• If you could restore a defunct Amtrak route

  • 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 Arborwayfan
 
Regarding St. Louis to Memphis, it sounds like Amtrak never had a day train over that route, just section of an overnight train that would have been convenient only for the endpoints and points further south and west. The fact that that service wasn't attractive enough for enough people to object to its elimination nearly 30 years ago doesn't mean that a daytime train couldn't work today. It's around 300 miles and a little under 4:45 via I-55. Could a day train, or a pair of them, get passengers along that route or along a somewhat longer route through Illinois? I don't know, or have an opinion; I just think that a daylight corridor is a lot different from a night run tied to the schedule of an LD.
  by electricron
 
The important item that needs to be done for a Saint Louis to Memphis day train is to find a state, or a group of states, to subsidize it. Missouri already subsidizes trains between Saint Louis and Kansas City over tracks entirely within the state where the state received all the economic benefits. They are not going to subsidize a train with a mile or two of tracks within the state. There are no large cities in southern Missouri on track corridors west of the Mississippi River. There are no large cities in western Kentucky or eastern Arkansas, they are not going to subside a train that provides zero economic benefits. Tennessee will be hard press to subsidize a train to Memphis while not doing so for Nashville, Knoxville, Bristol, and Chattanooga. So that leaves Illinois, which is willing to subsidize trains to Chicago. But this proposed trains does not go to Chicago, it will die a premature death. So there we are, a proposed train that nobody wishes to subsidize. It will not have a chance to get off the drawing board.

Let’s take this a little further. The largest airline in Saint Louis is Southwest, with 3.8 million boarding, American second with 1.1 million boarding and Delta third with less than 0.9 million boarding. The largest airline in Memphis is Delta with 1 million boarding, Southwest second with 0.7 million boarding, and American third with 0.6 million boarding. So Southwest should be the largest servicing both cities on average. It has nine daily flights from Saint Louis to Memphis all on 737 jets, let’s assume there are just as many in the opposite direction. None of them fly directly, they all stop somewhere else; in Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, etc. That reflects a general disinterest of business travelers flying directly between these two cities. What makes you think a slower train would fair better?
Last edited by electricron on Sun Sep 27, 2020 8:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by mtuandrew
 
Agreed re: STL-MEM, Arborwayfan. Also agreed re: KCY-OKC, Col. P. I’m all for restoring Amtrak service over a given route, and I do feel that long-distance trains occupy a meaningful place as concatenated-corridor trains, but both of these routes have potential for at least 2x/daily service uncoupled from LDs. That doesn’t preclude also running a new Lone Star over the one route, or a new River Cities section of the City of New Orleans on the other.

Also, a middle-of-the-night transfer at Newton is a terrible idea.

Ron: you’re correct, and so the Federal government will need to make regional service a priority. States will rarely invest enough to start new service, especially over a totally new or long-disused (for passenger service) corridor.
  by Arborwayfan
 
A state that subsidized a train that brought tourists and other discretionary travellers from another state into the subsidizing state could actually make back its subsidy in extra sales, restaurant, and hotel taxes. I know I am much more likely to look for conferences in Chicago, where I can go by train from fairly close to where I live, than in St. Louis, where I can't, even though the driving time to both cities is similar. True, I'm a railfan, but I suspect there are other people who just find a ride on the train easy and make similar choices.

So, hypothetically, Missouri and Tennessee (or St. Louis and Memphis) might well subsidize a pair of day trains timed to bring people from Illinois stations in the middle of the route to the Mo. and Tenn. endpoints for day-trips, weekends, and whatnot. (Leave endpoints at 6 am and 6 pm, arriving 10/10:30ish at each end, would give reasonable boarding times in the middle of the route and a 7-8 hour day in either endpoint city.

I would picture this kind of train as two 2-hour corridors connected to each other, one from St. L. to its hinterland and one from Memphis to its hinterland, rather than as a 4-hour route competing with airlines at the endpoints.

Now, I don't know whether there are anywhere near enough people along any of the possible routes for this hypothetical pair of trains to fill up , and whether Memphis or St. Louis has Chicago's combination of walkability, transit, and expensive parking that leads some people to choose the train to get there. I don't know if it's a good idea, and I'm sure other places are better ideas. A fifth and sixth train on some existing route would probably get more passengers for less cost. But I do think it's worth thinking about the best way and time to serve particular route segments.
  by electricron
 
mtuandrew wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 8:36 pm Agreed re: STL-MEM, Arborwayfan. Also agreed re: KCY-OKC, Col. P.
Ron: you’re correct, and so the Federal government will need to make regional service a priority. States will rarely invest enough to start new service, especially over a totally new or long-disused (for passenger service) corridor.
The Federal government does not, I repeat, does not support any; highways, airways, seaways, and railways: transportation projects without a local match, usually around 50%, but the % can vary. So it is important for the locals; cities, counties, and states; to match the Federal government with funds in transportation expenditures. If the locals are not willing to participate, then that project should not get Federal funds. Show me the money!
  by mtuandrew
 
electricron wrote: Mon Sep 28, 2020 8:17 pmThe Federal government does not, I repeat, does not support any; highways, airways, seaways, and railways: transportation projects without a local match, usually around 50%, but the % can vary. So it is important for the locals; cities, counties, and states; to match the Federal government with funds in transportation expenditures. If the locals are not willing to participate, then that project should not get Federal funds. Show me the money!
Ironically, Amtrak LD is the exception to your rule.

But yes, I agree that locals need at least a little skin in the game. Feds largely funded the initial batch of Interstate highways (with some exceptions) but states maintain & expand them with both state and Federal funds. I think that’s a sustainable model for Amtrak and any successors or adjuncts - the Feds largely fund the infrastructure and equipment, the states manage and fund operations.
  by electricron
 
mtuandrew wrote: Mon Sep 28, 2020 8:48 pm Ironically, Amtrak LD is the exception to your rule.

But yes, I agree that locals need at least a little skin in the game. Feds largely funded the initial batch of Interstate highways (with some exceptions) but states maintain & expand them with both state and Federal funds. I think that’s a sustainable model for Amtrak and any successors or adjuncts - the Feds largely fund the infrastructure and equipment, the states manage and fund operations.
A little skin in the game is not too much to ask. Subsidies Amtrak requires is just enough to make up for the loses it racks up running the trains. If the train earns 75% in fares on what it costs to provide the service, the state subsidy is 25% of the total costs. If no one rides the trains at all, 0% would be earned with fares, the state subsidy is 100% of the costs to run the train.

So why are there so few states willing to subsidize trains? Maybe they have other demands on funding they would rather spend their money on than trains.
  by Arborwayfan
 
Which states subsidize trains and why would make an interesting study. It might start something like this:

Some states pretty clearly subsidize Amtrak trains and/or their own commuter rail networks because they have a lot of people living near each other and trying to go to the same places. Mass, Conn, NY, NJ, Penna, Md, VA, IL, CA, UT, CO and some others. (Some of those states may not spend any money on operating subsidies for intercity passenger rail, but Mass owns part of the NEC and at least five Amtrak stations, CT does something similar, Utah's commuter rail also works as a 95-mile intercity train as does Indiana's South Shore Line, etc., etc.) Those states pretty clearly have situations where spending money that directly or indirectly supports Amtrak service is a practical, cost-effective way to deal with local transportation needs and where trains collectively (Amtrak and other) have a significant market share in either commuter or intercity markets, or in both.

Then there's Vermont and Maine, both subsidizing trains in pretty thinly populated areas, but on two different models. WHY? Maine's basically running a commuter-and-daytripper service that is supposed to get more people to live in Maine and work elsewhere (like the South Shore Line) or to visit Maine and spend money there. Vermont's two daily trains seem to be aimed mostly at encouraging tourism from greater NYC, with local passengers as a bonus and local residents leaving the state on business or pleasure as a side effect. Bringing in tourists by train seems to fit well with Vermont's efforts to keep small towns (and specifically their centers or villages) busy and attractive, so that most of the stations in VT have a quaint B&B, a couple restaurants, an ice-cream parlor, and a nice walk within walking distance of the station. VT might not just be a little train crazy, they might also have more railroad-passenger-friendly small towns than anyone else.

Somewhere in the middle are Missouri, NC, Oregon, Washington, Oregon, probably others I'm forgetting that subsidize some Amtrak trains that serve scattered small cities and towns, bigger than in VT but spread across thinly populated areas. WHY? We could rearrange the list. Some states seem to go in two different categories depending which trains I think about. For example, the Illinois corridors would fit here except that they have Chicago at one end. Where do we put Oklahoma? Never mind. The point is that these states subsidize a few trains in places that are not obvious passenger-train markets. Do these trains exist because railfans and local boosters who think a train will bring development are strong in those states, or because there is something about the distribution of the population, the habits of the people, etc., that makes trains look, and maybe be, practical?

Why does anyone anywhere outside roadless areas that happen to have a railroad think a one-a-day train is useful enough to subsidize? I know Amtrak has the LDs because they inherited a network that had already lost most of its branchlines and local trains, and then they simplified it, and the LD trains are emblematic, popular with people who write to congress, useful to certain tourism markets, etc., but why would anyone want to go from 0 trains to 1 train in a place where people have obviously been getting to and from some other way? I guess that's a question for this whole thread: There's restoring a favorite route because we're fans and we want to ride it. Fine. This is a railfan forum and we like that stuff. No problem. Fun. But from a practical standpoint, why does someone in Duluth who isn't a semi-pro railfan like most of us think one train a day from Mpls-StP would be worth all the negotiation, station-construction, etc., etc.? Or one-a-day to Pueblo and Colo Spgs, or across South Dakota, or up into Burlington, to the Quad Cities, or wherever? I just don't see the practical argument, even though they sound fun. To me, you need at least a morning-and-evening setup to make any kind of middle-distance new train make sense, and something like the Downeaster schedule seems much more likely to actually become a significant part of anyone's transportation options. (We can debate how well or poorly the DE does, but I suspect everyone would agree it does more good for its subsidy than spending the same amount restoring the Gull would have (train to NB and NS, right?))

I don't think we need to spend time wondering why Wyoming, the Dakotas, Kansas, Arizona, Nevada, and Idaho don't subsidize any trains, or why Maine doesn't have 4 a day on the old CP line or Michigan doesn't have any in the Upper Peninsula or whatever: either there aren't enough people or the population centers are too far apart, and there's not much traffic on the roads.
  by mtuandrew
 
Arborwayfan wrote: Tue Sep 29, 2020 11:59 amI guess that's a question for this whole thread: There's restoring a favorite route because we're fans and we want to ride it. Fine. This is a railfan forum and we like that stuff. No problem. Fun. But from a practical standpoint, why does someone in Duluth who isn't a semi-pro railfan like most of us think one train a day from Mpls-StP would be worth all the negotiation, station-construction, etc., etc.? ...

or Michigan doesn't have any in the Upper Peninsula or whatever...
I feel attacked :wink:

Yep, MSP-DUL needs at least 2x/day and I think the state is planning for that. There was never more than one daily Amtrak between the two. And I’d very much like to ride a MKE-GBY-EMI-MQT train (never served by Amtrak), but also understand it’s of limited practicality.

Of course, I’m of the opinion that where there is LD service, there should generally be overlapping Regionals or even a second LD. And Amtrak was expressly created to end overlapping or duplicate service.
  by Arborwayfan
 
Oh, absolutely I'm attacking you, mtuandrew! You know how I am :wink:
Honestly, though, I don't know many groups I've belonged to with fewer attacks in them than this one.

I agree with you about LD routes, or really any routes. Once the platforms, the advertising, the agreements with the host RRs, and all the rest of it are in place, better to use them more than once a day.

I would make exceptions for really empty or really slow stretches of LD with very few passengers at the intermediates. An afternoon SLC-Grand Jct train that either ended there or continued overnight to Denver does not seem especially useful, and neither does a morning eastbound afternoon westbound train from Denver out into Nebraska.
  by justalurker66
 
Arborwayfan wrote: Tue Sep 29, 2020 11:59 amBut from a practical standpoint, why does someone in Duluth who isn't a semi-pro railfan like most of us think one train a day from Mpls-StP would be worth all the negotiation, station-construction, etc., etc.?
They are not thinking of the details and roadblocks ... but if they come and post among the semi-pro railfans half the responses will be from Debbie Downers who will tell them in no uncertain terms that their idea won't work.

And then most will go away - "oh well, no train for me".
  by Arborwayfan
 
That's a good point Mr. Lurker (or two good points, one about not thinking about the roadblocks etc. and one about how this board would respond :-D ), but why would someone who isn't a railfan think that one train a day between places two or three hours apart with decent roads would be better than no train? Or why would they think it would be better than the probably multiple buses per day the same subsidy could pay for without requiring big investments first?
  by justalurker66
 
I'm not sure where they would get their spark of an idea ... but It does seem the there are plenty of people standing around with fire extinguishers. :smile:

But at least the train to/from Duluth has some government backing.
https://www.dot.state.mn.us/nlx/
  by justalurker66
 
BTW: Ignoring all reasons not to do so, my list would be:
Broadway Limited/Three Rivers via Fort Wayne IN (without touching the Capital/Lake Shore as many supporters of Fort Wayne seem to propose)
Cardinal as a daily train
Hoosier State/Kentucky Cardinal as a daily alternate schedule train (Morning south, Evening north)

I would remove the requirement for state funding of under 750 mile trains. Yep, now I'm totally in fantasy land. :laughing:
  by rcthompson04
 
I would be interested in seeing a Harrisburg- Baltimore- Washington DC train via Perryville
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