Hoosier State Discussion (both Amtrak and Iowa Pacific)

Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

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Patrick Boylan
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Re: Hoosier State on the Chopping Block?

Post by Patrick Boylan »

one argument could be that since Amtrak must send cars to and from Beech Grove shops anyway the Indianapolis service shouldn't get charged the same way as other trains whose sole purpose is to carry passengers. So how many days a week do the Cardinal and Hoosier State carry shopbound cars? What are the costs associated with running a train without passengers to the shops, vs adding a car or 2 to handle the passengers that might happen to stumble upon the train and decide to pay for a ride?

Is this a good analogy? An engine move has a far lower speed limit than an engine with 1 coach. How often does Amtrak feel they can justify adding on that 1 coach in order to get that otherwise slow locomotive over the railroad faster? I had a private car trip Aug 2011, part of which was special move Philly-Washington DC. We spent about half an hour moving our 3 private cars from 30th St north and then south into Race St yard, locomotive running around the private cars to tack an Amfleet coach onto the north end, just so the locomotive could run at train speeds instead of light engine speeds back from DC to Philly. I also got the impression we did an enormous amount of switching in DC, but I was snoozing in my bed, so I can't swear to how long and why and with what locomotive. In fact, as one might expect on a private car trip with open bar, I find it difficult honestly to say that the switching at Philly did actually take half an hour.

But enough digression, is it actually to Amtrak's advantage to change the Hoosier State into a deadhead move, probably not every day of the week, only when they actually need to get cars into and out of the shops? And why do the shops have to be at Beech Grove? Other posts in this thread have suggested Amtrak might move the shops somewhere closer to Chicago, how likely is that to happen?

mtuandrew
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Re: Hoosier State on the Chopping Block?

Post by mtuandrew »

Station Aficionado wrote:
afiggatt wrote: There is this part in the newspaper article that I find odd: "Amtrak says states are responsible for fully funding routes shorter than 750 miles under a funding methodology established by Congress in 2008. But state officials in Indiana disagree." Umm, this was set in the 2008 PRIIA act and is not exactly news to the other states. Maybe IN DOT thinks IN doesn't have to provide a subsidy because the Hoosier State shares a timetable and route with a LD train?
I was struck by that, too. Hard to imagine that Indiana thinks that it gets the HS for free--lots of other corridors share track and timetables with LDs, and they're not getting a pass. I wonder if the reporter is simply referring to the fact that Indiana refused to sign on to the funding formula negotiated between Amtrak and the states. In any event, I don't see Indiana coughing up anything for the HS.
I wonder if Indiana sees 850/851 as being to 50/51 as 807/808 are to 7/8 (the Empire Builder and its sometimes-stub CHI-MSP cars.) The stub Builder isn't state-funded as far as I know (not sure if it will be), it's only a few additional cars that Amtrak adds of its own volition when ridership warrants. However, unlike the Hoosier State with its own full engine(s), crew, and non-revenue cars, the additional Empire Builder cars require only marginally more crew, fuel, and non-revenue space.

Either way, I'd wager that the Cardinal goes daily again, maybe even with a WAS terminus to free up room for a paying NEC slot from Virginia or North Carolina.

Gilbert B Norman
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Re: Hoosier State on the Chopping Block?

Post by Gilbert B Norman »

Patrick Boylan wrote:And why do the shops have to be at Beech Grove? Other posts in this thread have suggested Amtrak might move the shops somewhere closer to Chicago, how likely is that to happen?
Not anytime soon if this gentleman is to have his say:

http://carson.house.gov/
Rep. Carson's website wrote:While I am a strong support of high speed rail, I understand how critical it is to maintain and expand our conventional passenger rail capacity. I have always been a strong advocate for Amtrak and legislation that creates jobs at the Beech Grove facility. This included the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, through which Beech Grove was awarded over $32 million to continue servicing the Amtrak rail system. I was proud to join Vice President Joe Biden in announcing this award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. This influx of funding created over 80 jobs and has helped put our Amtrak facility on track to service America's needs well into the future
Of interest, Rep. Carson's Mother, Julia Carson, held this 7th District seat for many many a term. She was instrumental in getting Amtrak to locate their main off-corridor shops at Beech Grove, which at one time was the New York Central's heavy passenger car facility.

Oh and finally, anyone care to take a guess in which Congressional District Beech Grove is located?

Station Aficionado
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Re: Hoosier State on the Chopping Block?

Post by Station Aficionado »

A few years back, a state legislator in Michigan tried to condition the state's continued funding of the Blue Water and Pere Marquette on Amtrak relocating the Beech Grove shops to Michigan. Nothing happened then, and I don't think Beech Grove is going anywhere now. Yes, there may be locations near Chicago (or in Michigan) that would be great if you were starting from scratch. But there's a lot of specialized equipment at Beech Grove that would be very expensive to move. Perhaps more importantly, there are a lot people at Beech Grove with unique skills (not a lot of people elsewhere who know how to rebuild a superliner) who might look for a different line of work rather than move.

Tadman
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Re: Hoosier State on the Chopping Block?

Post by Tadman »

Any talk of moving Beech is pretty well unfounded. Even without heavy congressional support, you've got millions of dollars worth of equipment there that would cost millions more to move and take months if not years. Further, the site is likely an EPA superfund or brownfield, which would required a cleanup once operations cease. Finally, a new facility of that size would cost $20-30m just for a shell of a building. You've got to find rail-served property the size of a small town and build a million square feet of building.

For comparison, the recent VW Chattanooga factory cost about $1b all told. It would be a criminal waste of money when Beech is perfectly capable of handling the work it does now with a skilled and friendly labor force. Further, should both the Cardinal and Hoosier go away, there's still plenty of freight service through Indy.

Beech is going to be a small factor in deciding the future of the Hoosier. The big factor is going to be the state and local communities and their willingness to support this train, and the ability for someone (who knows?) to step in and fund infrastructure to make this train drive-competitive. The route itself is great - Chicago, NW Indiana, Purdue, Indy... That's a fairly thick corridor for the midwest, and there's Indiana U and Cummins headquarters an hour south of Indy.
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Pacific 2-3-1
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Re: Hoosier State on the Chopping Block?

Post by Pacific 2-3-1 »

Brains, Plains and Trains!

Both Indiana and Wisconsin, which have outstanding universities, are out of step with their Midwestern neighbors. Maybe nothing will happen until they see the new bilevels running in Illinois, Michigan and Missouri.

mtuandrew
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Re: Hoosier State on the Chopping Block?

Post by mtuandrew »

Somewhat tangential: why did Conrail and CSX reroute northwest-southeast freight traffic away from Indianapolis? I say somewhat because were there a major freight corridor from Cincinnati or Louisville to Chicago through Indianapolis, Amtrak would have many fewer problems maintaining a faster (if still inconsistent, given CSX's record) schedule.

Station Aficionado
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Re: Hoosier State on the Chopping Block?

Post by Station Aficionado »

mtuandrew wrote:Somewhat tangential: why did Conrail and CSX reroute northwest-southeast freight traffic away from Indianapolis? I say somewhat because were there a major freight corridor from Cincinnati or Louisville to Chicago through Indianapolis, Amtrak would have many fewer problems maintaining a faster (if still inconsistent, given CSX's record) schedule.
I think the situation dates back well before Conrail and CSX. I recall seeing a traffic density map of Indiana from sometime in the '60's (maybe from Trains magazine), and even then the NYC, PRR and Monon routes from Chicago to Indy were pretty low density freight-wise. I don't know if it has always been so, but it seems that for some decades at least, the predominant traffic flow has been east-west, not north-south.

Tadman
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Re: Hoosier State on the Chopping Block?

Post by Tadman »

Indiana was absolutely covered by ex-PC trackage and a lot of it was rationalized, maybe a bit too much. Conrail focused on East-West traffic, and the water level route was the best by far because NYC modernized it while most former PRR lines were still multi-track with antiquated yards. The Fort Wayne line was also the victim of this logic. It made a lot of sense in the 80's when general opinion was that the railroads were never going to be on their A-game again.

I've noticed a lot of rail construction lately is simple replacing track that was removed in the dark days, not building out new capacity.
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Station Aficionado
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Re: Hoosier State on the Chopping Block?

Post by Station Aficionado »

Another news story, with comment from a legislator:http://indianapublicmedia.org/news/amtr ... ing-38255/
Noblesville State Senator Luke Kenley, who heads the State Budget Committee, says the state’s interest in such a plan may come down to a balance between how much is requested and how many people ride the rails.

“If we have 35,000 uses a year on that line and we’re asked to put in $5 million, then that’s about $150 for each ride that Indiana would be asked to subsidize.”
Total ridership in FY '12 for the HS was 36,669. As I read the July monthy report, the operating loss on the HS FYTD was $3.5million. Extrapolating that to a full years would be $4.2million. I don't know what the result would be under the funding metholdology worked out by Amtrak and all the other states. It's clear, however, that the economics of this train (and pretty much any other less-than-daily train) really stink. One easy way to improve the situation (at least in terms of a per-passenger operating loss) would be to run the HS as a completely separate train on daily schedule.

Now I suppose one could argue that the $4.2million figure should be reduced by the whatever amount CSX would charge Amtrak to run separate hospital trains (query: would CSX charge a greater trackage fee for the Cardinal if there were a bunch of extra cars tacked on?) to get closer to a true net cost for the train. That would improve the numbers a bit, but they would still not be good.

mtuandrew
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Re: Hoosier State on the Chopping Block?

Post by mtuandrew »

In regard to Mr. Aficionado's immediate point about adding a fleet of cars to the Cardinal, CSX may have a wheelage charge for each car but such a marginal cost would be far less than the overall cost of adding another train with its own per-car charges.

I really do think that Amtrak could approach Indiana with three proposals: funding the status quo (with some funding from Amtrak for use as a hospital train); a daily Hoosier disconnected from the Cardinal (even more $$$); and a daily Cardinal in which Indiana invests in tracks over a period of five to ten years, but does not incur a per-year running charge. Indiana already knows the fourth option, letting the HS die and hoping Amtrak will fund it or a daily Cardinal itself, but that will mean the running times will increase or at least stay constant.

Tadman
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Re: Hoosier State on the Chopping Block?

Post by Tadman »

There's a fifth option - letting NICTD run this train under contract with leased cars and power. ONR has a fleet of passenger cars becoming surplus as of this week.

Also, worth putting this in perspective - what funding does NICTD get per seat mile? The senator from Noblesville is throwing around nominal numbers and that's just useless.

Just for kicks, I looked up the South Bend bus line - given annual funding of $8.5m, 2.5m riders, and average ride of 2 miles, that's $1.70 per passenger mile funded. For a CHI-IND train, given annual funding of $5m, 35k riders, average ride of 123 miles (CHI-LAF) that's $1.16 per passenger mile. I know nothing about bus lines, but it seems that it puts the HS in a positive light.

It's also a no-brainer that this train might have double the ridership if there was better reliability, frequency, or timing. The Pere Marquette has 106,000 annual riders, and they have 1x/day 3-car consists.
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neroden
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Re: Hoosier State on the Chopping Block?

Post by neroden »

So I've now seen four or five different articles about the locals along the Hoosier State line hoping to preserve the Hoosier State.

Here's the thing (which is bugging me). Precisely *one* of these articles mentioned that the federal government passed a law in 2008 requiring the Hoosier State to be state-funded. All the others attempted subtly to blame Amtrak. *None* of the articles actually got around to pointing a finger at the state government. None of them dug into which Congressmen pushed the provision of PRIIA requiring state funding for "short" routes. All of them vaguely implied that Amtrak could somehow just agree to pay for their train.

This isn't good reporting. This is biased reporting.

I guess I know why Hoosiers keep voting against their best interests -- they're *getting bad information*.

EDIT: I checked the Indiana Public Media article hoping for better, because they actually talked to state legislators -- same damned thing. It implies that this is just Amtrak's "request" that the state chip in money, which is dishonest reporting.

neroden
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Re: Hoosier State on the Chopping Block?

Post by neroden »

Station Aficionado wrote:
afiggatt wrote: There is this part in the newspaper article that I find odd: "Amtrak says states are responsible for fully funding routes shorter than 750 miles under a funding methodology established by Congress in 2008. But state officials in Indiana disagree." Umm, this was set in the 2008 PRIIA act and is not exactly news to the other states. Maybe IN DOT thinks IN doesn't have to provide a subsidy because the Hoosier State shares a timetable and route with a LD train?
I was struck by that, too. Hard to imagine that Indiana thinks that it gets the HS for free--lots of other corridors share track and timetables with LDs, and they're not getting a pass. I wonder if the reporter is simply referring to the fact that Indiana refused to sign on to the funding formula negotiated between Amtrak and the states. In any event, I don't see Indiana coughing up anything for the HS.
I think the "disagreement" by Indiana state officials, disagreement with something which is not actually disputable, is simply the sort of bafflegab which I am used to seeing from *truly dishonest* elected officials. I've seen it from the administrations of Chris Christie, and Rick Scott, and Scott Walker... these folks all have something in common with the Mitch Daniels administration, I guess.

It's notable that the local Lafayette state legislator (a Republican no less) is talking in terms of "It’s important to be prepared in November after a new governor is elected". I suppose he's completely given up on the current administration. I don't expect him to get any help if Pence is elected, though that's just based on Pence's anti-Amtrak record as a Congressman (politicians sometimes change oddly when they get actual power as governors).

Tadman
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Re: Hoosier State on the Chopping Block?

Post by Tadman »

administrations of Chris Christie, and Rick Scott, and Scott Walker... these folks all have something in common with the Mitch Daniels administration, I guess.
Sure do! It's called a balanced budget (or a reasonable attempt to create such). It means that Indiana spends less than it takes in. I hate that kind of dishonesty. It makes me so angry when we live within our means.


Regardless of above comments about state-specific politics, it bugs me that current administration portends to be a friend of Amtrak and HSR and they haven't changed the rule where corridor states have to fund their trains. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

And here's my way of getting around this law: The various parties let Amtrak get away with the phantom Sunset Limited east of NOLA for the better part of a decade. In other words, what was legally a JAX-LAX train was in reality a NOL-LAX section. Why not legally extend the Builder from Chicago to Indy. Then, every darn day, "annul" the eastbound in Chicago and run a "substitute" corridor train CHI-IND. Because, you legally have "one train" but in reality you have two sections. There would never actually be a SEA/PDX-IND operation. It's been common railroad practice for hundreds of years that a "train" is a schedule slot or service, not the physical manifestation of that schedule slot.
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