Jeff Smith wrote: ↑Mon Jun 01, 2020 7:45 am
I propose we expand Amtrak to Juneau, AK. Enough with the "whither" Amtrak!
Noooooo! Alaska Railroad is a great operation. The feds pulled out thirty years ago (or more) and it's been uphill since then. I rode to Seward and back a few years ago and found the service and people absolutely amazing.
ARR is often (but not always) profitable even with passenger trains. Although those passenger trains are "tourist trains", often the riders are en-route to a tourist destination. I think that's a grey area. It's not a dinner train, it's not a museum, and they don't necessarily turn back after a few hours with all passengers on board. But most riders are vacationers.
It leads to an important point. The railroad is bite-sized by comparison to Amtrak or Class 1 freights. Management has a very visceral connection to the operations, between being nearby and under a mandate to actually make money. Management also knows that poor service will lead to stupendous loss of ridership, as most passengers are discretionary spenders. Management actively works to make things better every day.
I don't know 100% that privatisation is the answer, but the argument could be made that one organization headquartered out of Washington might not be the best tool for running corridor service on the west coast or long distance trains to Houston. We've all heard those stories of Wayne Johnston looking out his office to see if the Panama departed on time.
Perhaps the answer is of Amtrak being a overarching organization and operator of last resort. Local or regional agencies would take a much more active role in the day-to-day operation and delivery of service. For example, the Cascades already have their own branding, menu, equipment, etc... so why are the operation issues left to Amtrak in Washington? Hiring, promotions, employee manual, standards of service, etc... all come from Washington. If there was a "CEO of Cascades" or "CEO of PNW" under the mandate to increase ridership and increase farebox recovery, with more autonomy such as creating standards of service and overseeing hiring/HR, it seems like that person would be better equipped to manage/improve the offering.
Consider this similar to the military model: When there is a push for a new technology or capability, the different branches compete. The different locations compete. The defense contractors compete with each other. The contractors also somewhat compete with the different branches to see how far they can place people up the food chain. At one time, the Army made most of their own weapons in places like Albany and Rock Island. That's changed and now not only does General Dyanamics make things, they provide on-site support. We make a lot of jokes about $400 toilet seats, and I have first-hand experience with that garbage. But overall there is a sense that our military is effective and takes pride in competing for different initiatives.