behind making the three-a-weeks daily and making the dailies more than daily. The freights will fight it, sadly.

It's been what I've advocated for a while, so I hope progress is made. My first step proposal: TWO A DAY Chicago to New York via Syracuse!
I don’t think Amtrak has sufficient rolling stock to support additional LD frequencies, unless these additional trains were to not have sleepers, which I suppose is a possibility.

ive always felt this is a pretty short sighted move on Amtrak’s part, and it kind of baffled me as to why they didn’t order more sleepers.
That said, sleeper train demand/popularity is kind of a new phenomenon.

At the end of the day, I think I would be behind additional corridor service over additional LD service (or turning certain city pairs on LD routes in to corridors). I know I may be in the minority here, so come what may.
 

MARC Rider

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The only place in the country where passenger rail actually has a significant market share is in the northeast. (Well, actually, in the Amtrak 5-year pkan, they noted that the Cascades actually has more market share than the airlines in the Seattle Portland service.) That's all corridor service. Amtrak's vision is apparently to start the work to bring similar type corridor service to other parts of the country.

Rail trips of 50 -500 miles are actually competitive with other transportation modes -- If the shorter trips can be done with point-to-point speeds of 55-60 mph, they can compete with driving, especially in series with heavy traffic. If they have a point-to-point average speed of 80-100 mph, they can compete with flying, at for trips of 200 miles or so, if you factor in all the airport time. The longer runs don't really compete on time, but derive their business from passengers taking trips between intermediate points, just like the long distance trains. If the runs become true long-distance trains, some of this utility is diminished, because there's a ,lot of route for the train to have its schedule disrupted, thus not making it a reliable choice.

The only reason long-distance trains are still funded by the taxpayers is because it's a sop to Members of Congress from rural districts to induce them to support funding for corridor trains serving larger metropolitan areas. You won't believe how provincial our federal system of government is, and that won't change until we amend the Constitution (or have another revolution) and set up at least one house of Congress that is elected on the basis of a nationwide election. Members will support all kinds of things that would surprise even their constituents if they get something more valuable for their districts in return. Why do you think the spending bills are all rolled up into monster "continuing resolutions" that even veteran reports don't have time to really read, let alone voters out in the hinterland? They focus on fights about one big issue, like say the border wall, while, meanwhile, Representative Rural from West Podunk can go under the radar and vote for funding for the NEC and not get turned out at the next election. I mean, he has to be "responsible" and vote to keep the country running, but it also helps if he can say, "well, I got funding to stop the overnight bus bridge on the West Podunk Superduper Chief that they were going to institute."

Long distance trains do have value in our transportation system, but, compared to what corridor trains can do, it's strictly secondary. Unless by some miracle the fiscal heavens open up and deluge Amtrak with cold hard cash, I think all we're going to see is the continuation of the existing long-distance network. If we're really lucky, they might be able to increase frequencies on some of the route s(like the Lake Shore Limited), or build corridors on the back of those existing routes. However, don't expect to see the revival of any classic abandoned long-distance routes any time soon.
 

Cal

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It's been what I've advocated for a while, so I hope progress is made. My first step proposal: TWO A DAY Chicago to New York via Syracuse!
Can we get a daily Sunset first? It has a lot of potential, being along 6 large cities (4 of them within the top 10 largest cities by population), and much of it could probably be made into 90mph. That is, if UP doesn't have a say in it.
 

George Harris

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Can we get a daily Sunset first? It has a lot of potential, being along 6 large cities (4 of them within the top 10 largest cities by population), and much of it could probably be made into 90mph. That is, if UP doesn't have a say in it.
Yes, a daily Sunset just screams "do me" logical. Much was made about the issue of track capacity in the past. But for three days a week or once a day either one, that is mostly red herring. For a while a few years back the UP started a program of double tracking the Sunset Route, at least from El Paso westward. Don't know how far that got before traffic changed or financial reality set in, but some of it was done. Thanks to the Tucumcari line (ex Golden State route), and the T&P east of Sierra Blanca TX, traffic east of these points is not as heavy as west thereof.
 

Bob Dylan

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Can we get a daily Sunset first? It has a lot of potential, being along 6 large cities (4 of them within the top 10 largest cities by population), and much of it could probably be made into 90mph. That is, if UP doesn't have a say in it.
I rather see a Daily Texas Eagle between Chicago and LAX, with a Stub Train from San Antonio to New Orleans as almost happened till Amtrak botched negotiations with UP a few years ago!
 

west point

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Let us look at the situation for the next 3 -5 years. The question is all about more rolling stock.

1. The SLEEPER situation is critical. Right now we do not know the reason for all available are not in service cars but suspect that will soon change ? For any additional sleepers to be purchased in a reasonable time ( despite CAF ) for more to come on line would be about 3 years from a RFP for additional cars that is issued by Amtrak. Both sleepers and coaches. So any new overnight LD trains will not get a sleeper(s). If the cardinal probably goes daily that will mean 1 or 2 single level sleepers needed to go for the Cardinal .That means that the Palmetto cannot be extended to MIA with a sleeper(s).

If the Eagle is extended to daily LAX and Sunset east of SAS goes to a daily single level that would not require any more Superliner sleepers. But more coaches. If Amtrak can refurbish some Superliner sleepers that would flesh out the sleeper lines along with the use of the transition dorms.

2. COACHES There is some 110 new single level coaches coming from Siemens. That will release the 70 or so present single levels Midwest that can go to other services. The Amtrak SLs leased by California may be released but is not required. That is a big unknown that Amtrak cannot count on until it happens. Also the Amfleets and comets are unknown. release and single level or Superliner coaches is a big unknown. California's release of the Amtrak super liners and single levels are not required once CA gets its Siemens cars. Only time will tell what Ca's passenger demand is going to be 3 + years.

If gulf coast service starts next Jan that will tie up at least 6 coaches plus a spare. The CHI - MSP second train will probably take 10 coaches + 2 spares. Some state supported routes will need a few more coaches such a Down-easter. New Haven - Springfield, Albany, Harrisburg, Carolinian Virginia services may take another 30 coaches. That leaves just 20 to start a second train on present LD routes. Based on loads I would suggest either CHI - Denver, or ATL - WASH / NYP day train.. That is hoping that there is no cars that are damaged beyond repair due to grade crossing incidents. Once again Amtrak needs to refurbish some coaches. However checking the employment section there is a large list of needed mechanics listed.

Siemens heavy rail cars are booked up so far with the deliveries to US carriers, North Carolina, Brightline, & Via && others. Then we have the 1500 new light rail cars for various agencies in US and Canada. So will Amtrak award Siemens a contract or order a substandard car(s) from some one else? Siemens can expand their plant but can they get skilled workers ?
EDIT- 75 new ALC-42s will probably keep the loco situation fluid if P-42 may get another overhaul ?
 
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McIntyre2K7

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LD and corridor should be considered to be married at the hip. Each one can feed off the other at connecting locations. If the Atlanta station situation was not so dire then with the proposals it could become a great hub either both more LD and the proposed regional trips.
Some other possible hubs with both are============
BOS / BON;;; Springfield Ma;;; Albany;;; NY-NJ;;; WASH;;; Detroit;;; CLE;;; BUF;;; IND;;; Cincinnati;;; Pittsburg;;; Raleigh;;; CLT;;; JAX;;; NOL;;; MEM;;; STL;;; Kansas City;;; DEN;;; Minneapolis::: Houston;;; Dallas / Ft Worth;;; Omaha;;; Salt Lake City;;; Somewhere on EB and/or Pioneer route;;; ABQ;;; PHX;;; LAX;;; SFO;;; PDX / SEA

I think 4 new hubs could work.

I have them in Atlanta, Louisville, St. Louis and Denver.

New LD route would include:

Chicago/Louisville/Nashville/Atlanta
St. Louis/Louisville/Cincinnati/Cleveland/Buffalo
Atlanta/Jacksonville/Orlando/Tampa/Miami
Cheyenne/Denver/Albuquerque/El Paso
St. Louis/Denver/Vegas/LA
Seattle/Boise/Salt Lake/Provo/Denver

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Siegmund

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That said, sleeper train demand/popularity is kind of a new phenomenon.
Eh? In the 80s, I saw sold-out sleepers on almost every train I rode; sold-out coaches only once on the Coast Starlight.

I am told that the pre-Amtrak Bay Area to LA overnight train ran with something like 10 sleepers and 2 coaches. Meanwhile the Spirit of California was usually assigned 1 or occasionally 2 sleepers and ~4 Amfleets, assuming pictures on the web are representative.

Sleeper shortages pre-Superliner resulted in the Pioneer and the Mountaineer, among others, running overnight coach-only temporarily in the 70s.

Money is, of course, always an issue -- but it seems that sleeper shortages have been more common than coach shortages throughout Amtrak's history.
 
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