Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

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

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, Amtrak67 of America, Tadman, gprimr1

Jonny Bolt

Post by Jonny Bolt » Fri Feb 29, 2008 11:40 am

Hmmm. Why are some people confusing part of a public transportation infrastructure with a proper "business model"?

kilroy
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Post by kilroy » Fri Feb 29, 2008 2:49 pm

Tool et al,

Federal and state gas taxes do not cover the maintenance costs of roadways, let alone expansion of them. Roads are heavily subsidized. Same with air travel. Think the charge added to the tickets for maintenance of the air traffic control system covers the cost?

I keep wishing that a member of Congress would have the 'nads to propose that all forms of transportation become self sufficient, not just rail. Think that will ever happen? Never, Why? Everyone would scream about the cost. Too many people use it to want to pay their own way. Since the subsidy is so hard to see, everyone can easily overlook it and say it doesn't exist.

The problem of global warming and the ever increasing cost of gasoline my help quiet the complaints against rail subsidies but as others have pointed out, no rail system in the world covers its cost of operation. It’s a public good so it needs to be funded.
Why do we drive on parkways and park in driveways?

Dick H
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Post by Dick H » Fri Feb 29, 2008 3:17 pm

Some posters have taken issue with the Downeasters being a commuter operation and others have taken issue with it being for tourist travel.

Personally, I don't care what the reason is that a passenger is using the train. The more the merrier, the higher the income and the less subsidy needed.

Then there was the comment that other than the early morning train out of Portland and the first early evening train out of Boston, there are few passengers riding the trains. Well, the second morning train #682 was nearly sold out today and the second afternoon train #686 is sold out.

Dick

Finch
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Post by Finch » Fri Feb 29, 2008 8:34 pm

l008com wrote:
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?
I don't have the exact numbers but the most recent thing I heard (on a news report video posted on railroad.net) was roughly $15 billion for air, $30 billion for roads.

truman

Post by truman » Sat Mar 01, 2008 7:02 am

Triker and Ferro raise valid points. There is nothing 5 round trips a day can do that 4 properly equipped and scheduled trains can't. It's a case of over ambitious scheduling, NNEPRA drinking too much NARP Kool-Aid, and believing their own PR. With only 2 trainsets, the 5 trips are straining the equipment, and the short turn times do not allow much time to change out bad ordered equipment, and that's if they arrive in Portland on time.
NNEPRA seems to be targeting the commuter market, which makes sense bcause that is where the revenuve is, but the 9 to 5'ers who want to go to Boston for evening Hockey or make a connection to say, Acela 2251 are getting left out.

cpf354
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Post by cpf354 » Sat Mar 01, 2008 8:32 am

I get the sense that the bulk of ridership is largely falls into two categories; the commuters, and the Mainers going to Boston for events. I work in Boston and nobody even knows the train exists, so I think very few Boston area passengers use it to go to Maine. That may explain why they're still short of the projected 500,000 annual ridership.

NEWanderer
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Post by NEWanderer » Sat Mar 01, 2008 8:45 am

[quote="kilroy"]Tool et al,

Federal and state gas taxes do not cover the maintenance costs of roadways, let alone expansion of them. Roads are heavily subsidized. Same with air travel. Think the charge added to the tickets for maintenance of the air traffic control system covers the cost?

I keep wishing that a member of Congress would have the 'nads to propose that all forms of transportation become self sufficient, not just rail. Think that will ever happen? Never, Why? Everyone would scream about the cost. Too many people use it to want to pay their own way. Since the subsidy is so hard to see, everyone can easily overlook it and say it doesn't exist.
quote]

For that matter why should tax onyard trimmer fuel go into highways? Why should aviation not be taxed while the port authorities are subsidized as they are?

Thanks Richard Nixon for keeping it going.

Now, if I have the option I'd take high speed rail instead of flying, lock my luggage, and not have TSA or baggage handlers steal my passport again.

Dick H
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Post by Dick H » Sat Mar 01, 2008 10:57 am

I really don't see how reducing the number of round trips back to four is going to be of any benefit. The 500PM and 6:20PM Boston departures make sense, as the working types sure don't want to wait until 6:20PM to head home and day trippers to Boston probably don't want to end their visit at 4:00PM, depending on how far they are from North Station.

While it would be better if the first train into Portland on the weekends, as it was in previous schedules, this would reguire the first train from Portland to leave around 6:00AM, which I believe that Portland riders do not want to "get going" that early on weekends. However, even with the first train into Portland at 12:40PM, this still allows 7 1/2 hours in Portland to get the 8:10PM departure.

Regarding equipment substitution, there is relatively little spare equipment kept in Portland. The last time I was at Portland, there was just one spare loco and a dinette car. Most spare equipment is kept at the Amtrak Boston Southhampton St. shop. NNPRA does add equipment for known peak situations, such as school vacation week and when there are large group charters known in advance.

I saw some critical comments about NARP (National Association of Railroad Passengers). I wonder if the poster belongs to the Association. If so, he should attend the annual NARP meeting in Boston next Saturday and voice his concerns. It's easy to be critical of any group from the outside, rather than contributing to make things better.

Dick

Cowford
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Post by Cowford » Sat Mar 01, 2008 11:12 am

If you look at the stats, ridership jumped with the addition of the additional roundtrip... that signifies a direct correlation between train starts and ridership.

One comment about earlier remarks on ridership and train patronage... I think there's a tendency to think that if a certain ridership is stated for a train, it's implied that the train maintains that ridership throughout its whole trip. That couldn't be further from reality, considering that half the ridership comes from NH stops.

henry6

AGAIN

Post by henry6 » Sat Mar 01, 2008 12:21 pm

AGAIN. Its the "service" not the train or trains. One trip does not make the service, nor does one round trip. Plus, unless one of us works for management of Downeast service, we cannot know the operational needs of equipment, crews, turnarounds, etc. that are involved. Our comments here are only conjecture and opinion.

Also, no, no one has ever asked outright for a profit return for highways, airports, air lanes, and waterways the way they do for rail travel. Remember too, that investment of highways, airports, and waterways are usually expressed in the hundreds of millions and billions of dollars while any rail monies have been expressed at most in the single digit billions often in the mid hundred million dollar range, but more likely in the tens of million dollar range. So who gets the most $$$?

NRGeep
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Post by NRGeep » Sat Mar 01, 2008 1:28 pm

Seems this discussion belongs on the Amtrak forum. Just my "2 cents."

henry6

NO. IT

Post by henry6 » Sat Mar 01, 2008 3:52 pm

No. It probably should stay here as it pertains to a New Hampshire matter relative to Downeaster service rather than all of Amtrak. That being said, it is going round robbing and if not locked out, it will peter out on its own accord.

b&m 1566
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Post by b&m 1566 » Sat Mar 01, 2008 4:36 pm

I would have to agree this topic of the Downeaster is New England related and doesn't belong on the Amtrak forum. The Amtrak forum is too broad and I'm sure it would quickly get lost.
So far everyone has a valid point in some form or fashion; whether you agree with the points or not, it's made for some fun reading and seems to be making it a good discussion.
Through reading this thread, I've come to realize the first scheduled train departing Boston on Saturday and Sunday's is not too early for those who want to sleep a in little extra but on the down side if you plan on spending the day in Portland you don't arrive till noonish. Would it be possible for them to keep one of the trains over night in Boston on Friday's and Saturday's so they can have an earlier departure from Boston for those people that want to spend the whole day in Portland? I would think a train like that might sell some more seats.
Last edited by b&m 1566 on Sat Mar 01, 2008 5:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

TomNelligan
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Post by TomNelligan » Sat Mar 01, 2008 4:46 pm

b&m 1566 wrote: Would it be possible for them to keep one of the trains over night in Boston on Friday's and Saturday's so they can have an earlier departure from Boston for those people that want to spend the whole day in Portland? I would think a train like that might sell some more seats.
In order to do that, they'd have to go back to a bus substitution for the last northbound trip of the night, which probably wouldn't be too popular among the folks who use the train to get to evening events at the Garden or other evening activities in Boston.

I agree that the first northbound of the day is a liitle late, but the train is paid for by Maine, so I can see why the priority is convenient schedules for riders from the Portland end.

jscola30
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Post by jscola30 » Sat Mar 01, 2008 5:52 pm

I remember reading in the travel newspaper at s. station that unlike alot of other N. Eastern cities, Portland's tourism numbers grew (no I don't have the actual figures), might this be due in part to the Downeaster?

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