• Post COVID - Passenger Rail

  • General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.
General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

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  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Somehow, I am starting to see that "light at the end of the tunnel".

Likely that is in great part to that I have now had VAX-1 and with no apparent side effects, as well as a daily graph The Times prints of the seven day average of reported COVID cases. That graph is "heading in the right direction".

But of concern to me, and I'd dare say to many others around here, is will rail travel EVER fully recover?

With the distinct possibility that WFH - work from home - will become a "new normal" for White Collar workers, I must wonder if commuter rail will ever see the same ridership as they did in December '19. Many more "10 rides" will be sold as a result of the perhaps weekly "summoning" to the office that will continue to be part of White Collar work-life. "Monthly" ticket sales will simply never recover. Further, not helping the cause will be the relocation of corporate offices away from the high cost areas like New York, San Francisco, LA to the low cost "Valhallas" of Austin and Tucson. Here the mass transit systems, particularly light or heavy rail, have never been built to the extent of the localities getting the "bye-bye" - and despite all the consultancies and advocacies, will never be.

I am fearful that Amtrak's Northeast Corridor "yield" will also likely never recover - especially the premium services like Acela. This will be for the same reasons that even if there are "fannies in the seats", air transport yields will not soon recover. Amtrak could "give it away to fill 'em up" but will that again make the service profitable to the extent it was during Dec '19?

The Locally sponsored and funded "Corridors" will simply continue at the will of their political benefactors; same applies to Amtrak's "National System" (still the LD's in Forumese).

Thoughts, anyone?
  by MattW
 
I think that at worst, the morning commute load will be more spread throughout the day with the evening rush hour rebounding quicker. It may take a year or two, but it's likely that most of the commuter crowd will rebound.
  by west point
 
Speculation is just too problematic. We have no idea when or maybe even if Covid-19 will disappear. All it will take is for a variant to be vaccine resistant and, higher contagious, and more deadly. Take even just one of those problems with any thought of how things will turn out impossible. Have 2 or 3 of those things and science fiction will become a reality.

Hope for goodness sakes a natural disaster does not come as well!
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Off topic and rails, but relevant to the discussion. Expanding upon Mr. West Point's thoughts, I can foresee an annual COVID shot, having antibodies for whichever strains the virologists believe will become endemic.

The annual VAX will become the crapshoot same as it is for the Flu shot, where sometimes they catch the endemic strains - and sometimes they don't.
  by daybeers
 
MattW wrote: Sat Feb 13, 2021 2:47 pm I think that at worst, the morning commute load will be more spread throughout the day with the evening rush hour rebounding quicker. It may take a year or two, but it's likely that most of the commuter crowd will rebound.
Although predictions are difficult, I too subscribe to this thinking. With WFH, I also see errands-type traffic increasing substantially to be all throughout the day & week instead of concentrated to certain time periods or over the weekend.
  by electricron
 
If and when almost everyone is vaccinated, I fully expect things to return to normal.
Will there be some variances? Yes.
But our normal routines had been because it was convenient, it will be just as convenient afterwards as well.
So I do not expect many variance will continue on.

People to people contact is healthy for humans in so many ways. We should encourage a return to normality as soon as possible.
Employers should expect employees to return to their offices. Businesses will grow and will hire more employees. More people going to work will need something to get there. Buses, trains,. and highway lanes will fill up again.

How fast we return to normal has yet to be written, that is a question only the future knows the answer.

A century or so ago someone asked Roland Amundsen why he took a dog trainer with him on his explorations? His reply was that dogs are just as lazy as people. They would climb aboard and ride the sled just like us. A dog trainer/hustler is needed so that they would work. People need bosses and supervisors too, which is why I expect businesses will use offices again in the future. So the boss can more easily manage his employees.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Ron, as with anything else you post around here, I respect your thought.

True, face to face is more effective than is screen to screen.

The flip side though is how much less office footage employers will need, and coupled with their exodus to the Austin's in this world from the San Francisco's, they see savings. Savings mean more profits. More profits mean more Market Cap - and happy "those who are paid with pieces of that 'Cap'" rather than the Green stuff.

I honestly hope you are correct; time will tell.
  by electricron
 
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Sun Feb 14, 2021 10:38 am Ron, as with anything else you post around here, I respect your thought.

True, face to face is more effective than is screen to screen.

The flip side though is how much less office footage employers will need, and coupled with their exodus to the Austin's in this world from the San Francisco's, they see savings. Savings mean more profits. More profits mean more Market Cap - and happy "those who are paid with pieces of that 'Cap'" rather than the Green stuff.

I honestly hope you are correct; time will tell.
Home offices can be a accounting land mine when it comes to paying taxes. Surely it should be deductible for your business, and there are rules in place. How many of us are aware of these rules? I admit I do not. If the computer is in the office and paid for from the business office’s accounts, it is an easy documentation. But for someone using their home computers for business that is also used for other purposes, such as entertainment, how much should it be deductible. I doubt the IRS will accept 100%.

Getting back to the old normal should be the goal.
  by RRspatch
 
I sense that once vaccines are rolled out to enough people there will be a HUGE pent up urge to "return to normal" as in 2019. This will include travel, work, shopping and eating out. One can look at the "Roaring 20's" that followed the Spanish Flu Pandemic 100 years ago to see how this might play out.

Another thing to take into account is that many companies have noted a drop off in productivity as WFH has dragged on. I suspect there will be a general call to return to the offices once this mess is over. Yes, yearly shots might be needed to keep Covid-19 and it's various off shoots at bay for a couple years.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
electricron wrote: Sun Feb 14, 2021 3:30 pm Home offices can be a accounting land mine when it comes to paying taxes. Surely it should be deductible for your business, and there are rules in place. How many of us are aware of these rules? I admit I do not. If the computer is in the office and paid for from the business office’s accounts, it is an easy documentation. But for someone using their home computers for business that is also used for other purposes, such as entertainment, how much should it be deductible. I doubt the IRS will accept 100%.
Ron, while we are diverging way away from anything related to passenger rail, allow this retired CPA to note that you DO have a point here.

Under TCJA17, home office deductions are allowed only for self-employed individuals and members of a partnership or multiple member LLC's electing to be taxed as a partnership. Is it fair? a lot of folk don't think so (including some of my neighbors). But was it fair for taxpayers who had a "work area" in one portion of a living room and would take after-hours business calls while sitting somewhere in that room to claim such as a Home Office? I don't think so, but try telling that to the clients I had who "tried to slip it by me" and having to listen to the likes of "do you work for me or do you work for the IRS?". Sam knew he couldn't catch all the abusers, so with TCJA17, he did away with it all.

Simple now: no Schedule C or K-1? no deduction.

Finally, "let us not go there" around here with the problems taxpayers who have found themselves WFH-ing in one state while their employer located in another, will have with State level taxation.
  by eolesen
 
I thought I'd give you guys the weekend before being the wet blanket. Time's up. ;)

First off.... I'd avoid banking on vaccinations solving anything in the next 12 months. The virus *is* mutating, and we've been lucky so far that the current vaccines have shown some efficacy but Nature has a way of screwing with us and I wouldn't be surprised to see a vaccine resistant strain take hold somewhere, and then we are back to square two.

Second... "Two weeks to stop the spread" is evolving to be "two years" as Dr. Fraudci is now saying masks will be needed until at least April 2022. Frankly, "experts" have been changing their tune so much that I don't think any responsible business is planning on rolling back WFH policies until January 2022. Doing so would simply open them up to duty of care lawsuits should outbreaks occur after forcing people back to the office.

Third.... Processes and technology have shifted to fit the new work environment normal, and I don't think that genie ever goes back in the bottle. Yeah, there will always be a few bitter clingers who want to have that face time and look over the shoulder of a junior employee, or who think we need to model in-office behavior for those co-workers who have no choice but to show up for in-person work (e.g. manufacturing or operations) but I'd like to think that mindset too will die out if we're locked down for a second year.

My large global employer just renegotiated to give back 17% of their downtown Chicago floor space, and our largest competitor just paused construction on a 100,000 SF expansion at their HQ campus in another state. Some of that is due to attrition, but the rest is due to a paradigm shift in WFH policies that will now be made far more liberal than they were prior to January 2020.

The proof at my employer has been in the pudding --- it became apparent who was capable of acting like adults and doing their jobs remotely, and who wasn't. Those who weren't capable of delivering without being in-person are now "pursuing other interests" making Ron's point of "easier to manage employees" a fraction of the problem it was six or nine months ago.

So coming back to rail bouncing back...

1) Commutes are forever changed for a large percentage of major employers. There are now enough employers embracing remote work that I am already seeing people leaving the bitter clingers for companies who embrace the WFH lifestyle.

2) If vaccines turn out to only good for 12 months, it's inevitable that a declining number of people will be getting in line to receive an annual booster, and I'd expect a large percentage of those "once and done" folks will be the same people who rely on mass transit and have no choice but to place health care at a lower priority than groceries, rent, and utilities. Mass transit has always been a super-spreader for diseases, and like it or not, commuter rail is a piece of that network. You can sanitize the equipment, but not the people getting on and off.

I'll apply the same cut that I do for air travel -- rail traffic is going to take a 30-50% long term cut thru the end of 2022 until people can be convinced that living with the disease is our only option as a global community.
  by Alphaboi
 
I seriously hope mandatory doesn't become the new norm; I hate almost everything about it.

Sent from my SM-G975U using Tapatalk

  by John_Perkowski
 
The entire business economy will change as a result of the pandemic. Look at CNBC and it’s presenters/guests on any given day. People who used to have downtown NYC offices now are working from their homes. Skype, Zoom, FB meeting ... so many options. Heck, I have a business meeting with my bankers tomorrow ... we will all be at home.

Commuter rail will change, and probably decrease in passenger count.
  by NRGeep
 
And in the event a new virus presents as a massive computer breach, where will the meetings take place?
  by Ken W2KB
 
NRGeep wrote: Tue Feb 16, 2021 1:40 pm And in the event a new virus presents as a massive computer breach, where will the meetings take place?
(1) By telephone conference call, as did many of my business meetings with other companies did some 20 years ago.
(2) If there is a widespread computer system failure, there will be no records or business information available to use to hold an in-person meeting as most companies transitioned to electronic documentation and eliminated the vast majority of paper files years ago.
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