• PSR and Amtrak

  • 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

  by STrRedWolf
 
west point wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 6:19 pm It is time for some of the $28B going to freight RRs to get rid of some of the bottlenecks.
I think a fresh look at the lines being used would be well in hand to set policy on how that $28B is to be spent.
  by dowlingm
 
west point wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 6:19 pm It is time for some of the $28B going to freight RRs to get rid of some of the bottlenecks.
The taxpayer should be dismayed at the notion that they pay to reinstate the track capacity that PSR zealots ripped out, surely?

In what other mode of transportation is the hauler permitted to determine the capacity of the road/mode it runs over, and scheduling of itself AND any other user of said road/mode? FedEx aren't permitted to operate air traffic control to shunt competitor or passenger flights onto taxiways or in flight holding points so their planes may take the shortest route (or close runways they deem unproductive but demand state funds to reopen), or UPS to own national highways where they pick and choose who may use the onramps, and yet this pernicious carry on is permitted in rail, and the number of players is even proposed to shrink even further.
  by eolesen
 
Uh no. The bulk of multi track mainlines was pulled up and single tracked decades ago. Not as part of PSR.

Track, signaling and switching plants cost money to maintain, and there's a tipping point where it's cheaper to pick up the track and re-lay it when it's not going to see regular use.

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  by STrRedWolf
 
eolesen wrote: Tue Jun 15, 2021 8:41 pm Uh no. The bulk of multi track mainlines was pulled up and single tracked decades ago. Not as part of PSR.

Track, signaling and switching plants cost money to maintain, and there's a tipping point where it's cheaper to pick up the track and re-lay it when it's not going to see regular use.
We've passed the threshold for picking up the track. If we haven't passed back over it for putting it back down, we're damn close to passing it with PSR.
  by Ken W2KB
 
dowlingm wrote: Tue Jun 15, 2021 4:02 pm
west point wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 6:19 pm It is time for some of the $28B going to freight RRs to get rid of some of the bottlenecks.
The taxpayer should be dismayed at the notion that they pay to reinstate the track capacity that PSR zealots ripped out, surely?

In what other mode of transportation is the hauler permitted to determine the capacity of the road/mode it runs over, and scheduling of itself AND any other user of said road/mode? FedEx aren't permitted to operate air traffic control to shunt competitor or passenger flights onto taxiways or in flight holding points so their planes may take the shortest route (or close runways they deem unproductive but demand state funds to reopen), or UPS to own national highways where they pick and choose who may use the onramps, and yet this pernicious carry on is permitted in rail, and the number of players is even proposed to shrink even further.
Both over the road and air cargo companies could build or acquire their own roadways or airports, just as existing or a newly formed railroad company could build a new rail line. They chose not to do so, but if they did, they would be entitled to control use of those road and airport facilities and expand or contract at will, similar to those decisions made by private company freight railroads such as the US railroads that have implemented PSR.
  by eolesen
 
The closest non-railroad corollary are companies who've launched their own satellites and/or laid down fiber to built out their own dedicated communication networks.

Nobody seems to question the decision those companies made to keep it all to themselves or charge others market rates for access...

Can you imagine the government trying to force AT&T, Sprint or Verizon to give them below-market access to bandwidth?...
  by eolesen
 
STrRedWolf wrote: Wed Jun 16, 2021 11:03 am We've passed the threshold for picking up the track. If we haven't passed back over it for putting it back down, we're damn close to passing it with PSR.
Amtrak is paying Happy Meal rates and expecting Porterhouse service levels...

If Amtrak were paying market rates for access (e.g. something that reflected the cost of providing and maintaining the track), perhaps Class 1's might be a little more willing to work with Amtrak and add capacity where it's justified.
  by David Benton
 
eolesen wrote: Thu Jun 17, 2021 3:31 am
STrRedWolf wrote: Wed Jun 16, 2021 11:03 am We've passed the threshold for picking up the track. If we haven't passed back over it for putting it back down, we're damn close to passing it with PSR.
Amtrak is paying Happy Meal rates and expecting Porterhouse service levels...

If Amtrak were paying market rates for access (e.g. something that reflected the cost of providing and maintaining the track), perhaps Class 1's might be a little more willing to work with Amtrak and add capacity where it's justified.
Do you actually know what they are paying , and how it compares to other running rights between railroads?
  by STrRedWolf
 
eolesen wrote: Thu Jun 17, 2021 3:25 am The closest non-railroad corollary are companies who've launched their own satellites and/or laid down fiber to built out their own dedicated communication networks.

Nobody seems to question the decision those companies made to keep it all to themselves or charge others market rates for access...
Comcast, Google, Zayo, Level 3... won't be surprised if Facebook bought/laid fiber... But nobody questioned it because it wasn't as regulated as trains are, and many companies have cross-traffic agreements to let traffic flow for cheap (if not free).

Apples and oranges.
Can you imagine the government trying to force AT&T, Sprint or Verizon to give them below-market access to bandwidth?...
Yes, I can, because my company is in that space. And I bet there's government contracts that do, because sales people want to get paid and the companies can provide the service.

There's "market rate" and then there's "capital cost of service." How much it actually takes to run the service with power, personnel monitoring it, and occasional hardware replacement. Anything between the two is called "profit".

I keep asking this. What is Amtrak paying for the level of service expected?
  by eolesen
 
Railroad Passenger Service Act of 1970 grants priority access at the incremental cost associated with accommodating Amtrak. They do not pay the access fee that another railroad would be charged under trackage rights, which are cost-plus-markup.
STrRedWolf wrote: Thu Jun 17, 2021 6:10 am Yes, I can, because my company is in that space. And I bet there's government contracts that do, because sales people want to get paid and the companies can provide the service.
Nah, a contract is consensual. You want government business? Great.

I'm talking about non-consensual access.... I'm sure your sales people would never agree to government only paying the incremental cost of providing service.
  by STrRedWolf
 
eolesen wrote: Thu Jun 17, 2021 6:20 am Railroad Passenger Service Act of 1970 grants priority access at the incremental cost associated with accommodating Amtrak. They do not pay the access fee that another railroad would be charged under trackage rights, which are cost-plus-markup.
You misunderstand my request. Let me make it clear: What dollar amount is Amtrak paying for running their trains on freight lines?

I ask that because I want to compare market rates to Amtrak rates. I want to check your assertion that they're cheaper or below "at-cost".
  by eolesen
 
Yeah, I'll pass on doing your research for you.

Amtrak doesn't release what they pay the freight roads, nor do they break it out in their financial statements as an operating expense summary line, but it might make for an interesting FOIA request (although I'm not sure if Amtrak is subject to FOIA as a government owned corporation vs. an agency).

It would be quite entertaining to see you prove Amtrak pays more for access than another railroad would, but anecdotal evidence says that's not the case as Class 1's have complained for decades about the rates Amtrak pays.
Last edited by eolesen on Thu Jun 17, 2021 10:03 am, edited 2 times in total.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Mr. Wolf, Amtrak's remuneration to each road, as Mr. Olesen immediately notes, holding a bilateral Operating Agreement is exempt from public disclosure under FOIA. But, considering my 40 year "absence" from industry affairs, I can only affirm what I read that such is "Bargain Basement".

I've "been gone too long" to fear reprisals, but back in my day, the total cost of maintaining a segment of track (including supervision as railroad Operating Officers have jurisdiction over Amtrak crews while on their lines) is allocated over the cost of all trains operated. As example, a line with twenty trains a day, with two being Amtrak, Amtrak will pay 2/20, or 10%. By that rationale, over the BNSF Chicago Sub, with its 140 trains a Weekday, eight of which are Amtrak, Amtrak pays 8/140, or 5.7%. If this formula holds with, say, the Rutland, which has "one a day" of their own and Amtrak's "one a day" (Ethan Allen), Amtrak is paying half the cost of maintaining their line. If there is any foundation to this reasoning, the Rutland is happy to have Amtrak around.

I'll certainly defer to anyone "more in the know" who is willing to discuss here.

But finally, I continue to hold that should Amtrak interests "press" the roads to "lay down" their Precision Railroading models solely for Amtrak benefits citing some "vagaries" regarding "priority", that would clearly be a "Taking" under the Fifth Amendment. Amtrak simply "gets what it pays for". Pay the roads the full opportunity cost of the High Priority ("Z" on the BNSF) Container train the road cannot handle owing to Amtrak requirements of service, and it would be "a whole new ball game".
  by eolesen
 
The last number I heard was Amtrak paying around $150M per year to host railroads (prior to COVID), which comes out to around $6.50 per mile regardless of train length or weight. As Prof. Norman said, that's going to vary depending on the expenses incurred by the host road and the prorated miles/operations for Amtrak. Running on Metro North where it's electrified won't be as cheap as running the BNSF transcon.

Trackage rights or access fees charged to foreign roads are a fixed rate based on tons per mile, and they might vary based on bilateral agreements.
  by STrRedWolf
 
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Thu Jun 17, 2021 9:18 am Mr. Wolf, Amtrak's remuneration to each road, as Mr. Olesen immediately notes, holding a bilateral Operating Agreement is exempt from public disclosure under FOIA. But, considering my 40 year "absence" from industry affairs, I can only affirm what I read that such is "Bargain Basement".
It sounds a lot like in order for that info to be released, I'd have to write a Congress critter or three. I forget what committee is starting to investigate PSR...

My take is that if Amtrak is paying "below costs" then it should be paying more, but I doubt it can legally pay "market rate" until the law is changed. Amtrak would be providing the equipment and personnel, so it would boil down to access, fuel, water, and possibly emergency equipment repairs. We can't know for sure until we get the raw numbers.