Railway Age passenger train opinion (Now Passenger Train Journal?)

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

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Gilbert B Norman
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Railway Age passenger train opinion (Now Passenger Train Journal?)

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:23 am

Railway Age, the magazine industry ostensibly read by executive and managers, has become a soapbox for enhanced passenger trains - nationwide.

The linked material appears to be an opinion piece, even if it does not meet my personal standards for being labeled as such. But be that as it may, I'm at a loss how this continual "party line" of non-GAAP accounting abounds. Sites and publications from the advocacy community, who even go beyond "non-GAAP" (which flies in the face of what a Global accounting firm reports) with terms such as "fraudulent" are I guess what their constituents want to see in print or on screen, but RA? come on.

https://www.railwayage.com/passenger/in ... k-concept/

Fair Use:
When times are fiscally tough, Amtrak’s long-distance trains provide its current management was a convenient scapegoat on which to blame deficits. It’s a task facilitated by Amtrak’s dysfunctional, opaque, non-GAAP train accounting system, and a political agenda that places the Northeast Corridor as Priority One. A correct accounting that includes capital and fairly distributes overhead (management) costs will demonstrate that the Northeast Corridor isn’t a money-maker as Amtrak claims, and requires substantial federal dollars, making it an overall financial drain. Of course, that deals with the inconvenient truth that some of those states’ commuter lines use the Northeast Corridor far more frequently than does Amtrak’s intercity trains, with generous subsidies from federal taxpayers.
The reason I chose to have this a topic of its own is that points away from "non-GAAP" accounting are addressed.

Other issues; first the author cites a need for additional frequencies over the "Trains America" system, as it would enable the "overhead" to be allocated over "two a day" instead of one. Well great, but where will the additionsl capacity come from? The existing Class I system? Don't think so, unless the Feddytrough is prepared to.be filled with feed.

Further, the Superliner fleet, especially the 40yo I's are at the end of their service life and will need to be replaced. But all told, equipment replacement as well as additional track cspacity - needed as the roads adapt Precision Railroading concepts, will make the LD's hopeless losers.

It's time to start accepting the facts of life; the only possible reason to maintain a mode of transport thst has been dead since 1966 (an airline strike provided a short lived "pop") is some kind of political interference. Amtrak management knows whacking the LD's will not happen overnight, so for those that hang on, they should be re-equipped with cars that are readily convertible to short distance configurations, i.e. single level cars compatible with those on order for the Corridors - no Diners, no Sightseers.
Last edited by mtuandrew on Sun Oct 13, 2019 12:45 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Reason: more clarity in title

jhdeasy
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Re: Railway Age Now Passenger Train Journal?

Post by jhdeasy » Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:33 pm

The author (Richard Spotswood) of the item is also a director of AAPRCO and co-owner of Amtrak certified private car 800233 REDWOOD EMPIRE.

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Tadman
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Re: Railway Age Now Passenger Train Journal?

Post by Tadman » Fri Oct 11, 2019 2:33 pm

I've been a bit puzzled the last few years myself. I'm not sure who the target audience is anymore.
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JoeG
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Re: Railway Age Now Passenger Train Journal?

Post by JoeG » Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:43 pm

I continue to be puzzled by Railway Age's recent passenger service articles. I thought that Railway Age's main audience was freight railroad management. But they keep publishing articles that seem to advocate for passenger service but are factually deficient. Maybe more railroad managers than expected are closet foamers?

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Re: Railway Age Now Passenger Train Journal?

Post by DutchRailnut » Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:49 pm

its opinion piece , not a railway age article .
If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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Tadman
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Re: Railway Age Now Passenger Train Journal?

Post by Tadman » Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:20 pm

Right, but since when do they let foamers write opinion pieces for Railway Age?
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rcthompson04
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Re: Railway Age Now Passenger Train Journal?

Post by rcthompson04 » Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:50 pm

What even is this piece? It lives in some sort of fantasy land where the Northeast Corridor not being the priority would have not led to the death of passenger rail in the 1970s.

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Re: Railway Age Now Passenger Train Journal?

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Fri Oct 11, 2019 9:36 pm

A further point: the columnist overlooks that the Corridor was essentially a separate business unit immediately when Amtrak acquired it from the Penn Central Estate on C-Day, or Apr 01-76. It was the intent to operate as such indefinitely, appointing a Corridor CEO and entourage - largely from the defunct Reading RR. But owing to inevitable turf wars, Washington ended up in control. The NEC General Offices were at 1617 JFK Blvd in Philly.

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Tadman
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Re: Railway Age Now Passenger Train Journal?

Post by Tadman » Sat Oct 12, 2019 8:47 am

Boy that would be a game of musical chairs. The former PRR team is running Conrail , which is now basically the NYC water level route. The former RDG team is running the NEC, which was the jewell of the Pennsy. And meanwhile Al Perlman is running the Western Pacific after making the NYC what it was... who’s on first again?
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Re: Railway Age Now Passenger Train Journal?

Post by John_Perkowski » Sat Oct 12, 2019 10:56 am

Admin note...

Moved to General Discussion.
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Re: Railway Age passenger train opinion (Now Passenger Train Journal?)

Post by mtuandrew » Sun Oct 13, 2019 1:05 pm

The premise of this article is tiresome to me. Yes, we know Amtrak is attempting to increase efficiencies on the Northeast Corridor. Yes, we know they have moved away from traditional amenities like a staffed from-scratch dining car. Yes, we know that the long distance lines aren’t making money and likely will never make money. Yes, we know that there is a vocal group of traditionalists (including Spotswood and Selden) who won’t be entirely happy until there is a matched E9 A-B-A set leading a twenty-car all-Heritage consist on every train west of the Appalachians and south of the Potomac, and a GG1 leading every train northeast of those.

Amtrak is the National Rail Passenger Corporation, an entity primarily owned and fully managed by the US Federal Government. It has tried mightily to build out a national system that begins to fill the shadow of the passenger train network of sixty-five years ago, and has exceeded it in locations like the NEC and California. While it does benefit from having regional and business operating units (LD, state-supported, NEC, commuter operations), it’s safe to say that no one would benefit from a Balkanized system except the inevitable private operators. What would be a major benefit is proper funding, more beneficial agreements with host railroads (both carrot and stick), different labor agreements (again, beneficial for both parties when possible), and for Pete’s sake, its own line into Chicago from the East.

Ok, off my soapbox.

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Re: Railway Age passenger train opinion (Now Passenger Train Journal?)

Post by prokowave » Mon Oct 21, 2019 9:05 pm

Giving it some thought, I agree with the general premise that breaking up Amtrak into NEC/Acela and national/long distance networks would result in more investment and improvement in the long distance routes. If, for example, you had taken 50% of the annual capital expenses allocation over the past few decades and invested in the rest of the network, Amtrak probably could have either bought or built enough additional trackage to run the vast majority of its long distance routes, giving it the flexibility to increase frequency and speeds, adjust timings, and greatly improve reliability. At that point the long distance network would probably break even on operating costs and you eliminate the political opposition from freight railroads.

As it is right now Amtrak cries poor because the LDs lose money, gets federal funding and continually plows it into the NEC. Rinse and repeat. Until you have an incentive to actually improve the operation, the majority of the country will be stuck with service thats a century behind the rest of the developed world.

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Re: Railway Age passenger train opinion (Now Passenger Train Journal?)

Post by mtuandrew » Mon Oct 21, 2019 9:27 pm

prokowave: if the US Government had redirected all of that money away from the NEC, who would have funded the renovations the NEC so badly needed? The states definitely wouldn’t have covered enough.

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Re: Railway Age passenger train opinion (Now Passenger Train Journal?)

Post by JoeG » Mon Oct 21, 2019 10:51 pm

I don't know what Amtrak has "struggled mightily" to do but building a national network isn't it. And, the NEC is not in a state of good repair; it can only be said that it would be even worse without government investment. Breaking up Amtrak would only reduce total spending. Unless your vision of the United States is no rail passenger service except for some commuter lines, breaking up Amtrak would be a big mistake.

For what would be a rounding error in the military budget the US could have a much better passenger rail system. We can't accept the premises of a government that sees any taxes as corrupt. Bounced along any highways lately? This fight is not only over Amtrak; it is over our country's unmet infrastructure needs.

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Re: Railway Age passenger train opinion (Now Passenger Train Journal?)

Post by electricron » Tue Oct 22, 2019 12:36 am

JoeG wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 10:51 pm
I don't know what Amtrak has "struggled mightily" to do but building a national network isn't it. And, the NEC is not in a state of good repair; it can only be said that it would be even worse without government investment. Breaking up Amtrak would only reduce total spending. Unless your vision of the United States is no rail passenger service except for some commuter lines, breaking up Amtrak would be a big mistake.

For what would be a rounding error in the military budget the US could have a much better passenger rail system. We can't accept the premises of a government that sees any taxes as corrupt. Bounced along any highways lately? This fight is not only over Amtrak; it is over our country's unmet infrastructure needs.
With the amount of money the NEC needs to return into a state of good repair someone else could build an entirely new line, maybe using better technology. As long as Amtrak is allowed to control the NEC, it will continue to degrade because that much more money is not coming.
We will all be better off if the NEC was broken down into pieces and given away to state or local transit agencies. MARC, SEPTA, NJT, MTA, and MBTA could do a better job moving commuters over the existing NEC if they owned what is in their territory of operations.
Amtrak, or private enterprise, should be tasked with building the new line with superior technology, true 200 mph+ HSR, 300 mph mag-lev, or 400 mph hyperloop - whichever the federal government wishes to do.
At some point, something entirely new should be built. When Interstate Highways were built to replace US routes, they built brand new expressways in a brand new right-of-way. They did not try to make the existing highways better in their own right-of-ways. Many cities have built brand new airports instead of expanding older airports. Trying to make something better than it is or could ever be is foolish. The existing NEC has limitations we should all acknowledge.
Virgin (Brightline) private enterprise intercity passenger rail accepted the realities within Florida East Coast Railroad right-of-way, and built something cheaper and slower. In California, they're looking at building something entirely new and should as a result be running faster trains. Texas Central is also looking at building an entirely new HSR corridor vs modifying an existing rail corridor. California HSR also wants a entirely new corridor to go fast, and will accept reality an go slower over existing tracks. Only Amtrak thinks they spend a fortune to rebuild the NEC to go faster, but not that much faster. Why?

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