Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby gokeefe » Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:33 am

Taking the "all FirstClass" concept a step further ... Have a tie in with Amtrak Guest Rewards ... For example 100% bonus points for reservations by Executive tier members on Acela Elite. Right now FirstClass reservations on Acela yield 50% bonus points for members in the "Executive" tier.

The benefit could cascade downwards.

If you want to get an idea of just how much Acela has affected things take a look at reservations for KDCA to KLGA. First class doesn't even exist anymore (!). I know that's "ho hum" to some people but it seems pretty significant to me when we know that there is strong demand for premium travel fares WAS-NYP.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby Matt Johnson » Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:53 am

bretton88 wrote:Haha, those speed on the NEC are wishful thinking, even though the train can go up to 186mph.


I'm curious to see if they get 'em up to 186 on the NEC during test runs, perhaps on the Princeton Junction segment. It's not too much of a stretch, with normal operating speed going up to 160 there and with Metroliner, UA Turbo, X2000, ICE, and Acela all having been up in the 160 - 170 range on test runs through there.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby gokeefe » Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:54 am

I took a look at private jet travel KDCA to KLGA on privatefly.com for one passenger on a Monday they quoted $4,330 one way (Aug 14 @ 11am)

That is the ceiling for a service like Acela Elite. Amtrak right now is quoting $300 WAS-NYP on Aug 14, 2018, Train #2110, FirstClass, Acela Express.

I think they could get $540+ for a limited stop "elite" service.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby bostontrainguy » Sat Aug 11, 2018 11:44 am

gokeefe wrote:Here's the craziest idea of them all ... Take all the First Class cars from the old trainsets and create four trainsets running Acela Elite, limited stop all-first class service only. This kind of service would potentially even compete with corporate jet travel.


I've heard it over and over here and elsewhere that Amtrak tried express trains and it did not work. I have to think there is an express market out there that may never had considered train travel before. Boston - New York/New York - Washington travel fills airplanes. Why can't it fill trains too?

Amtrak should try harder.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby gokeefe » Sat Aug 11, 2018 6:49 pm

The market has truly changed since it was last attempted. Over ten years of population growth, ridership growth and perhaps most importantly significant deterioration in airline customer satisfaction.

Acela did not sell out at the time like it does now. The Northeast Regionals were operationally unprofitable and there were major reliability problems with the NEC cantenary in multiple locations.

We are now two summers into Penn Station renewal, Amtrak has new ACS-64s for power, wire replacement on Metro-North is almost compete, multiple track projects in MD, PA, NJ and NY have greatly improved the fluidity of the corridor and even the commuter services have managed to upgrade their diesel and electric motive power.

If Mr. Van Winkle of Sleepy Hollow, NY who last took the Acela in 2005 woke up today and took another trip NYP-WAS he probably would recognize the cities but Amtrak would seem to be bright, new and shiny in many places.

I know those who work on the corridor with today's equipment have many reasons to doubt the new systems. They have plenty of problems that the old equipment especially the AEM-7s didn't. That being said some of the issue is in my mind clearly linked to the passenger volumes being carried right now. The railroad is operating under enormous passenger loads the likes of which it hasn't seen in about 70 years since the postwar rail travel peak.

I believe that the best way to get through these issues is to run premium high priced services that continue to strengthen Amtrak's bottom line. Amtrak's rapidly improving cash position is opening doors for the system which would otherwise be closed forever. Improvikg operations will lead to continuing capital investment from Congress which will ultimately help Amtrak continue to grow their service nationwide.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby east point » Sat Aug 11, 2018 8:41 pm

There are 2 problems that really hold back higher speeds south of PHL. Don't remember exactly where but having only 2 and 3 main tracks for much of the route south of SEPTA service really slows any Amtrak service that has speeds much faster than MARC services.
Second problem is the condition of the Variable tension CAT. That really limits speeds to 125 MPH and even slower whenever the surface temps are very high or very low.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby gokeefe » Sat Aug 11, 2018 8:49 pm

I feel confident that constant tension cantenary installation will be a priority in MD, DE and PA in the near future. Way too much 125 MPH territory not to consider it.

Worth remembering with any reuse plans for Acela that they will indeed be capable of running 160 MPH in New Jersey when the time comes.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby east point » Sat Aug 11, 2018 11:13 pm

[quote="gokeefe"]I feel confident that constant tension cantenary installation will be a priority in MD, DE and PA in the near future. Way too much 125 MPH territory not to consider it.

Yes but there is much work to be completed first. To add Constant tension before 4 tracking would require double work. Unless === For any location that 4 tracking would not change alignment installation of CAT constant tension hardware could provide for future 4 tracking however the grading for CAT would be the most expensive portion so why not do both at once ? The 4 tracking, additional fixed bridges, and elevation of the 3 draw bridge locations ( each only 2 tracks )is also needed. Don't forget the B&P new 4 track bores needed at Baltimore. 4 tracking will allow 175 MPH trains on inside tracks will allow them to pass slower Regional and Commuter trains on outside tracks
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby bostontrainguy » Sun Aug 12, 2018 8:18 am

gokeefe wrote: First class doesn't even exist anymore (!).


Term is still proudly used on Acela and the Auto Train. I'm not sure if it's official but the phrase "Acela First Class Lounge" is common terminology too, and you can use it if you are a sleeper passenger, so you must be in "First Class" then.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby gokeefe » Sun Aug 12, 2018 2:49 pm

I was referring to airlines on the KDCA to KLGA route.

"First Class" absolutely still exists on Amtrak as you correctly note and is generally considered to include Acela FirstClass and Sleeping Car passengers on any route.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby Rockingham Racer » Sun Aug 12, 2018 3:06 pm

Have to disagree, at least to the terminology. Glance at any Amtrak long distance timetable, and you won't find nary a reference to "first class", including the Auto Train.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby Arlington » Sun Aug 12, 2018 4:02 pm

Every Acela that skips BAL or WIL or PHL is a train that has skipped a city pair where the train has an even more profound competitive advantage (and Six US Senators).

How many trips on the KDCA-KLGA shuttle are actually trips between a posh suburb (in MD or NJ/CT) and the other urban core? Probably a whole lot!

Now that MD-200 is open, the Acela has the chance to suck in lots of trips where one end is in Rockville or Gaithersburg, but only if the train stops at BWI (DCA and NCL are all about a 40 min at off-peak drive but only BWI has predictable traffic at peak times).

When we talk about DC growth in the last 20 years, yes much of it is downtown, but don't overlook the growth in the anonymous outer suburbs (Montgomery, Howard & Anne Arundel county in MD) for whom BWI is the hands down fave.

I know CT less well but would be more tempted to add a New Rochelle than to delete a STM or NHV.

Until you are absolutely certain you've oversaturated the secondary markets, I don't see skipping them
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby Arlington » Sun Aug 12, 2018 5:38 pm

One of the rules from airline economics is "don't overfly your hubs" as in
[United's President [Scott Kirby observed about their domestic hubs that “It’s rare we’re overflying our own hubs.”
more here

Basically, never fly nonstop by bypassing a hub.

PHL is obviously a hub. So sometimes we consider WAS-PHL-NYP super expresses. But then BAL and WIL have wicked slow speed approaches--if the geometry hands you lemons, you gotta make lemonade (and stop).

In the studies thread, F-Line has argued that even if you had the money to straighten BAL and WIL enough to make them worth zipping through, you would probably still want to stop.

But we won't be there (rebuilt WIL & BAL) within the useful life of even the Acela-2
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby bostontrainguy » Sun Aug 12, 2018 6:30 pm

Rockingham Racer wrote:Have to disagree, at least to the terminology. Glance at any Amtrak long distance timetable, and you won't find nary a reference to "first class", including the Auto Train.


Not exactly:
Auto Train First Class Dining Car Menu.pdf
(26.38 KiB) Downloaded 18 times
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby gokeefe » Sun Aug 12, 2018 6:32 pm

Ok, I'm sold ... So add WIL and at the end of the day we are right back to where we started.

That being said I am convinced based on my own experience, along with a fair amount of research professionally that there is likely a market for an all "First Class" ultra premium service between WAS and NYP during workday travel hours. The service could easily be supported with four trainsets which would leave two protect sets at each end with each set making one round trip (maybe 1.5) per day.

I feel that it is absurd to leave money on the table when Amtrak clearly could cater to its most lucrative (and reliable) passengers with a service that they would truly appreciate.
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