• Amtrak New Gulf Coast Service - New Orleans to Mobile AL

  • 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 kitchin
 
GBN, the nineteenth century land was more than the railroads needed, and seems like a stronger argument for giving Amtrak way than the twentieth century regulatory relief. Maybe!

As for canals, I'm not sure how that weighs in, except that there's a long history of government subsidy for all kinds of infrastructure, pretty enthusiastic at times, and lackadaisical in the case of railroads in the South before the Civil War. Mainly just shortlines capturing head-of-navigation markets there, like Augusta, Georgia.

East-west canals: Kanawha (James River), C&O (Potomac), Erie, and St. Lawrence are the ones I know, so I must not be getting the point. Chicago turned its river backwards. Now what are you saying about old Huck? Right before the rail era, a canal was built that crossed the Kanawha on an aqueduct at Columbia, Virginia. The railroad tore it down, despite some local opposition on historic grounds, during the Second World War, but it had been out of use for a long time.

The Intracoastal from Boston to Texas has been a boon, to say the least, for industry and pleasure. The Tennessee-Tombigbee, completed in 1984, turned out to be a boon for pleasure craft mostly, but it does keep them off the busy Lower Mississippi, especially if they're doing "the circuit" around the East Coast.
Last edited by kitchin on Mon May 03, 2021 2:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by kitchin
 
More controversy: the first federal housing construction subsidies were for Newport News Shipyard at the end of the First World War. The follow-up program in the next war, much larger, led to Trump Company still owning an apartment building in the area to this day. I'll try to stay on-topic though.
  by STrRedWolf
 
Ken W2KB wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 4:02 pm Enforcement, and this language of the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution: "No person shall be . . .deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." All costs, direct and indirect, including lost opportunity costs, resultant to a freight railroad by virtue of Amtrak operations must be reimbursed to the railroad. That can be a very substantial sum.
What is this current cost, and who sets it? If it is set by law, then the freight railroads need to lobby their Congress Critters and get it changed. If it's set by a government agency (STB? FRA? Amtrak?), then it is a lawsuit -- and why hasn't that hit the rail news wire?

If the railroads know this, why are they not going through that process? Instead, they violate the very law they signed onto by creating Amtrak... and set it up so that it's very hard to actually enforce.

Let me pose a hypothetical: The California Zephyr going from Cali to Chicago gets hit delay after delay due to UP running stupid-long trains that are breaking down. I'm on that train. The delays are so bad that instead of overnighting in Chicago, I'm stuck on the train for nearly 24 hours. Amtrak tries all they can but bus substitution could not happen. I lose my hotel room and get charged for it.

Now, I have monetary damages. Do I sue Amtrak? No, they did not cause the issues, and they tried to work around the issues. No, the delays are because of Union Pacific. It is because of UP's actions that I lost the funds. But it comes out of Amtrak's pocket due to current law no matter who I sue.

So how can anyone enforce existing law when you can't force the railroad company to atone for their actions?

There will be a time when the freight railroads will sue to get out under the requirement to run Amtrak's trains. Until then...
  by rohr turbo
 
Ken W2KB wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 4:02 pm ... nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." All costs, direct and indirect, including lost opportunity costs, resultant to a freight railroad by virtue of Amtrak operations must be reimbursed to the railroad. That can be a very substantial sum.
Ken, I believe you overlook the fact that the railroads (most of them in 1970, a few in the following years) entered into a contract to grant Amtrak these trackage rights (indefinitely!). They signed with their eyes wide open.

Now of course Mr. GBN will say he witnessed backroom wink-wink assurances that Amtrak wouldn't last long, but private verbal discussions (even in a MILW office suite) don't have legal standing.

Sure, conditions changed in following years (Staggers) but that doesn't invalidate a contract. I sold bitcoin and AAPL before their big run-ups, but I cannot whine that those assets were "taken" from me. A deal's a deal.

That said, I fully support Amtrak paying the freight RRs the going trackage rights rate, for a light short train on a (relatively) predictable schedule. This certainly was the intent of the original agreement.

As for Sunset East, there is some gray area since the train hasn't run for many years yet was never completely removed from the timetable.

If I have misstated or overlooked something, please let me know.

-- 73s from another Ken, WA2PMV
  by David Benton
 
STrRedWolf wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 5:24 pm
Ken W2KB wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 4:02 pm Enforcement, and this language of the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution: "No person shall be . . .deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." All costs, direct and indirect, including lost opportunity costs, resultant to a freight railroad by virtue of Amtrak operations must be reimbursed to the railroad. That can be a very substantial sum.
What is this current cost, and who sets it? If it is set by law, then the freight railroads need to lobby their Congress Critters and get it changed. If it's set by a government agency (STB? FRA? Amtrak?), then it is a lawsuit -- and why hasn't that hit the rail news wire?

If the railroads know this, why are they not going through that process? Instead, they violate the very law they signed onto by creating Amtrak... and set it up so that it's very hard to actually enforce.

Let me pose a hypothetical: The California Zephyr going from Cali to Chicago gets hit delay after delay due to UP running stupid-long trains that are breaking down. I'm on that train. The delays are so bad that instead of overnighting in Chicago, I'm stuck on the train for nearly 24 hours. Amtrak tries all they can but bus substitution could not happen. I lose my hotel room and get charged for it.

Now, I have monetary damages. Do I sue Amtrak? No, they did not cause the issues, and they tried to work around the issues. No, the delays are because of Union Pacific. It is because of UP's actions that I lost the funds. But it comes out of Amtrak's pocket due to current law no matter who I sue.

So how can anyone enforce existing law when you can't force the railroad company to atone for their actions?

There will be a time when the freight railroads will sue to get out under the requirement to run Amtrak's trains. Until then...
Short answer is , yes, if you were to sue anyone , you would have to sue Amtrak . It would be then up to them to Seek compensation from UP , wether by suing or other means. You can only sue the business you entered a transportation contract with, for the purpose of breach of that contract.
  by Ken W2KB
 
eolesen wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 8:09 am
David Benton wrote:I think the constitutions are more to protect the rights of people , vs the rights of multinational, multi billion corporations.
Constitutions exist to limit government's overreach. That includes people and businesses.

Within some of our lifetimes, the day will come where Amtrak has existed longer than long distance rail operated by freight railroads did. At some point decades ago, the obligation to cooperate that freight roads agreed to in 1971 was met... it will go to court eventually and be adjudicated by a body other than the STB.

Amtrak: Fifty Years of Burning Your Money...

Image

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It is critical to note that the corporations are owned by individual people and thus any decrease in value of those corporations resultant from costs imposed by Amtrak is a taking from those individual owners, both debt and equity owners, directly or indirectly. Hence, the corporate vs. people argument is not sustainable.
  by Arborwayfan
 
^^ This is true, but the benefit to society (made up of people) (including stockholders and bondholders who are also passengers, or whose roads or airways are less congested because of Amtrak, as is true in a few places)) could still outweigh the cost to the people who own the company.

Whatever the law of takings (which lawyers and judges argue about a lot) might say at any given point, society pretty much always stops some people and some corporations from doing things that would make them more money. Which of those things are takings and which aren't is what a lot of the arguments are about. Safety appliances cost money, but aren't a taking. Speed limits reduce capacity. Are they a taking? Diesel exhaust is bad for you, so idling in enclose spaces and near some kinds of buildings may be forbidden. A taking? Etc.

I'd like to throw in the idea that railroads' use of rights of way often obtained free or with the help of eminent domain, and their legal right to operate them without fences etc. and not be responsible for the death of trespassers is a little bit like how broadcasting, cell phone, etc., companies use the public airwaves, and are sometimes subject to certain special restrictions because of that (like the various public service requirements that used to be imposed on TV stations, including the former fairness doctrine in news programming and the educational PSAs we used to see during the commercial breaks of kids' shows in the 80s.) Legally, I dunno, but this is that kind of moral reasoning I have in mind when I say railroads might have special responsibilities because they have special privileges.

We're pretty far off topic, but this discussion is important, and fun. :-D
  by eolesen
 
That "free land" argument gets really old. The "free land" that a few railroads got via land grants was largely undeveloped territories where there was no private ownership to begin with. The government was giving it away to homesteaders, so land values were essentially at zero.

The amount of land ceded to railroads via eminent domain compared to that condemned for highways and airports via eminent domain is a rounding error.

If you want to play the "special responsibilities because they have special privileges" card, you have to look at it in total from the beginning of the 20th century.

Any "special privilege" social debt the railroads had was erased in spades during both World Wars where the railroads were commandeered for defense purposes.

Forcing the railroads to continue offering passenger service long after it stopped being profitable should have been argued as a taking... but that's not how things were viewed at the time.
  by Bob Roberts
 
eolesen wrote: Wed May 05, 2021 2:58 am That "free land" argument gets really old. The "free land" that a few railroads got via land grants was largely undeveloped territories where there was no private ownership to begin with. The government was giving it away to homesteaders, so land values were essentially at zero.

The amount of land ceded to railroads via eminent domain compared to that condemned for highways and airports via eminent domain is a rounding error.

If you want to play the "special responsibilities because they have special privileges" card, you have to look at it in total from the beginning of the 20th century.

Any "special privilege" social debt the railroads had was erased in spades during both World Wars where the railroads were commandeered for defense purposes.

Forcing the railroads to continue offering passenger service long after it stopped being profitable should have been argued as a taking... but that's not how things were viewed at the time.
So if a tenant has rented a small apartment for many years, would it be reasonable for them to stop paying rent because the original rental agreement ‘had gotten old’? Would you expect them to stop paying rent if bigger apartments were built next door? Should the tenant get extra consideration for paying rent during an event like the pandemic or the great recession?

I am certainly not a contract attorney, and I don’t know enough 19th century railroad charter history to pretend to know about any tacit or explicit agreements between railroads and the federal government. But if such agreements existed at all (which seems likely), your logic here seems a bit thin in the absence of evidence of a termination date in those agreements.
Last edited by Bob Roberts on Wed May 05, 2021 12:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by Ridgefielder
 
I want to point out that railroad companies have a common carrier obligation. This legal concept exists in all common-law countries and has been the basis of Federal regulation of the railroad industry since at least the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887.

My understanding is that by joining Amtrak the railroad companies were deemed to satisfy the passenger transportation aspect of their obligation. HOWEVER that didn't mean they were forever absolved of that obligation if Amtrak deemed it in the public interest to operate a passenger train where none were run in April 1971.

You have to remember that railroads, like airlines, trucking companies, pipelines and even utilities, operate in a different legal category than companies that make smartphones or toothpaste. Let alone individuals. One can't really make an apples-to-apples comparison with the government seizing a factory or some such thing.
  by west point
 
The RRs had better be careful. The ugly head of congress passing regulation legislation could always rear its ugly head. Tread carefully RRs.
Last edited by west point on Wed May 05, 2021 12:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by Rockingham Racer
 
Here's the crux of the problem: everyone thought Amtrak would be gone forever by 1980. We all know that didn't happen, and now the railroads are getting bitten.
  by Arborwayfan
 
eolesen wrote:If you want to play the "special responsibilities because they have special privileges" card, you have to look at it in total from the beginning of the 20th century.

Any "special privilege" social debt the railroads had was erased in spades during both World Wars where the railroads were commandeered for defense purposes.
I'm looking at it from the first rail of the B&O until this morning. Railroads still have the special privileges that make them subject to common carrier law. The fact that everyone who ever posts in this forum takes it as obvious that when a person is killed by an train on an unfenced ROW it's the person's fault, not the railroad's, and the law agrees with us, is a special privilege. The fact that a city isn't allowed to stop railroads from blocking public streets for more than x minutes is a special privilege; try doing that with your car, or a truck, and see where you get. Without those privileges railroads would be an awful lot more expensive to build, maintain, and operate.

And I don't buy the WWII example. The railroads got paid. Maybe you could call the WWI nationalization a commandeering, but they got paid for that. In WWII they got told what to do, but they were private businesses and they got more profitable during the war. WWII gave a lot of railroads their best revenue years ever; freight and passenger revenue in 44 and 45 were nearly triple what they'd been in 40. Now, if you want to say that the enormous federal subsidies to roads and aviation before and after WWII erased any special obligations, I'd be more convinced.

Now, in a lot of cases, I think we the citizens should pay more to get more from the railroads, but I still think they owe a certain about of public service.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Prof. Martens, during WWII railroads handled Government freight and troops at bargain basement rates. It has been suggested those rates more than paid for the Land Grants at then prevailing market rates.

When California got "passenger train happy" during the '80's, they did not expect SP and ATSF to provide service under the Amtrak remunerative base. They demanded more - and they paid more.

There isn't an Amtrak station anywhere not accessible by public highway. Substitute bos service could provide the "ride of last resort" to the little lady in Sanderson who must see her Doctor in San Antonio. Will, as one here wondered how would busses provide Sleeping and Dining service? Well they won't; just transportation.

I continue to hold that replacement of the 450 car Superliner fleet will be costly, and that it is time for the Fifth Amendment Takng to end. It won't happen overnight, but it's time for it to "happen" in an orderly manner, as it was planned for forty five years ago.
  by gokeefe
 
Good lord I could swear this was the local meeting of the John Birch Society.

Look ... Railroads are a regulated utility. Same as the phone company or the electrics. Difference being their regulation is federal and not state based. Take a railroad into bankruptcy? Have fun with what used to be known as Section 77. Liquidation is in essence a measure of the *very* last resort. Sorry for the "MILW Lines West" Mr. Norman.

Short answer to why I don't see Amtrak as some kind of extraordinary government overreach is that the railroads are a protected monopoly. And "no" the trucks can't always take over all of the rail traffic. There are plenty of examples where movement by truck is simply infeasible for entire industries.

The railroads have a unique hold on a highly lucrative part of the transportation market and that represents an ongoing grant from the public in much the same manner as broadcasters use public airwaves for television. The entire regulatory scheme intentionally allows railroads to maintain their rights in such a manner as to provide steady and reliable profits in return for consistent freight service *AND* access for Amtrak when it is desirable.

Land grants were given in return for original construction. The ongoing regulatory scheme which is protective of the railroads in various ways is for what happens right now. That's the trade off. The railroads get a good deal from their government regulator and in exchange for that they must provide access in the public interest to the government passenger service operator.

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