• Amtrak NEC Virginia Regional Service

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

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

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  by Arlington
I'm putting this here because it applies to all of Virginia Regionals. Call it "la petite" version of funding expansion: subsidizing intrastate trips to fill unsold seats.

In a nutshell, VA proposes putting up a small amount of $ to "win back" the customers who'd previously used the AAA and Student discounts for Intrastate and VA-DC trips. This makes perfect sense.
- On the one hand, Amtrak can keep prices and revenues high on the crowded NEC
- On the other VA can discount for "its share" of the train's operations where Amtrak wouldn't care if it were running empty, but where it is bad for voters and drivers for VA to not be running its trains fuller.

So Virginia will shift a tiny % of its commitment to make sure that "intra VADC" trips have lower walk-up fares, and Amtrak can still get its high yields north-of-WAS, and VA-NEC.

http://www.nbc12.com/2018/12/05/boost-a ... rginia-dc/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
State transit officials are considering cutting the price of Amtrak tickets for trips within Virginia [and to/from DC] in a bid to increase ridership.

A market study estimated that a 15 percent fare reduction would lure an estimated 51,000 additional riders onto trains every year — a roughly 7 percent increase. The move would cost the state $683,000 annually, which represents about 1.3 percent of what the state collects in ticket revenues.
With the new Virginia discount, a trip from Roanoke to Union Station in Washington would be reduced from $49 to $41. Amtrak’s saver fare, which is not calculated on top of the Virginia discount, would still be cheaper for people who can plan trips in advance.
  by gokeefe
Interesting choice to "buy" some rudership.
  by Alex M
Since the VA trains operate in the black financially, how is this surplus divided up, if at all?
  by Arlington
In all the years where I have been saying "look at this surplus" in the operating reports, I have never seen an accounting of where it goes in the VADRPT budget.

This probably dates all the way back to when they thought they were going to have to subsidize the train with appropriations and instead to their surprise ended up making money. And yet somehow for the first year or two they couldn't decide whether they wanted to plead poverty (which was useful when lobbying for capital costs) or tout their profit.

My best guess is that it has somehow operated as a revolving operating fund perhaps held by Amtrak because VADRPT doesn't have a place to put it.

But the fund seems to have been constantly recycled into the operating startup costs of new operations that have skated closer and closer to break even or losing money.

I also don't know where VADRPT found the money to subsidize the operating costs of the Virginia Breeze bus, which is a deal a lot like the early Amtrak deal. (the Virginia Breeze, operating from Blacksburg to Union Station along Interstate 81 and 66) is almost entirely a Megabus operation right down to ticketing ,drivers, and tracking, but the bus is wrapped in the Virginia Breeze brand. Like the early Amtrak deal, VADRPT seems willing to subsidize a small loss, but also say "let It Ride" and plow any profits or even the surplus left by unexpectedly small losses, into service expansion. (The Virginia Breeze added a Friday-Sunday round trip on top of an established a daily round trips pattern)

Where the first Lynchburg train made an obvious operating surplus,the surpluses of new Norfolk and Richmond services has been smaller and appeared more slowly, and can probably use a cash cushion somewhere to cover a slow initial start and periodic seasonal deficits.

The subsidy on ticket prices is interesting because it is the first time (that I can recall) since before the Lynchburg train launched that anyone has explicitly said "we're willing to lose a little operating money to get more people riding the train"
  by Arborwayfan
That is a really interesting summary and analysis.
  by Arlington
In looking at the FY2019 budgetit all seems lumped into a single:
"Intercity Passenger Rail Operating and Capital (IPROC) funds of $47.3 million"

In the revenue sources, there's a line:
Carryover for Intercity Passenger Rail Operating and Capital Program (IPROC) $ 8,062,692.

I don't know how Virginia uses the words Carryover, but it seems like a good place to mashup unspent subsidy allocations and "negative subsidies"

they also say:
The IPROC fund was created by the General Assembly in FY 2011. In 2013, the
General Assembly dedicated 40% of a 0.125% increase in the general sales and use
tax to the fund which amounts to approximately $55 million annually. These funds are
used to support the operating and capital needs for the six regional intercity passenger
trains as well as capital costs for the expansion of intercity passenger rail. The trains
operate in the Northeast Corridor and originate from Roanoke, Norfolk, Richmond (2),
and Newport News (2).
2011 is about right for when they'd have realized they had a need for a place to keep Lynchburg Amtrak profits (service began in Oct 2009 and "FY11" began July 1 2010) and that they were going to go ahead with service expansions in Norfolk and Richmond, but it is still a black box to me. But I'll stand by my guess that they've been using IPROC as a slush fund (in the best sense of that) to roll surpluses from existing services into "covering" the operating needs of new services, with the process having to end if they ever get a new service that doesn't at least break even.

Also worth reading the tables at the every end of the linked budget, since it shows that they've spent 19.8M of the total 31.6m they intend to spend on the 2nd Lynchburg train (with the rest split evenly between FY 19 20 & 21) and that they've only got $11.4m left to spend on "ACCA Yard, Carston to Reams, Crossover Improvements" (out of 128m)
  by Station Aficionado
Don’t have time to post link, but Amtrak announced that a second Norfolk train will start in March.
  by Arlington
^ Awesome!

Any guess where they will get the trainset from? and whether it represents a new train across the Potomac, versus somehow rejiggering trains that pass through Richmond so as to extend a train that today terminates at Richmond?

Last we checked, one of the things limiting services in Virginia is that there were no new crossing slots available on the Long Bridge (from CSX), and that any new service would have to extend a train that was already in Richmond.

Was part of the Acca Yard deal that Amtrak would get an additional Long Bridge slot from CSX?

Or was Norfolk Southern somehow the bottleneck south of Richmond? (And maybe progress on the Virginian upgrades has advanced to where NS was willing to give a new frequency?
Last edited by Arlington on Sat Jan 19, 2019 3:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by Arlington
WAVY reports a what sounds like a fairly prime-time train (but seems to be working from a different press release then linked above)
In addition to the second mid-morning departure and early-evening arrival to Norfolk, Newport News customers will also have the option of an early-morning departure and early-evening arrival, with the second line, according to the release.
  by Arlington
Better press release from Virginia DRPT:
https://content.govdelivery.com/account ... ns/228f13e" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
In addition to the current 6:10 AM daily departure, the second Norfolk train will depart weekdays around 9:00 A.M. Passenger rail service to and from Norfolk is part of Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train service …
The addition of service to Norfolk also comes with the announcement of the completion of major construction work at CSX’s Acca Yard in Richmond. The on-time, on-budget completion of the $132 million project decreases congestion for passenger and freight trains between Richmond’s Main Street and Staples Mill Stations, increasing reliability for both Amtrak and CSX customers across the entire Commonwealth.

As part of the Commonwealth’s investment in Acca Yard, CSX also granted additional capacity on its network between Richmond and Petersburg to allow for the additional Amtrak service to Norfolk. Details on the CSX Acca Yard project can be found here: https://www.csx.com/index.cfm/about-us/ ... -projects/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

“CSX is pleased to work with the Commonwealth to complete this series of rail capacity projects on time and under budget,” said Anne Reinke, Vice President of Government Affairs for CSX. “Improving rail traffic flow in and around Richmond will benefit rail passengers and freight customers alike, and will better position the region to capture economic growth opportunities.”

Norfolk Southern was also a key partner in bringing the existing and new Norfolk passenger rail routes online. Inaugural Amtrak train service to Norfolk began in 2012 and marked the first passenger train out of the city since 1977. As part of the Commonwealth’s initial investment in Norfolk Southern’ s network between Petersburg and Norfolk, NS in turn granted additional capacity to allow for current and future Amtrak service to Norfolk.

The new Hampton Roads passenger rail service also includes optimized schedule changes to and from both Norfolk and Newport News stations. In addition to the second mid-morning departure and early-evening arrival to Norfolk, Newport News customers will also have the benefit of an early-morning departure and early-evening arrival, providing all Hampton Roads customers additional daily options to get Washington, D.C. and back. The optimized schedule also brings these new convenient options to Ettrick, Williamsburg, and Richmond’s Main Street and Staples Mill Stations. For more information on the new schedules, please go to:http://drpt.virginia.gov/media/2687/hr-optimization-1102019-w-weekends.pdf.
Today’s announcement is the next chapter of Virginia’s enormously successful commitment to growing passenger rail services across the state. The Commonwealth’s initial investment in support of Amtrak began over a decade ago when it stepped up to save the Newport News service. Since then, four Governors from both parties have launched the nation’s most successful state-supported service to Lynchburg in 2009, brought one train to Norfolk in 2012, worked with the General Assembly to create the Intercity Passenger Rail Operating and Capital Fund, and returned passenger rail to Roanoke in 2018.
Underlining is mine and does a good job summarizing all the points I was trying to get at.

Do click on the link for a current-vs-improved schedule comparison
http://drpt.virginia.gov/media/2687/hr- ... ekends.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

It shows that NFK & NPN are swapping their evening southbound returns, moving NFK's earlier so that NFK can also get the latest evening return to the metro area.

In a nutshell, NFK gets a super business-oriented schedule
Northbound Dp = 615a & 900a
Southbound Ar = 7:00p & 1030p (1.5 hrs earlier and 2.0h later that the current 8:30)

And NPN gets a "get to the Pentagon and back" timing on its train that isn't the NEC night train
Northbound Dp= 5:20a (3.7hrs earlier) & 455p (the night train)
Southbound Ar= 11:30am (the night train) & 8:20pm (the commuter return train that NFK currently gets)
  by Arlington
The other wonderful thing this schedule change does is given RVM (the downtown/Main St station) and really fine workday schedule:

NPN 5:20a 4:55p
RVM 6:35a 6:05p
WAS 9:40a 8:55pm

WAS 7:20a 3:55p
RVM 10:00a 6:50pm

NPN 11:30a 8:20pm

Basically "workday" round trips will soon possible in BOTH DIRECTIONS between RVM and WAS. You can arrive by 10am and leave at 4pm ish or 6pm ish

The William & Mary kids keep their night train ;-) and the "beach getaway" (10:30p arrival & 9am northbound) shifts closer to Virginia Beach by moving it to Norfolk
  by dgvrengineer
Am I reading the DRPT site ( http://drpt.virginia.gov/media/2687/hr-" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; ... ekends.pdf ) correctly, that the new train is Monday -Friday only? Saturday & Sunday they only show 1 train to and from Norfolk.
  by Arlington
^ Yes. Added r/t is weekdays only.
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