Amtrak Expansion Plan

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Re: Network Growth Strategy - Version 2019

Postby dumpster.penguin » Wed Feb 20, 2019 7:47 pm

Why the either/or presentation? Does the mgt worry that the potential new (state-supported, I presume) short-haul services would leave the long distance trains without any passengers? Mightn't new riders of the new short-haul trains subsequently turn into new (if occasional) long-distance customers?
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Re: Amtrak Expansion Plan

Postby mtuandrew » Wed Feb 20, 2019 8:20 pm

Interesting, Mr. O’Keefe. I’m not sure how much I would read into either the corridor map or the lack of Superliners - “multi-level car solution” was listed on page 6 - so this sounds like a plea to let them get into the growing market by renewing their fleet. I wonder too if this will presage a lower PRIIA operating rate for state routes too.

What I do wonder is whether Amtrak will start shaking a Long Distance change jar outside state capitols. Their shakedown seems to be working in NM, KS, and CO anyway, and they got money out of ND to fix the BNSF Devils Lake Sub. Stations are already largely locally-run except on high-volume routes, and Amtrak has done well in getting state DOTs to host them on commuter lines for little to no trackage rights money. Anyway, Amtrak could acquire more Superliners from BBD or Alstom - or they could insist states fund long-distance rolling stock if they want a long-distance train.

Unrelated to LDs, I was fascinated to see the HSP46 and the ALP-45DP in that presentation, and to not see the F125.
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Re: Amtrak Expansion Plan

Postby gokeefe » Wed Feb 20, 2019 8:40 pm

I agree that PRIIA is clearly an issue with the network especially if it goes in the direction as discussed.

It's worth remembering that when Amtrak really needs improved funding they almost always threaten the Long Distance services as a whole.

Based on Mr. Anderson's credentials I think the C-suite can
sell this plan sincerely. However, the high level of political impact is helpful, to say the least.
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Re: Amtrak Expansion Plan

Postby CHTT1 » Wed Feb 20, 2019 9:58 pm

I'm not sure why starting new corridor service has to equal a decrease or end to long distance trains. Any new corridor trains would require state support, so it's not like the funding is coming out of the same pot. And, of course, you'd have to get those southern and southwest states to sponsor the corridor trains. Outside of Virginia and North Carolina, southern states have shown no interest in corridor trains. Arizona and Texas have also been quiet on the issue. The political leaders would have to make a 180-degree turn to make the corridors possible.
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Re: Amtrak Expansion Plan

Postby dha10001 » Wed Feb 20, 2019 9:59 pm

Train60 wrote:
gokeefe wrote:A few days ago I found a map buried in a PowerPoint from some testimony but thought nothing if it.

I noticed at the time that it appeared to imply a permanent cancellation of all of the transcontinental long distance services.

Thank you very much for sharing this. I think you may be reading to much into the map on page 14 or the presentation, if that is your reference point. But what is clear is that there is no mention of replacement for the National Network fleet aka the Superliners in this presentation.

There is a brief mention of a "multi-purpose car solution. Though there is also a firm point made about Amtrak's desire to buy off-the-shelf products, which multilevel long distance coaches certainly are not. I agree with you that the national map of corridors presented to me looks more like a list of future corridors for state-supported service and is not meant to reflect a judgement about eliminating LD trains. There are points on that map where they have identified new state sponsored service opportunities along routes with existing LD that are just not shown.

I can see that this is a trial balloon and I hope that there is enough support for Long Distance routes in Congress to provide stable funding for them while increasing resources to allow for an expansion of state supported routes. The Long Distance trains should be regarded as a background service which will now be built upon. I was happily surprised to see a Salt Lake - Boise - Portland route on that map too, which looks like a new LD service to me, which would be an awesome addition. I think that LD trains will be boosted by the addition of more frequent corridor trains and that they will complement each other. Let's build Amtrak AND maintain what has been achieved to date.
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Re: Amtrak Expansion Plan

Postby David Benton » Wed Feb 20, 2019 10:42 pm

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Re: Amtrak Expansion Plan

Postby Greg Moore » Wed Feb 20, 2019 11:22 pm

Still reviewing all the notes/articles, etc and I guess I'm saying... "I'm not a fan of either/or".

I DO think we need more corridors... along with LD trains, and in some cases more LD trains.

I've use Atlanta as an example before. Forget the track/storage issue ("solutions exist").
You've got a station that's busy 2x daily, almost 12 hours apart.

Adding a WAS-ATL day train each way would increase utilization and serve a number of cities in between. A bit of a long "corridor" but workable.

You've got the station staffed, open 12+ hours. Having additional trains stop aren't going to hugely increase your fixed costs. In fact you'd spread them across more trains.
Same with my long proposed "21st Century Limited". Turn train 48/49 into a single train each way, leaving NYP a bit later. Skip the addition of 448/449.
Now have a new Lake Shore Limited that is direct BOS-CHI that covers other stops along the way. More coverage and with the right schedule can get butts in the seat that aren't there now.

It's all about the network. Springfield should be a place where a passenger has multiple options to change trains and directions.

So, if it were MY money...
I'd do the following:

Take the 70 car VIewliner option. Yeah, CAF has had it's issues, but it's building stuff. Expand the eastern LD network in places.
Get a new 500-700 Amfleet I replacement. Expand the fleet and continue to expand corridors that feed into major hubs like NYP, WAS, CHI.
Keep the Superliner II fleet and keep the LD trains.
I might want to bring back something like the Desert Wind and 1 or 2 others, but only to connect to an existing network, not just because "LD trains are cool".

But, I think Amtrak has to expand and the country needs it. It can be both, but with a focus on corridors and being a viable alternative to I-95 and other major highways.
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Re: Amtrak Expansion Plan

Postby njt/mnrrbuff » Thu Feb 21, 2019 7:19 am

It would be nice for Amtrak to have locomotives that can run on both catenary and diesel power combined. This would work well for trains heading south of Washington, DC, on the Pennsylvanian, and all of the Amtrak trains that continue from New Haven to Springfield as NE Regional extensions plus the Vermonter. I don’t think people would want to wait around at a station for 30 minutes-ditto the trains that continue south of DC.
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Re: Amtrak Expansion Plan

Postby Tadman » Thu Feb 21, 2019 12:14 pm

Why either/or?

Resources. Utilization. Common sense.

The long distance trains carry less than a percent of intercity traffic. They are fun to ride but virtually useless. They exist today to placate congress members from non-corridor states to keep corridor trains funded.

Given the negligible impact on the economy, environment, or transportation needs, why keep runnng them? For every dollar or wheel turning in long distance service, that’s one less dollar or wheel turning in corridor service that positively impacts the economy, environment, and transportation. Further, on truly valuable tourism routes like the Zephyr, that’s taking economic opportunity away from tour operators that could do a much better job of running a tour train like the Mountaineer.

Honestly where is the win by keeping long distance trains running?
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Re: Amtrak Expansion Plan

Postby Dcell » Thu Feb 21, 2019 12:44 pm

I 100% agree, Tadman. A private rail cruise operator can do a much better job in proving a nostalgic land cruise complete with first class accommodations and meal services. The Rocky Mountaineer is a huge success and is expanding the number of trains it operates this year. Let Amtrak develop fast frequent corridor services - no sleepers, no dining cars, just coaches with spacious legroom that airline passengers can only dream of.
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Re: Amtrak Expansion Plan

Postby Arlington » Thu Feb 21, 2019 2:14 pm

Here's my corridorification plan, all completely PRIIA-legal and compatible with existing crew bases except as noted with *

1) Flip the Crescent remove its diner.
Run nights from NOL to ATL and days ATL to NYC (timed for ATL-WAS)
Southbound Dp NYP at 2:15am (allow boarding at 11pm) arrive NOL at 7:30am
Northbound Dp NOL at 6 pm, Dp ATL at 7am, arrive NYC at 12:46am
If NYC demand dries up, switch to Superliner run WAS & connecting NEC
Or run all the way as single level to Boston.

2) Run CONO as a day train:
CHI 6:00am 11:20pm
MEM 4:30pm 2pm
JAN 9:00pm 10am
NOL 1:45am 5:45am
Sorry NOL: retimed for CHI-MEM-JAN convenience.

3) Delete Star where it overlaps Palmetto. Bonus* If possible, extend Palmetto to Jacksonville (arrives 11pm, departs 6am northbound) . Delete Star north of Jacksonville, run it intra-Florida only.
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Re: Amtrak Expansion Plan

Postby east point » Thu Feb 21, 2019 3:19 pm

Tadman. Where do you get your figures. Amtrak once posted ( now deleted ) that 38 - 40% of revenue passengers MILES were on LD trains. IMO that overturns many of the reasons to get rid of LD trains. Actually LD trains get much more RPMs per day than the SD , regional trains.
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Re: Amtrak Expansion Plan

Postby Station Aficionado » Thu Feb 21, 2019 3:27 pm

Probably good to remember in this discussion that the 750mi/state support requirement wasn’t always they, and Congress can wipe it away as easily as it put it in place.

While I’m all in favor of more corridor trains, two questions come to mind: whose tracks will they run on? Can the track owners say no?
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Re: Amtrak Expansion Plan

Postby David Benton » Thu Feb 21, 2019 3:49 pm

As a overseas tourist /railfan , I would be happy with the long distance trains been converted to a series of connecting day trains, with a overnite at each changeover. I would not be happy with any segments been disconnected entirely. However , I realise that Amtrak doesn't really "pitch" to overseas tourists like Via, Alaska , Australia Pacific, and Kiwirail . All of those owe their continued existence to overseas Tourists.( Bar Via's Corridor service ).
However , I do not agree that the long distance services as they stand are indispensable , and thatno one relies on them. Talking to passengers , I have met several for who Amtrak long distance was really the only option. One example was a retired teacher,( who gave me a lesson on the war heros of my own country , war history been one of my weak points), who had visited her mum in West Virginia, and was returning to her small town in New Mexico. When I asked why not fly, it was 3 times the price, several connections , and a bus ride in the end anyway. Sure, probably one of the 8% or so long distance riders , but politically connected, and representative of a constituency. I would say many of this minority only ride once a year , so probably represent a bigger group of people than those who ride short distance more regularly
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Re: Amtrak Expansion Plan

Postby NIMBYkiller » Thu Feb 21, 2019 4:06 pm

I am very happy to see Amtrak moving in this direction, and even with that, I think the threat to the overall LD network is over-hyped. The articles linked even mention that it is not as easy as just saying game over for several reasons. Still, I think this is definitely the way things need to head. This will make riding the train a more common part of the American social norm across the country, not just in the NEC and on the Cali services. This can only create more public support for rail, which makes infrastructure improvements much easier to accomplish politically. That kind of public support could even bring back some of the LDs that get lost in this initial change of course. I think the LDs do have a place in the future of Amtrak, but there needs to be a lot of out of the box thinking. A prime example is NYC to NC/SC/GA. Right now the chinatown buses are KILLING IT in this market, running almost strictly overnight, where as the train is awkwardly scheduled where it's horribly inconvenient on either the start and tail end. Go check out Allen St, Canal St, & East Broadway in New York between 7PM and 11PM and you'll see what I'm talking about. A schedule adjustment on the Crescent would have an effect on service to/from VA towns that would be addressed by other corridor service, with the Crescent morphing into something that's making pick ups in the evening (NY->DC and ATL->Charlotte) and depositing on the opposite end between 5A and 11A. This also means it's perfectly positioned to be the first train of the day between the deposit cities.
Pushing the SB Crescent back 3 hrs and 15 mins would mean:
NYP @ 5:30P (Good for business departures returning to DC and post work trips to NC/SC/GA)
WAS @ 9:45P
CLT @ 5:05A (Good for business trips to ATL)
ATL @ 11:28A
and NB bump it up by 2 and a half hours
ATL @ 5:34P
CLT @ 10:51P/11:16P
WAS @ 7:23A
NYP @ 11:16A
The side effect is arrival/departure times at NOL, maybe the Crescent oughta be split up? I've done the NOL to NYP trip before, but south of Atlanta, how far are the majority of passengers traveling? Perhaps it should be a NYP-ATL train and a NOL-WAS train, or simply split them in the middle at CLT? How much of the issue can be addressed via new, shorter corridor service along segments of the existing LD network?

What about the Carolinian and the Piedmont? If you add an overnight Carolinian tweak the times ever so slightly, not only do you get the perfect windows for overnight travel between the NEC and the RGH-CLT corridor, you're also perfectly positioned to handle the rush hour movements between RGH and CLT as well as NYP/DC. You could even continue to use a portion of that trainset (loco and a few cars) as the round trip that goes from CLT to RGH and back and arrive in time to reassemble the train for the NB trip to NY, which frees up the Piedmont set that currently operates 73/74/77/78. Or perhaps a re-timed Florida train that feeds into 73/feeds off of 78 instead of a second Carolinian?

Another possible place for innovation is the CZ. I've heard anecdotally that Denver is the major point of seat turnover between the east end of the route and west end of the route, is that correct? Maybe it ought to get split there to improve OTP? The point is that to keep the LD service relevant, creative ideas are going to need to flow freely, and could allow them to supplement these new corridors in a useful way instead of providing service at awkward times for the sake of keeping the LD network alive.
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