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You've been appointed President of Amtrak....with a catch

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ehbowen

Conductor
Joined
Mar 22, 2011
Messages
2,384
Location
Houston, Texas
My main reason for having a per trip limit on drinks is 1) drinks have a good mark up and 2) I wouldn't want to deal with the politics of giving away too many freebies to tourists. I'd rather burn political capital defending why I'm asking for a $300 billion dollar capital infusion and changing how routes are classified, since that would be the thing I would be gunning for.

As for other things offered in a Tavern, I would offer a daily food and drink tasting and/or brunch service on a daily basis. So I'm not really sure if having more than snacks would really be worthwhile. I do like the idea of a dessert service though.

I also think a "what would you do for "corridor" service" post would also be a fun follow up to this one.
I would agree; I would say that even on an "experiential" route a policy of, "Your first drink with dinner is on us!" is more than generous enough. If you leave it wide open, like airline first class, the Booze People will hammer you dry...and those who are not booze people will feel cheated.
 

jebr

Conductor
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
Joined
Jan 23, 2012
Messages
3,979
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"The Last Great City of the East," St. Paul, MN
Here's my plan, playing to the letter of the rules but perhaps not the spirit of the rules :) :

Since I don't have to worry too much about freight interference, coast-to-coast trains aren't nearly as big of an issue. With some key spare sets in major cities (Chicago being especially important, but also some spare equipment in LA and perhaps a bit cobbled together from corridor equipment if needed) we could still have reliable service by truncating trains if there's major delays due to Amtrak equipment or weather.

Thus, here are my trains:

Five experiential trains:
1. Seattle/Portland - Chicago - Philadelphia/DC - Miami. The timings will align with the Empire Builder, the Capitol Limited, and the Silver Meteor. Cutaway cars would cut of in Pittsburgh and run to Philadelphia.
2. Emeryville - Chicago - Charlottesville - DC. Timings would follow the California Zephyr and the Cardinal.
3. Seattle - Los Angeles - New Orleans - Orlando. Timings would align with the Coast Starlight and the Sunset Limited, with the eastbound times between LA and San Antonio pushed ahead one hour (so an 11 PM departure from LA.)
4. New Orleans - DC - Tampa - Miami. Follows the timetables of the Crescent and Silver Star, but we'll have cutaway sleepers attaching each run at DC to serve the full NEC. (That's how I'll use my one 750-mile section, so one section "splits" to Boston while the rest of the train goes to Orlando.)
5. Chicago - Buffalo - NYC/Boston. Same as the LSL today.

Five standard trains:
1. Los Angeles - Kansas City - Chicago - New Orleans. This will follow the Southwest Chief and City of New Orleans schedule/timetable.
2. Portland - Boise - Salt Lake City - Las Vegas - Los Angeles. This would be timed to connect with the #2 experiential train that replaces the Zephyr.
3. A third daily train Boston - Miami. This would replace/extend the Palmetto.
4. San Antonio - Chicago. This would allow daily service along the Texas Eagle route, with a timed transfer offered between the old Sunset Limited and the Texas Eagle. (No thru cars or run all the way to save on Superliner cars that would likely need to be used to make a few of the experiential trains happen.)
5. St. Paul - Chicago - Atlanta - Miami. Basically a new Floridian from Chicago to Florida, but since I'm from St. Paul we'll start it up here just for fun.

If I've done the math right, and assuming I haven't completely went overboard with equipment (hopefully the two sets from the Auto Train are enough to fill in the gaps) we should have all the mileage covered that we currently have today, with a restored Pioneer, Desert Wind, extension to Orlando for the Sunset Limited, and a Chicago/Florida train.
 

Bob Dylan

Conductor
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
20,747
Location
Austin Texas
Here's my plan, playing to the letter of the rules but perhaps not the spirit of the rules :) :

Since I don't have to worry too much about freight interference, coast-to-coast trains aren't nearly as big of an issue. With some key spare sets in major cities (Chicago being especially important, but also some spare equipment in LA and perhaps a bit cobbled together from corridor equipment if needed) we could still have reliable service by truncating trains if there's major delays due to Amtrak equipment or weather.

Thus, here are my trains:

Five experiential trains:
1. Seattle/Portland - Chicago - Philadelphia/DC - Miami. The timings will align with the Empire Builder, the Capitol Limited, and the Silver Meteor. Cutaway cars would cut of in Pittsburgh and run to Philadelphia.
2. Emeryville - Chicago - Charlottesville - DC. Timings would follow the California Zephyr and the Cardinal.
3. Seattle - Los Angeles - New Orleans - Orlando. Timings would align with the Coast Starlight and the Sunset Limited, with the eastbound times between LA and San Antonio pushed ahead one hour (so an 11 PM departure from LA.)
4. New Orleans - DC - Tampa - Miami. Follows the timetables of the Crescent and Silver Star, but we'll have cutaway sleepers attaching each run at DC to serve the full NEC. (That's how I'll use my one 750-mile section, so one section "splits" to Boston while the rest of the train goes to Orlando.)
5. Chicago - Buffalo - NYC/Boston. Same as the LSL today.

Five standard trains:
1. Los Angeles - Kansas City - Chicago - New Orleans. This will follow the Southwest Chief and City of New Orleans schedule/timetable.
2. Portland - Boise - Salt Lake City - Las Vegas - Los Angeles. This would be timed to connect with the #2 experiential train that replaces the Zephyr.
3. A third daily train Boston - Miami. This would replace/extend the Palmetto.
4. San Antonio - Chicago. This would allow daily service along the Texas Eagle route, with a timed transfer offered between the old Sunset Limited and the Texas Eagle. (No thru cars or run all the way to save on Superliner cars that would likely need to be used to make a few of the experiential trains happen.)
5. St. Paul - Chicago - Atlanta - Miami. Basically a new Floridian from Chicago to Florida, but since I'm from St. Paul we'll start it up here just for fun.

If I've done the math right, and assuming I haven't completely went overboard with equipment (hopefully the two sets from the Auto Train are enough to fill in the gaps) we should have all the mileage covered that we currently have today, with a restored Pioneer, Desert Wind, extension to Orlando for the Sunset Limited, and a Chicago/Florida train.
How's the Birthday going? Any Celebration Scheduled or are yall Locked Down too??
 

Philly Amtrak Fan

Conductor
Joined
Jul 25, 2015
Messages
2,005
Location
Philadelphia Area
Here's my plan, playing to the letter of the rules but perhaps not the spirit of the rules :) :

Since I don't have to worry too much about freight interference, coast-to-coast trains aren't nearly as big of an issue. With some key spare sets in major cities (Chicago being especially important, but also some spare equipment in LA and perhaps a bit cobbled together from corridor equipment if needed) we could still have reliable service by truncating trains if there's major delays due to Amtrak equipment or weather.

Thus, here are my trains:

Five experiential trains:
1. Seattle/Portland - Chicago - Philadelphia/DC - Miami. The timings will align with the Empire Builder, the Capitol Limited, and the Silver Meteor. Cutaway cars would cut of in Pittsburgh and run to Philadelphia.
2. Emeryville - Chicago - Charlottesville - DC. Timings would follow the California Zephyr and the Cardinal.
3. Seattle - Los Angeles - New Orleans - Orlando. Timings would align with the Coast Starlight and the Sunset Limited, with the eastbound times between LA and San Antonio pushed ahead one hour (so an 11 PM departure from LA.)
4. New Orleans - DC - Tampa - Miami. Follows the timetables of the Crescent and Silver Star, but we'll have cutaway sleepers attaching each run at DC to serve the full NEC. (That's how I'll use my one 750-mile section, so one section "splits" to Boston while the rest of the train goes to Orlando.)
5. Chicago - Buffalo - NYC/Boston. Same as the LSL today.

Five standard trains:
1. Los Angeles - Kansas City - Chicago - New Orleans. This will follow the Southwest Chief and City of New Orleans schedule/timetable.
2. Portland - Boise - Salt Lake City - Las Vegas - Los Angeles. This would be timed to connect with the #2 experiential train that replaces the Zephyr.
3. A third daily train Boston - Miami. This would replace/extend the Palmetto.
4. San Antonio - Chicago. This would allow daily service along the Texas Eagle route, with a timed transfer offered between the old Sunset Limited and the Texas Eagle. (No thru cars or run all the way to save on Superliner cars that would likely need to be used to make a few of the experiential trains happen.)
5. St. Paul - Chicago - Atlanta - Miami. Basically a new Floridian from Chicago to Florida, but since I'm from St. Paul we'll start it up here just for fun.

If I've done the math right, and assuming I haven't completely went overboard with equipment (hopefully the two sets from the Auto Train are enough to fill in the gaps) we should have all the mileage covered that we currently have today, with a restored Pioneer, Desert Wind, extension to Orlando for the Sunset Limited, and a Chicago/Florida train.
Leave it to jebr to find the loophole. IndyLions said you couldn't extend trains or combine them:) I actually extended the Crescent from New Orleans to San Antonio and the California Zephyr in my proposal(s) but jebr's is way better. I had proposed a new train combining the old Broadway Limited and Desert Wind, if it counts as one train sign me up! Then I can instead of having the through leg off the California Zephyr go to Las Vegas/Los Angeles I can have it go to Boise/Portland/Seattle (Pioneer).

I can also extend the Crescent from San Antonio all the way to Los Angeles on the Sunset Limited route. That reinstates the entire SL route for me and gives it a second New York to Los Angeles trip via Atlanta.
 

Attachments

MARC Rider

Conductor
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
2,306
Location
Baltimore. MD
I would agree; I would say that even on an "experiential" route a policy of, "Your first drink with dinner is on us!" is more than generous enough. If you leave it wide open, like airline first class, the Booze People will hammer you dry...and those who are not booze people will feel cheated.
They manage to get away with it on Acela First Class.
 

Deni

Service Attendant
Joined
May 11, 2008
Messages
181
Here's my plan, playing to the letter of the rules but perhaps not the spirit of the rules :) :

Since I don't have to worry too much about freight interference, coast-to-coast trains aren't nearly as big of an issue. With some key spare sets in major cities (Chicago being especially important, but also some spare equipment in LA and perhaps a bit cobbled together from corridor equipment if needed) we could still have reliable service by truncating trains if there's major delays due to Amtrak equipment or weather.

Thus, here are my trains:

Five experiential trains:
1. Seattle/Portland - Chicago - Philadelphia/DC - Miami. The timings will align with the Empire Builder, the Capitol Limited, and the Silver Meteor. Cutaway cars would cut of in Pittsburgh and run to Philadelphia.
2. Emeryville - Chicago - Charlottesville - DC. Timings would follow the California Zephyr and the Cardinal.
3. Seattle - Los Angeles - New Orleans - Orlando. Timings would align with the Coast Starlight and the Sunset Limited, with the eastbound times between LA and San Antonio pushed ahead one hour (so an 11 PM departure from LA.)
4. New Orleans - DC - Tampa - Miami. Follows the timetables of the Crescent and Silver Star, but we'll have cutaway sleepers attaching each run at DC to serve the full NEC. (That's how I'll use my one 750-mile section, so one section "splits" to Boston while the rest of the train goes to Orlando.)
5. Chicago - Buffalo - NYC/Boston. Same as the LSL today.

Five standard trains:
1. Los Angeles - Kansas City - Chicago - New Orleans. This will follow the Southwest Chief and City of New Orleans schedule/timetable.
2. Portland - Boise - Salt Lake City - Las Vegas - Los Angeles. This would be timed to connect with the #2 experiential train that replaces the Zephyr.
3. A third daily train Boston - Miami. This would replace/extend the Palmetto.
4. San Antonio - Chicago. This would allow daily service along the Texas Eagle route, with a timed transfer offered between the old Sunset Limited and the Texas Eagle. (No thru cars or run all the way to save on Superliner cars that would likely need to be used to make a few of the experiential trains happen.)
5. St. Paul - Chicago - Atlanta - Miami. Basically a new Floridian from Chicago to Florida, but since I'm from St. Paul we'll start it up here just for fun.

If I've done the math right, and assuming I haven't completely went overboard with equipment (hopefully the two sets from the Auto Train are enough to fill in the gaps) we should have all the mileage covered that we currently have today, with a restored Pioneer, Desert Wind, extension to Orlando for the Sunset Limited, and a Chicago/Florida train.
This plan I love. I definitely had the idea of having a Seattle-Chicago-DC-Miami train the second I saw this post, or instead maybe Seattle-Chicago-Miami without having to go to the coast. But I think I like your Floridian going all the way from St. Paul better. I think I'd also love to see a train that went from SW to NE as well, San Diego/LA-Chicago-Portland, ME. Though I'm not sure how you get through Boston with North and South Stations not connected.
 

sttom

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 23, 2019
Messages
585
There's a significant difference between seven hours and 45 hours. One reason why the idea "works" on airline first class as well.
Also, people riding the Acela are business people and lobbyists more so than people riding Amtrak across they country. They have sway, they get extras.
 

west point

Conductor
Joined
Jun 9, 2015
Messages
2,243
I have major problems of extending trains ( or even just certain cars ) due to the maintenance, cleaning, deodorizing, washing that is needed. If enough dwell time was available to switch out bad order cars at intermittent locations ( with necessary rolling stock ) then that might be a mitigation. Only SAS has been given that capability at present. ( one coach and one sleeper )

What should be done for getting more service might be another way. First make a very large order for rolling stock especially sleepers. Start out on one train at a time as deliveries are certified for service. Expand one train at a time with more capacity up to its reasonable capacity. If the train is a east coast out of NYP ( NYP usually 13 or 14 cars ? ) then cars can be added at WASH. Washington's capacity can be increase by completing VRE's new storage yard freeing up VRE's present use of Amtrak tracks.

There are other locations that might justify cut off cars . Cut off cars will require eventual Amtrak switchers with provision of road crews to operate them.
1, Jacksonville ( However Orlando and Tampa are providing a lot of inter Florida passengers.
2. Charlotte and Atlanta for Crescent. Charlotte cars could flip to Carolinian
3. Cincinnati.
4. Albany.
5. Toledo.
6. Pittsburgh.
7. Memphis.
8. St Paul.
9. Kansas City.
10. Denver
11. Salt Lake City.
12. Dallas / Ft. Worth
13. Houston
14. Tucson / Phoenix.

Then sell that one train at a time at low enough fares to fill that capacity. That way several problems of any short train may be mitigated. OBS personnel can be hired and trained. Diners can be run 24/7 with enroute catering provided. Some cleaning can be contracted at intermediate stations. Station capacity on that one route can be upgraded. Each longer train has a much higher ratio of revenue cars. ( diners definition maybe a 1/3 revenue car )

Amtrak gets to assemble an high ability level expansion team that can go route to route. Then as more new equipment becomes available the next routes one at a time are expanded. As more routes meet demand there will be spillover connections from routes already expanded allowing fares to rise on previous expanded routes.

One of the hopeful demands will be routes not yet expanded getting political push for expansion. Then new routes as propose in this thread will also get support ?
 

Willbridge

OBS Chief
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
576
Location
Denver
... Which I would use to to restore the Desert Wind and Pioneer as a continuous route and call it the Desert Pioneer.
You'll be interested to know that when we were developing the Pioneer there was a Boise State prof who studied your idea and found it to generate higher ridership than just SEA>PDX>SLC. The south end of that route ended up on the old UP Las Vegas Holiday Special schedule. It actually would work better now as there are more odd hours connections at LAUPT than there were in that train's days.
 

neroden

Conductor
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
7,919
Location
Ithaca, NY
I wouldn't play a rigged game.

I work with Congress to get a clause committing Amtrak to "avoided costs accounting", committing Congress to fund the fixed overhead costs of Amtrak's operations, and allowing Amtrak to run as many profitable trains as it likes.

That exempts most of the long-distance trains, which are in fact profitable. I only need five subsidized trains to run the genuinely unprofitable ones (the ones crossing the Rockies, mostly), which is less than ten. Problem solved. I then proceed to engage in a major expansion of service between Chicago and New York, which is more densely populated than France and has plenty of tracks to run trains on.
 
Joined
Feb 17, 2016
Messages
2
I've been eager to get in on this discussion. In the spirit of making the game a little extra challenging, I will assume I have been appointed Amtrak CEO in the midst of a somewhat harsh fiscal environment. The country has clawed its way back from the coronavirus meltdown, but Congress is looking to trim discretionary spending yet again. Amtrak under my watch is back to about a $1.3 billion annual appropriation, around a third of which is obligated to stay in the NEC states and service debt/other obligations. Under my tenure, we make the difficult decision to keep just 5 long distance services, one of which is allowed to run with a 750+ mile through section.

My plan is as follows:
- KEEP the Builder pretty much the way it is.
- KEEP the Lake Shore Limited.
- ALTER the Silver Meteor so that it contains a Tampa through section which would split off in Jacksonville. I suppose I could find a way to run the Tampa section over the Ocala-Wildwood trackage so that the Gainesville area could once again have train service.
- ALTER the Cardinal so that it runs with Superliners, thereby axeing its ability to serve NYP, but carrying through cars from Chicago to Cincinnati. The through cars would operate over NS trackage south of CIN over to Lexington, and terminate in Knoxville. If I am successful in lobbying for a new train station in Atlanta, I could check into the possibility of extending the Knoxville section on down to Georgia by way of Dalton & Austell, GA.
- ALTER the Chief and run more or less on the current schedule from Chicago to La Junta. Through cars would then spilt and run over to Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Denver, and if I can convince Congress, those through cars would continue all the way to Ogden via the Glenwood Canyon route of the CZ (comprising my through section exceeding 750 miles).

Metro areas that would lose all rail service: San Antonio, Phoenix, Austin, Memphis, Houston, Birmingham, Atlanta (assuming my effort to gain approval for a southward extension of the Cardinal's through cars ends in failure), Omaha, Little Rock, El Paso, Tuscon.

I also assume that we are able to hold on to the terminal in New Orleans given the steadily-improving outlook of state-supported service to Mobile.
With the money that my plan manages to save, we can then service a loan to support badly-needed infrastructure repairs in the NEC, and possibly start phasing out Amfleet I.
 

jimdex

Train Attendant
Joined
Feb 19, 2020
Messages
18
Amtrak's operating subsidy and its capital subsidy (i.e., infrastructure repairs) come out out of separate accounts, with the dollar amounts for both determined by Congress. Theoretically, I suppose, Congress could agree to reducing operations spending and putting more money into capital spending, but if there were a harsh fiscal environment, as you have postulated, Congress might be more inclined to reduce operations spending without increasing capital spending. Also, because your plan would effectively shift funding from the national system to the northeast corridor, it's unlikely to win any support from representatives or senators outside the NEC.
 
Joined
Feb 17, 2016
Messages
2
Amtrak's operating subsidy and its capital subsidy (i.e., infrastructure repairs) come out out of separate accounts, with the dollar amounts for both determined by Congress. Theoretically, I suppose, Congress could agree to reducing operations spending and putting more money into capital spending, but if there were a harsh fiscal environment, as you have postulated, Congress might be more inclined to reduce operations spending without increasing capital spending. Also, because your plan would effectively shift funding from the national system to the northeast corridor, it's unlikely to win any support from representatives or senators outside the NEC.
Very solid points! I was hoping to draw some astute criticism. Oddly enough, some of Amtrak's most vociferous advocates in Congress such as Reps. Josh Gottheimer, Mikie Sherrill, and others from the Northeast are keen to point out how tired they are of seeing the appropriations process disproportionately benefitting "moocher states" like Alabama and Mississippi which routinely outsize states like NY and NJ in the share of Federal taxes brought back home in the form of Federal spending. I am not sure whether they have a legitimate gripe about how programs in rural states represent an unfair spread in the federal budget, but I will say that I am always surprised at how seldom Federal discretionary grants are put back into the aching bones of the NEC. Look at last week's FRA grant funding announcement as an example. U.S. Department of Transportation Announces More Than $22 Million in Grants to Restore and Enhance Intercity Passenger Rail Network | FRA
Of the $22 million which is being spent, only a smidge seems to be heading back to the region of the country which produces America's lions share of rail ridership.

Anyway, back to the game. I do wonder just how much longer the current interstate trains can manage to keep their current skeleton frequencies before something starts to give; and when I say that I'm thinking mostly about the ill health of the Superliner I cars. To me it seems like the Sunset is always rumored to be the one that will become the sacrificial lamb when Amtrak is no longer able to keep the balance of the Superliner fleet in yearround service.
 

AGM.12

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 3, 2018
Messages
77
Location
SC
Gulfwind1: from the list you provided it looks like the two trains that come the closest to breaking even, Auto Train and the Palmetto, would be eliminated. With all due respect, does this make sense? As I mentioned on another thread, A logical starting point would be to look at the fare box recovery percentages as to which long distance trains get dropped and which do you keep. If the percentage is 50% or more, keep it. 40% to 50% you could look at different routing or sections branching off of it or just better service amenities and marketing. Under 40% consider pulling the plug. All this assumes an honest accounting system
 

Philly Amtrak Fan

Conductor
Joined
Jul 25, 2015
Messages
2,005
Location
Philadelphia Area
Gulfwind1: from the list you provided it looks like the two trains that come the closest to breaking even, Auto Train and the Palmetto, would be eliminated. With all due respect, does this make sense? As I mentioned on another thread, A logical starting point would be to look at the fare box recovery percentages as to which long distance trains get dropped and which do you keep. If the percentage is 50% or more, keep it. 40% to 50% you could look at different routing or sections branching off of it or just better service amenities and marketing. Under 40% consider pulling the plug. All this assumes an honest accounting system
The OP (IndyLions) said that AutoTrain was given to a private company to manage and didn't have to be accounted for in the 10 trains. As for the Palmetto, if you are keeping the Silver Meteor you have most if not all of the route/stops along the Palmetto. The Silver Meteor (or Silver Star) is the Palmetto plus Florida and the Palmetto is one of the Silver trains without Florida. It may have good financial numbers but if you're cutting back it's an obvious cut. If you keep two "Silver Service" trains, you'd want two to go to Florida. The only way you keep the Palmetto is to run all three and then you're cutting something else. When you have a limited # of trains, why waste one on a train whose #1 purpose is for passengers to travel to Savannah and Charleston, SC, especially when other trains can also serve the same cities? I'd trade the Palmetto today for other trains if I could.
 
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