• Illinois Amtrak Service

  • 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 gokeefe
 
"Break even" is a common goal for intercity passenger rail service in almost every country in the Western world. "Public service" is something many utilities provide. Seeking to ensure that utilities cover their costs is the best path to sustainability. Otherwise the long term viability of the service (whether it's electricity or passenger trains) is questionable.
  by Arlington
 
Rockingham Racer wrote: Fri Sep 06, 2019 6:14 am There it is again: "break even". Only in this country is that a hope or expectation for passenger rail service. Whatever happened to the notion of "public service"?
The question of which public service is worth providing is still one that needs criteria, and breakeven (or farebox recovery ratio) is an easy-to-understand mix of:
1) How costly a service is to provide
2) How many people find the service useful (versus other alternatives)
3) How valuable those users find the service

Multiply users by fares and subtract costs.

Just about the only non-breakeven element that is interesting is the Civil Rights component, where we ask how the route (or statewide system) serves disadvantaged groups (poor & traditionally-disadvantaged minorities).

Analogy with Illinois: the new bus services that Virginia is overlaying atop its rail services: serving Danville by bus, and particularly the east-west bus, is the part of the system that they'd be more willing to lose money on because it serves minority communities along Virginia's southern tier.

We can imagine lots of lines on maps. The question of which to run is often best answered by which have the best fare recovery ratio (are closest to breakeven).
  by mtuandrew
 
Were the single CHI-STL car from the Texas Eagle made into its own train, rest assured it would take at least one other coach either from the Eagle or from Amtrak’s pool. If nothing else I’d expect a snack-coach along with the regular coach, maybe a coach-bag as well.
  by electricron
 
mtuandrew wrote: Fri Sep 06, 2019 9:14 am Were the single CHI-STL car from the Texas Eagle made into its own train, rest assured it would take at least one other coach either from the Eagle or from Amtrak’s pool. If nothing else I’d expect a snack-coach along with the regular coach, maybe a coach-bag as well.
Where in St. Louis are you going to find the extra Superliner coaches? The one they add to the Texas Eagle came off the southbound Texas Eagle the night before. So now they have to add even more Superliner coaches in Chicago the afternoon before it is needed in St. Louis the morning after. How is Amtrak going to know more than 12 hours in advance that the Eagle will be late into St. Louis? Get a call from Fort Worth that the Texas Eagle will definately be late into
St. Louis the next morning?
  by Rockingham Racer
 
gokeefe wrote: Fri Sep 06, 2019 7:26 am "Break even" is a common goal for intercity passenger rail service in almost every country in the Western world. "Public service" is something many utilities provide. Seeking to ensure that utilities cover their costs is the best path to sustainability. Otherwise the long term viability of the service (whether it's electricity or passenger trains) is questionable.
Let's use France as an example. It's about the size of Texas. It has quite the route system, with very fast, dependable service. SNCF received a subsidy of 13.2 billion euros in 2013, according to Wikipedia [but we know anyone can insert/ edit wiki]. It's difficult for me to imagine that the French government aspires to breaking even on an expenditure such as that.

Attached is a report for other countries, as well. It compare expenditures in Italy to some other European countries vis-a-vis rail subsidy.


https://boa.unimib.it/retrieve/handle/1 ... europe.pdf
  by Arlington
 
Tricky bit: how much of any subsidy is for Capital equipment (track and structures), and how much are they really willing to lose on operations (running wrong sized trains in oddball markets)
  by Rockingham Racer
 
I don't know. And sorry for taking us off topic!! :wink:
  by ExCon90
 
gokeefe wrote: Fri Sep 06, 2019 7:26 am "Break even" is a common goal for intercity passenger rail service in almost every country in the Western world. "Public service" is something many utilities provide. Seeking to ensure that utilities cover their costs is the best path to sustainability. Otherwise the long term viability of the service (whether it's electricity or passenger trains) is questionable.
I believe that's the primary reason why the EU adopted the idea of making routes accessible to private (or other) operators rather than the national railway; previous practice was to tell the national railway what service was wanted and simply appropriate money to pay the bill, which grew larger every year until governments began to think "we can't go on like this--we have to try something else."
  by Arlington
 
For a state in as much financial stress as Illinois, they really have to invest carefully, both in the long-term question of what corridors are worth investing in, and what pattern of service is worth operating.

ME&VT gain by giving people "day trip" access to (consulting/occasional) work in BOS & NYC respectively.
VA gains by giving people "day trip" access (consulting/occasional) work in WAS
IL presumably gains by giving people "day trip" access to consulting/occasional work in CHI

But "better" is when they can make a double-ended route where there is a big market on both ends.

Looking at this:
Image

I really wish there were a city the size of MKE or DET at the other end of every route.
  by mtuandrew
 
Ron: sorry, I misread that as “permanently make the CHI-STL car into its own train” not “run a single car if/when the Texas Eagle is delayed.” Though a three-car setout l would make it worthwhile to run an “Advance Texas Eagle”, better to rent a bus than to run a one-car train.
  by gokeefe
 
Arlington wrote: Fri Sep 06, 2019 4:07 pmI really wish there were a city the size of MKE or DET at the other end of every route.
As do I. Unfortunately the limitations of other states fiscal priorities make this a very difficult proposition. Illinois is fortunate to have Michigan and Wisconsin as partners on several major routes.

The longer Indiana underfunds Intercity passenger rail the harder it is going to be for them to catch up. Ohio is a other matter entirely. 40 years ago the lack of service between Columbus and Chicago was understandable. Now it's becoming inexcusable.
  by Arborwayfan
 
The map has a perfect example of a situation in which the PRIAA rules are a problem. STL-EFG-Terre Haute-maybe Greencastle-Indy would be a decent corridor, with a big city on each end and two college towns in the middle. With proper scheduling for connections at Effingham, it would be possible to have a decent trip time Terre Haute-Chicago. But none of the three states would see much incentive to fund it. Illinois has the longest section but no major population. Indiana has a shorter section with two or three stations max. Mo has just an endpoint.


The number of people who buy tickets only shows whether service is a good idea if (a) we ignore externalities (like the value of reduced pollution, reduced road congestion, improved health if people get in the habit of taking transit and walking more) and (b) the level of subsidy is the same for all competing modes of transportation. We could argue about whether the govt subsidizes driving more than public transportation. Certainly it subsidizes it some, because not all road construction money comes from gas taxes (city streets, especially, are paid for from general city revenues, but even some of the cost of highways often comes from general revenues; air travel is subsidized in various ways, too). And there's a kind of hidden pseudo-subsidy for business travelers to drive on trips that they could take on trains: employers reimburse employees for driving their own cars on business at the IRS rate, which runs about 52 cents a mile and is supposed to include all the costs of driving the car a mile and of owning it for a mile of its life (insurance, purchase, maintenance, registration); that means that people get reimbursed a lot more than they pay out in cash, so they feel like they are making money -- and they are, kind of, by essentially selling tiny slices of their car to their employers. That becomes tax-free income, and, moreover, it becomes a business expense that reduces the employer company's taxable profits, so it really is a kind of government subsidy via the tax code, as well as a subsidy paid for by employers. I have been told of actual documented evidence that state employees in Penna wouldn't take the train Harrisburg-Philly even when the schedule was right because they wanted the money; I have a dim notion that it's documented for Illinois workers going SPG-CHI, too. The college I work for is starting to almost require us to rent a car for driving trips, because that's cheaper than the IRS mileage rate. The more employers do that, the better chance the corridor trains have of attracting business travelers.
  by gokeefe
 
It's worth noting that PRIIA rules only become a problem in cases where states disagree on passenger rail as a fiscal priority. New York and most New England states share route funding costs quite well in most cases. New Hampshire is thankfully small enough that their non-participation is insignificant to the Vermonter and the Downeaster.
  by west point
 
"IF"Amtrak Joe becomes president and congress goes along we may find the situation completely changed ?
  by gokeefe
 
I doubt that very much. PRIIA settled in an equitable manner a problem that had existed almost since the inception of Amtrak. Specifically, "What is a fair formula for division of costs between a state sponsor(s) and Amtrak?" The formulas that were developed took into account every variation that exists in state sponsored programs.

Here are some examples: state owned rights of way, state owned equipment, trains operating within an Amtrak LD/NEC crew district, corridors with Amtrak owned and operated electrification, trains that cross to Canada and are operated by VIA, trains that cross to Canada and are operated by Amtrak, state contracted maintenance of Amtrak owned equipment in state owned facilities, state operated trains that use Amtrak owned station facilities, state operated trains with state contracted foodservice, state operated trains using electrification facilities provided by a third party, state operated trains that run through non-supporting states, state operated trains supported by local agencies, state operated trains receiving FTA funding, state operated trains receiving CMAQ funding, state operated trains with third party maintenance contractors on board ...

As you can see the list of variables is quite substantial. I doubt the political consensus around this settled formula will be easily disturbed.
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