Trump proposes cutting long distance support

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Re: Trump proposes cutting long distance support

Postby JoeBas » Mon Mar 20, 2017 2:13 pm

wigwagfan wrote:Prepare for a major winddown of the federal government...which although will be a short term pain for those dependent upon those services, will open up many new avenues especially in the transportation field, as the states and lower bodies of government will now build systems within their means but without the red tape and requirements of the federal government that is tied to federal funding. We'll see fewer Empire Builders, but more Brightlines. Fewer Sunset Limiteds, more commuter trains.


Here we go with the private sector canard again. When was the last time a passenger railroad made money? Hint - Aircraft consisted of biplanes and dirigibles.

How about roads? If we're gonna single out trains, let's single out everything. Want to drive to the next town over? Please deposit $.25 for the next 3 miles.
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Re: Trump proposes cutting long distance support

Postby SemperFidelis » Mon Mar 20, 2017 2:26 pm

Anyone who really believes that Washington DC is going to change is fooling themselves...

Post again in three years and see just how much smaller the federal government has become. People on both sides of the aisle are being knowingly, naively, silly when they make claims about change...especially when that change is going to come through the force of personality of one man, one President. The sheer momentum of Washington DC isn't going to let up one little bit. President Reagan, President GW Bush, and President Obama all promised change and guess what? Not all that much changed, the federal deficit and debt exploded under all three of our "change" leaders.

People have such short memories...and suffer from nearly insane levels of myopia. Uber-Republican President Reagan ran up a huge tab in deficit spending, as did President GW Bush. President Obama promised change, and aside from access to health care for a few million people, nothing much really changed. Anyone who thinks that is going to change under our present President is smoking something that I want a hit on.

No one is going to make money on passenger rail in this country, unless "profit" is defined as above rail costs.

Edit: Apologies for going into politics. I hope that by pointing out that both sides have failed to deliver won't upset anyone.
Last edited by SemperFidelis on Mon Mar 20, 2017 2:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Trump proposes cutting long distance support

Postby n2cbo » Mon Mar 20, 2017 2:29 pm

JoeBas wrote:Here we go with the private sector canard again. When was the last time a passenger railroad made money? Hint - Aircraft consisted of biplanes and dirigibles.

How about roads? If we're gonna single out trains, let's single out everything. Want to drive to the next town over? Please deposit $.25 for the next 3 miles.


We already do when we purchase gasoline...
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Re: Trump proposes cutting long distance support

Postby ExCon90 » Mon Mar 20, 2017 2:33 pm

Last I read the gas tax covers about 60% of what we spend on roads; the rest comes through appropriations from the general fund. And that's just 60% of what we spend--not what we need to spend.
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Re: Trump proposes cutting long distance support

Postby GeorgeF » Mon Mar 20, 2017 3:59 pm

n2cbo wrote:We already do when we purchase gasoline...


Yes, indeed, but not quite so true if you are driving on a non-Interstate road, at least as far as the Federal tax is concerned, which you pay regardless. The Interstates are subsidized by everyone driving in the USA when using petroleum products.
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Re: Trump proposes cutting long distance support

Postby NH2060 » Mon Mar 20, 2017 5:41 pm

A few points that I think should be made pertaining the discussion up to this point:


1) Donald Trump is anything but a weak president. Poor temperment? You bet. Should be tweeting more... shall we say maturely? Heck yes. But he is not slouching by any means. And he is no GOP politician either. For my money he is as much a threat to the GOP establishment as the Democratic Party establishment. We haven't had a president like that in quite a long time, if ever. Barack Obama was cut from the Dems' cloth, Dubya was your traditional GOP candidate with maybe a few exceptions, Clinton was probably not quite your trad Democrat, but I wouldn't call him a radical change (bear in mind the Democratic Party even in the 1990s was not what it was today), and Reagan was GOP to the hilt, Carter was I think you could say a unique kind of Democrat so perhaps he was more "untraditional", and the same for Nixon as a Republican (who was disliked by A LOT of folks in both houses of Congress).

Also if you want change to come to DC throw out people like John McCain and Charles Schumer (maybe throw in Blumenthal for good measure ;-))


2) I too understand the need for a robust military. Army, Navy, Marines, you name it we NEED them to be second to none in personnel, equipment, and strategy. And with the threats facing civilization at large -ISIS being just one of them- we cannot afford to let the rest of the world -friend or enemy- think that our defense is weak. Now given that President Trump has pointed out specific examples of wasteful spending at the Defense Department I question why he is requesting another $54 Billion in funding.


3) The gas tax has not been raised since 1993 which means that when adjusted for inflation it has actually gone down 39% over the past 20+ years. And the gas tax is/was a large source of funding for the Highway Trust Fund. So if we want to just get highway funding back on track we would have to raise the gas tax by a lot.


4) Many citizens living along the LD routes are for my money very heavily dependent on those trains serving their communities as well as neighboring ones via bus or car. It is indeed a service, not infrastructure, but a very valuable one that would put a great number of folks at a disadvantage.


Now with the concept of more "Brightline" routes and commuter rails popping up across the country and possible trimming of the LD network perhaps it's time to simply break-up the LD routes into shorter segments that also offer connections. For example, instead of running Oakland-Chicago how about splitting it into Oakland-Salt Lake City, Salt Lake City-Lincoln, Lincoln-Chicago? I doubt that many passengers are going Oakland-Denver or Oakland-Chicago, etc. anyways.
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Re: Trump proposes cutting long distance support

Postby SouthernRailway » Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:22 pm

I'd be curious to see the political affiliations of Amtrak riders.

Frequent flyers are disproportionately Republican (based on a poll that I believe was posted on Flyertalk.com a few years ago), and I'd assume that sleeping car and Acela passengers on Amtrak would be as well, but I'd figure that the rest are Democrats.
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Re: Trump proposes cutting long distance support

Postby Arlington » Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:39 pm

GeorgeF wrote:
n2cbo wrote:
JoeBas wrote:Here we go with the private sector canard again. When was the last time a passenger railroad made money? Hint - Aircraft consisted of biplanes and dirigibles.
How about roads? If we're gonna single out trains, let's single out everything. Want to drive to the next town over? Please deposit $.25 for the next 3 miles.
We already do when we purchase gasoline...
Yes, indeed, but not quite so true if you are driving on a non-Interstate road, at least as far as the Federal tax is concerned, which you pay regardless. The Interstates are subsidized by everyone driving in the USA when using petroleum products.

Please be clear: user fees pay only 30% to 60% of the costs of roads. 70% of City Street spending, and 60% of State and County roads comes from Property and Sales Taxes.

Even on the US Highway Routes and Interstates, you're probably looking at no more than 60% paid by gas&tire taxes and tolls.
And the roads are generally falling apart faster than we're spending (roads look artificially cheap because we're not funding their ongoing maintenance...just like railroads used to when everyone was just running stuff until it died and then pulled it up or scrapped it because it was unable to pay for its replacement)
Nowhere to drivers pay 100% of the costs of their roads.

The best thing that could ever happen to trains would be to remove the subsidies that roads receive from "general" revenues (property, sales, & income taxes).

It would take about a 30c to 60c per gal hike in fuel taxes to force drivers to actually pay the full price of what they use (or, really, to hike the truck tire tax to make the heavy trucks pay more fairly for the wear they impose)

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/ar ... ts/412237/
http://www.frontiergroup.org/reports/fg/who-pays-roads

But do note that some of the roads' advantage comes from being just used a whole lot--that's just good cost sharing, not a subsidy, just like the Metro North gets a better return from its investment than a lonely 3x per day branch line somewhere.
Last edited by Arlington on Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Trump proposes cutting long distance support

Postby andegold » Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:45 pm

When calculating the shrinkage of the gas tax due to inflation don't forget to also take into account increased fuel economy of vehicles. The gas tax is a fixed price per gallon, not a percentage like sales or income taxes. As cars become more efficient they use fewer gallons and pay less tax regardless of the price per gallon at the pump. A Tesla, or plug-in hybrid, filling up with electricity is no different than a diesel owner using heating oil instead of diesel for autos. Even within the gasoline only world you need consider that while total vehicle numbers and mileage may have gone up the number of gallons consumed per vehicle mile has probably gone down and therefore the amount of tax paid to maintain that same level of wear and tear on the road has gone down as well.
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Re: Trump proposes cutting long distance support

Postby OrangeGrove » Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:53 pm

NH2060 wrote:Now with the concept of more "Brightline" routes and commuter rails popping up across the country and possible trimming of the LD network perhaps it's time to simply break-up the LD routes into shorter segments that also offer connections. For example, instead of running Oakland-Chicago how about splitting it into Oakland-Salt Lake City, Salt Lake City-Lincoln, Lincoln-Chicago? I doubt that many passengers are going Oakland-Denver or Oakland-Chicago, etc. anyways.


The idea of splitting long-distance (LD) routes into a series of shorter (generally "day") trains is inherently flawed, and would greatly suppress both ridership and revenue while not reducing costs by a significant amount (if at all). You are absolutely correct that very few passengers travel endpoint to endpoint; The trains' real market is to and from intermediate points (this is even true within shorter distance corridors to a degree), but this is a distinction often lost on many passenger rail critics. However, splitting trains such as the example you gave would kill much of the business through the intermediate "connection" point. There is no single destination between the beginning and end of most LD routes where nearly all the passengers detrain and are replaced by another group; People don't really like to change trains, they want a one-seat ride as much as possible, and having to make a several hour connection to the continuing train - for only a several hundred mile trip (typical, though, of many LD markets) would be unattractive to potential passengers. They'd just end up driving or on the bus.

Further, there are no maintenance or servicing facilities at the intermediate connection points; Those would have to be established and maintained, which adds costs. Between the lost revenue and additional expenses, its a bit hard to imagine the trains' financial numbers not being worse than they currently are. But lets say the trains are split anyway (maybe it makes sense to an uninformed politician somewhere). You still need to cycle the trains to major terminals (Chicago) for maintenance which cannot be performed "in the field". Most efficient way to do this would be to cycle the same trainset through all three intermediate trains - but effectively that's exactly what we're already doing! Maybe you could allow the "connecting" passengers to even remain on board, and for marketing reasons, the train could even have the same name and number all the way to Chicago.....
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Re: Trump proposes cutting long distance support

Postby wigwagfan » Mon Mar 20, 2017 7:23 pm

JoeBas wrote:Here we go with the private sector canard again. When was the last time a passenger railroad made money?


Japan. Germany. The U.K.

Just to name a couple of examples.
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Re: Trump proposes cutting long distance support

Postby wigwagfan » Mon Mar 20, 2017 7:32 pm

OrangeGrove wrote:The idea of splitting long-distance (LD) routes into a series of shorter (generally "day") trains is inherently flawed, and would greatly suppress both ridership and revenue while not reducing costs by a significant amount (if at all). You are absolutely correct that very few passengers travel endpoint to endpoint; The trains' real market is to and from intermediate points (this is even true within shorter distance corridors to a degree), but this is a distinction often lost on many passenger rail critics. However, splitting trains such as the example you gave would kill much of the business through the intermediate "connection" point. There is no single destination between the beginning and end of most LD routes where nearly all the passengers detrain and are replaced by another group; People don't really like to change trains, they want a one-seat ride as much as possible, and having to make a several hour connection to the continuing train - for only a several hundred mile trip (typical, though, of many LD markets) would be unattractive to potential passengers. They'd just end up driving or on the bus.


Your argument seeks more to discredit High Speed Rail than it does corridor; since HSR as a necessity cuts out most if not all intermediate stops and requires riders to ride from endpoint to endpoint (or, at least only to major cities, requiring a transfer to another, slower train, or bus, or another mode of transport, to reach smaller communities.) There is absolutely grounds to break up the LD network and I'll use the Coast Starlight as an example - the current Starlight is an Amtrak creation that never existed in the same form prior to 1971. Prior to '71 on the Southern Pacific, you transferred trains somewhere between Sacramento and San Jose (depending on a number of factors); and again in Portland if you wished to continue north to Seattle (and again still to Vancouver, or south to San Diego). Likewise, Chicago is in fact a major transfer point for Amtrak's long distance network.

True, transfers are an inconvenience, but it's a fact of life. And prior to Amtrak, it was standard operating procedure.

OrangeGrove wrote:Further, there are no maintenance or servicing facilities at the intermediate connection points; Those would have to be established and maintained, which adds costs.


Seattle, Portland, Klamath Falls, Sacramento, San Jose - all have some kind of maintenance/servicing facility.

As does Spokane and Havre for the Empire Builder. Salt Lake City for the CZ. And that's TODAY, right now, under Amtrak, even for the "one-a-days".

OrangeGrove wrote:But lets say the trains are split anyway (maybe it makes sense to an uninformed politician somewhere). You still need to cycle the trains to major terminals (Chicago) for maintenance which cannot be performed "in the field". Most efficient way to do this would be to cycle the same trainset through all three intermediate trains - but effectively that's exactly what we're already doing! Maybe you could allow the "connecting" passengers to even remain on board, and for marketing reasons, the train could even have the same name and number all the way to Chicago.....


I know a piddly po-dunk little short-line railroad in Oregon that has that process figured out. Do you think that the class III carrier Portland & Western Railroad has maintenance shops for their equipment at every home point? No, it's all in Albany. And locomotives and whatever other equipment does have the periodically get shuffled down to Albany and replaced. And they do it, every single day, for the last 20 years. Even the Southern Pacific had to station locomotives at outlying points, and on the weekends a Hauler would swap the locomotives out to haul back for maintenance and inspections and so on...

Heck, even Amtrak Cascades has a trainset that runs Portland-Eugene, that doesn't come anywhere near a maintenance base for a day; the next day it has to run to Seattle for maintenance. There's the on-board Talgo Tech, and an Amtrak mechanical guy in Portland, but guess what happens if that train has a major problem? Offload the passengers, call up few shuttle buses for a couple days, and the train goes on a hospital run (non-revenue) to Seattle. If you're lucky it's just a locomotive problem and UP can bail you out. So again, your argument has no basis in fact.

If an airline can make an emergency landing and land a plane at an unserved airport and figure out how to fix it, certainly Amtrak can. Heck - for heavy repairs, Sound Transit has to ship their F59s on the Starlight all the way to Los Angeles - two states and well over 1,000 miles away. So again, clearly not a problem for Amtrak.
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Re: Trump proposes cutting long distance support

Postby wigwagfan » Mon Mar 20, 2017 7:35 pm

Arlington wrote:Please be clear: user fees pay only 30% to 60% of the costs of roads. 70% of City Street spending, and 60% of State and County roads comes from Property and Sales Taxes.


I can tell you through extensive review of government budgets, that isn't true, at least not in my neck of the woods. What's valid in Pennsylvania isn't valid in Oregon.

So maybe that's just justification that those states - and only those states - that subsidize roads through general taxes, should support passenger rail; while states like Oregon that derive virtually all transportation funding from the state and federal gas taxes shouldn't. (In fact, guess what funds Amtrak Cascades in Oregon? License plate fees.)
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Re: Trump proposes cutting long distance support

Postby Philly Amtrak Fan » Mon Mar 20, 2017 8:25 pm

wigwagfan wrote:Your argument seeks more to discredit High Speed Rail than it does corridor; since HSR as a necessity cuts out most if not all intermediate stops and requires riders to ride from endpoint to endpoint (or, at least only to major cities, requiring a transfer to another, slower train, or bus, or another mode of transport, to reach smaller communities.) There is absolutely grounds to break up the LD network and I'll use the Coast Starlight as an example - the current Starlight is an Amtrak creation that never existed in the same form prior to 1971. Prior to '71 on the Southern Pacific, you transferred trains somewhere between Sacramento and San Jose (depending on a number of factors); and again in Portland if you wished to continue north to Seattle (and again still to Vancouver, or south to San Diego). Likewise, Chicago is in fact a major transfer point for Amtrak's long distance network.

True, transfers are an inconvenience, but it's a fact of life. And prior to Amtrak, it was standard operating procedure.



Not always. In the old days you could go from Harrisburg and Eastern PA outside of Philly to Chicago, now it requires a transfer (a transfer close to if not in the graveyard shift). You also had direct service from NY/NJ/Philly/Pittsburgh to Columbus/Indy/St. Louis. Right now a transfer is required to get to St. Louis, going to Indy from NY or Philly requires a really long ride (Pittsburgh to Indy requires a transfer in Chicago) and there's no service at all to Columbus. There was also a Cincinnati to New Orleans train and a Chicago to Florida train, both now require transfers.

Amtrak may have removed the need to transfer for some routes but forced transfers in other cases.
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Re: Trump proposes cutting long distance support

Postby Ken W2KB » Mon Mar 20, 2017 9:36 pm

wigwagfan wrote:
Arlington wrote:Please be clear: user fees pay only 30% to 60% of the costs of roads. 70% of City Street spending, and 60% of State and County roads comes from Property and Sales Taxes.


I can tell you through extensive review of government budgets, that isn't true, at least not in my neck of the woods. What's valid in Pennsylvania isn't valid in Oregon.

So maybe that's just justification that those states - and only those states - that subsidize roads through general taxes, should support passenger rail; while states like Oregon that derive virtually all transportation funding from the state and federal gas taxes shouldn't. (In fact, guess what funds Amtrak Cascades in Oregon? License plate fees.)


Merely accounting. Sources do not matter. Government receives income from several sources and dispenses it as it sees fit. Currency being fungible, it is only paper that says x is funded by y and z is funded by a.
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