Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

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

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NHN503
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Post by NHN503 » Wed Feb 27, 2008 5:35 pm

Guys, try and keep it a tad more civil. Comment at the reasoning, not the person.

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toolmaker
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Post by toolmaker » Wed Feb 27, 2008 6:24 pm

Sorry about the "rail nuts" I shouldn't post and (work).

Why has no one addressed the question I did ask? The interstate system does run through here and we use it. The system works. What doesn't work is Amtrak. After 3 decades it should have developed a business model that works such a without a heavy subsidy. Even PBS figured that out.

Maybe if a train ran through this town again, I might be more forgiving. I haven’t seen an engine on the rails since the end of 1997.
:-)
-gary

“If practice makes perfect, and if nobody's perfect, why practice?"

b&m 1566
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Post by b&m 1566 » Wed Feb 27, 2008 7:22 pm

The issue as nothing to do with Amtrak really; the Downeaster is operated by Amtrak but controlled by Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) and if it was another operator I would bet the cost of operation would run the same or close to it.
Correction you said 45% is paid through rider ship; its 55%.
Your initial question was answered - Amtrak doesn’t control the prices NNEPRA does, as someone else had mentioned and as I mentioned you can’t go that much higher if you want to draw people away from the bus or their cars. If the Downeaster continues to grow like it has that 55% will continue to grow but raising prices is going to scare people away.

NHN503
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Post by NHN503 » Wed Feb 27, 2008 7:31 pm

toolmaker wrote:What doesn't work is Amtrak. After 3 decades it should have developed a business model that works such a without a heavy subsidy. Even PBS figured that out.
It's not Amtrak as the problem. Take about 99% of passenger rail in the world and they have heavy subsidy. It is almost impossible for passenger rail to be self sufficient.

Comparing PBS to Amtrak is like saying that cell phone videos are the same quality as a HD Blu-Ray DVD.

henry6

HERE IS

Post by henry6 » Wed Feb 27, 2008 7:57 pm

Here is where you will find defenders of rail in general, and Amtrak in particular. Real in depth discussion of the pros and cons of Amtrak is thrashed out minute by minute on the Amtrak forum. So, Toolmaker, your question has in fact been answered here the best it is going to be. It is not to your satisfaction, i.e. it does not agree with your precept, but it is the answer you are going to find here. It is a very broad and deep topic of transportation policies, political bents, history, contradictions, and definitions. Again I would suggest the Amtrak forum for you as it has and does often address your argument in detail. But never have I ever seen this argument end in anything more than the agreement to disagree, no one ever seems to be won over to the opposite side. Good Luck.

Tracer

Why so many trains on the weekend?

Post by Tracer » Wed Feb 27, 2008 10:48 pm

For starters, on the weekends they have 5 round trips which seems like too many. According to there schedule they have 2 southbound departures from Portland within an 1:05hr(7:10am,8:15am). The same can be said for 2 northbound trains from Boston(5:00pm,6:25pm). Why is there a need to run 2 different trains so close together? Eliminate one southbound and northbound trip on the weekend.

jscola30
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Post by jscola30 » Wed Feb 27, 2008 11:02 pm

Ian MacMillan wrote:
toolmaker wrote:What doesn't work is Amtrak. After 3 decades it should have developed a business model that works such a without a heavy subsidy. Even PBS figured that out.
It's not Amtrak as the problem. Take about 99% of passenger rail in the world and they have heavy subsidy. It is almost impossible for passenger rail to be self sufficient.

Comparing PBS to Amtrak is like saying that cell phone videos are the same quality as a HD Blu-Ray DVD.

Well said!


I think too, when someone says something a bit on the personal side on a forum, try not to sink to his/her level.

octr202
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Re: Why so many trains on the weekend?

Post by octr202 » Thu Feb 28, 2008 8:30 am

Triker wrote:For starters, on the weekends they have 5 round trips which seems like too many. According to there schedule they have 2 southbound departures from Portland within an 1:05hr(7:10am,8:15am). The same can be said for 2 northbound trains from Boston(5:00pm,6:25pm). Why is there a need to run 2 different trains so close together? Eliminate one southbound and northbound trip on the weekend.
And still with 5 northbounds, you can't get to Portland earlier than 12:40 PM on a weekend! Always, while having done it a few times, the biggest deterrent to day tripping to Portland from Boston on the train is the short window you have in town without staying overnight.

ferroequinarchaeologist
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A few facts

Post by ferroequinarchaeologist » Thu Feb 28, 2008 11:37 am

A few facts to mix in with all the opinion:

According to the monthly report for December 2007 at the NNEPRA website:

“Average daily ridership was 1,105…Train 685 continues to be the most popular train averaging 234 passengers per day and 19% of weekday ridership. Train 680 is the second highest performer with average daily ridership of 199 passengers.”

Let’s do some math. These two trains, the principal morning and evening commuter runs, account for 39% of the average daily passenger count. The remaining 8 trains/day therefore have a total passenger count of 1105 - 433 or 672 / 8 = 84 passengers per train average. Not exactly jamming the vestibules of a four or five car train. Nothing surprising there. Even back in the pre-Interstate days, the most heavily patronized trains ran during rush hour, with a supplemental midday train every couple of hours or so.

IMHO, a train with that few passengers needs a major subsidy to cover costs. And with an average of 84 passengers, it’s not surprising to find very low patronage on the off-hour trains. Remember the incident at Anderson a few months ago? The Boston papers noted that the Downeaster involved carried 12 passengers. As I said before, these facts confirm that it’s not a stretch to realize that the crew may outnumber the passengers on occasion.

So what, you say? (You did say that, didn’t you?) So get real. As has been noted elsewhere, there is no nationalized passenger rail service in the world that operates at a profit. They are considered to be part of the national transportation infrastructure and, in the USA, an alternative to the private automobile for businesspeople, students, and those who don’t drive - primarily the elderly. In general, people in other countries are willing to support the rails, just as they support the highway and air infrastructure. Our problems are unique to the US.

Pay your taxes, sit back, and enjoy the ride.

PBM

henry6

The other thing

Post by henry6 » Thu Feb 28, 2008 12:17 pm

The other thing to be considered is that when you plan an operation like this you plan on operating a "service" and not operating a train or trains. In other words, the daily total passenger count, crew costs, equipment costs, crew and equipment positioning, and frequency of availability of the service along with the proper times and timing, all have to be taken into account. So you have to do a reverse move to position equipment, why not make it a "revenue" rather than % head" move wherever possible. The "field of dreams" concept creeps in, too, so you operate a train knowing it will build a passenger count. Or you have a train depart, in this case Portland, ME, virtually empty knowing that it will be full crossing the NH-MA border, or that traffic between two intermediate points may be the "service" you are providing. No, its not just running trains, there is marketing and operations to be considered, too.

Tracer

Post by Tracer » Thu Feb 28, 2008 8:41 pm

If I remember correctly the original idea behind the Downeaster was to bring tourists from the Boston area to Portland. Well by looking at the numbers the Downeaster more closely resembles a commuter train than a "vacation train". If the suit and ties that run Amtrak want the Boston-Portland train to survive they need to stream line there schedules around the commuters (i.e. the trains that actually have riders!). Trains that run just to accommodate 2 dozen "tourists" should be discontinued.

In my opinion the Downeaster should be the model for Amtrak. If Amtrak is to have a future they need to focus on short routes (3-4hrs) that can compete with air travel. What I don’t agree with is subsidizing a 2 day train trip from New York to Florida when you can make the same trip on southwest airlines for $99 bucks. I hope the Downeaster can survive.

Mattydred
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Post by Mattydred » Fri Feb 29, 2008 2:27 am

Sorry about the "rail nuts" I shouldn't post and (work).
No, you should post. At work, well that's up to you. I do apologize for being rude. I just didn't like the NIMBY-Not My Tax Dollar tone of your last post. We're all different, and unfortunately with our pastimes and passions come a bit of politics. For me, it's baseball and trains and other stuff. And indeed until we all change our collective thinking about this whole overrated automobile and fossil fuel thing, not much will change in the matter of public-funded mass transit.

I love to come to this message board, because it's pretty much the only place on the internet that people are actually talking about railroading in New England, or anywhere else for that matter. I certainly don't want to alienate anyone.

So, my bad Toolman. You do raise a valid point.
Last edited by Mattydred on Fri Feb 29, 2008 2:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

l008com
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Post by l008com » Fri Feb 29, 2008 4:41 am

toolmaker wrote:So far no one has convinced me as a New Hampshire resident I should be taxed for something that I can’t use. I still demand those who use it or have access to this service need to pay more. Stop picking my pockets.
1) You can use it
2) Do you complain about the new Rt 111 upgrade in Windham? Its your tax dollars, for something you won't use.




Does anyone have any solid numbers. How much $$$ is the airline industry actually subsidized. And the interstate highway system? Both are massive compared to what it costs to subsidize passenger rail, aren't they?
My New YouTube Channel (Give It Time):
John's Train Videos

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toolmaker
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Post by toolmaker » Fri Feb 29, 2008 7:18 am

l008com wrote:1) You can use it
2) Do you complain about the new Rt 111 upgrade in Windham? Its your tax dollars, for something you won't use.


Does anyone have any solid numbers. How much $$$ is the airline industry actually subsidized. And the interstate highway system? Both are massive compared to what it costs to subsidize passenger rail, aren't they?
1) It doesn't serve our market. I have been to the seacoast 3 or 4 times in 21 years living in New Hampshire.

2) Highway taxes are funded by fuel taxes, I saw in another string someone wants to start taxing by the miles driven too. The whole reasoning behind this is we are not buying enough gasoline to fund all the projects people need in congested areas of the country. To a person living in a less populated area, this is more taxation for something they will never see, use or benefit from. This is a regional problem, it is your problem. Expanding your reach into outer regions for more taxes causes backlash.

By the way, I drive a 4 cylinder Honda in case you’re wondering because the Yukon is up on blocks and I am waiting for the next SSI payment to buy a GPS to replace the Onstar.
:wink:
-gary

“If practice makes perfect, and if nobody's perfect, why practice?"

henry6

AHHH, BUT...

Post by henry6 » Fri Feb 29, 2008 8:51 am

AHHH, but Toolmaker, you are mistaken if you think only your fuel tax pays for highways...it takes a lot more money than that. And there is the arguement that larger, heavy trucks do more damage than their "fair share" payments are worth. And following your arguement that you have been to the seacoast only a few times, so why pay for a system you don't use. The same can be said for one from Portsmouth who has never driven Route 18 through Whitefield. No, Toolmaker, this is a round and round arguement that rarely changes the minds of those involved, whether pro rail or anti rail, pro highway or anti highway. But it does keep the internet going!

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