• North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian 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 Arborwayfan
 
Pensyfan19 wrote: Sun May 10, 2020 6:10 pm If certain lines are profitable enough, then they should be sold off to the private sector so that state and federal governments can have more money to spend on other things. (This is all I will say about this topic.)
If lines are profitable, I would think keeping them would give the state a regular source of operating revenue to support other trains. Giving them to a private company would eliminate that revenue. The state might get a big lump sum, the way Indiana did by leasing the Indiana Toll Road for 50 years (or was it 75?); that lump sum could pay for capital projects once, and then the revenue would be gone. So I don't agree that the state should sell things that are profitable -- if any are profitable, which I doubt.
  by Pensyfan19
 
SouthernRailway wrote: Mon May 11, 2020 9:00 am
Jeff Smith wrote: Mon May 11, 2020 8:25 am
Tadman wrote: Mon May 11, 2020 8:22 am
Rockingham Racer wrote: Mon May 11, 2020 5:48 am Amtrak gave another private service quite a hard time: Iowa Pacific's service between CHI and IND. They won't make it easy between DC and Shell [New Rochelle].
Keep in mind the Iowa Pacific failure on the Hoosier State route (a) happened before the last governor of Indiana became vice president; (b) had some pretty bad blood between the IP CEO and Amtrak management.

I think today the outcome would be different if a firm like Abelio or MTR tried to do PPP with Amtrak and Indiana. They have professional experience running passenger trains and there is no personal baggage. They could also have buy-in literally from the top. It would be good optics for VP Pence to sternly ask Amtrak to cooperate. In the past we've seen quite a few high-level interventions resulting in dismissed Amtrak CEO's.
IIRC, wasn't there a law a few years back allowing private bids on Amtrak routes?
Yes. As far as I know it was for Federally-supported long-distance routes.
In that case, couldn't the private sector run a few different rail lines along the duration of LD services, while keeping the LD route in service? For example, if one private company were to run a line between Chicago and Denver, another one from Denver to Salt Lake CIty, and a third one from Salt Lake CIty to Emeryville/Oakland, while the existing California Zephyr is still operating?
  by SouthernRailway
 
Sounds good to me and that would solve the issue of "LD routes need more than 1 train per day in each direction". I don't know if the Federal law that allowed private operators for Amtrak services contemplated simply contracting out Amtrak ones or adding services, but in any event, I think that your idea (Pennsyfan19) is a great one.
  by Arborwayfan
 
From what I remember, when Indiana went to IP it wasn't because Gov. Pence was a huge fan of privatized passenger trains; it was because it got the price of the train down to something he and the legislature were willing to pay and because they were annoyed with Amtrak following PRIAA by telling them Indiana had to pay. Even though he would probably prefer private contractors to Amtrak, I think he's pretty more inclined to eliminate federally subsidized passenger trains altogether. So maybe he would press Amtrak to contract lines out, but I think that would be as a compromise, not his first choice. (Writing from Terre Haute.)
  by Tadman
 
SouthernRailway wrote: Mon May 11, 2020 9:00 am I have seen Iowa Pacific’s antics and think that tit has a pretty low image in railroad circles. Even assuming that Amtrak wouldn’t like any private operator, Iowa Pacific may have contributed to bad blood due to poor behavior that other railroads wouldn’t do.
You are correct, and it's not just Iowa Pacific, but CEO Ed Ellis. He is a former Amtrak employee. I do not know the inside facts but I think he may have left a trail of bad feelings at Amtrak and some Class 1's starting there and continuing along.

The failure of the private Hoosier State was definitely not a conceptual failure.
Arborwayfan wrote: Mon May 11, 2020 2:48 pm From what I remember, when Indiana went to IP it wasn't because Gov. Pence was a huge fan of privatized passenger trains; it was because it got the price of the train down to something he and the legislature were willing to pay and because they were annoyed with Amtrak following PRIAA by telling them Indiana had to pay. Even though he would probably prefer private contractors to Amtrak, I think he's pretty more inclined to eliminate federally subsidized passenger trains altogether. So maybe he would press Amtrak to contract lines out, but I think that would be as a compromise, not his first choice. (Writing from Terre Haute.)
Governor Pence was a huge private industry fan, that I know for sure. I also think he did the same math we did around here about a year ago. For the price of one Hoosier per day (single direction), Indiana could subsidize something like 1/3 of the entire NICTD operation and keep/own the trains and track. Pence "owned" a railroad at the time and knew the true cost. I can't say I blame him.

The same math goes through my head every time I spend $400 to rent a car for a 4-ish days, then realize that's the car payment for a nice car that I could own and keep.
  by troffey
 
Jeff Smith wrote: Mon May 11, 2020 8:24 am
nomis wrote: Sun May 10, 2020 3:30 pm North Carolina (NCDOT) was inquiring in 2017 into the prospect of extending the Carolinian up to New Haven, CT and thus getting it reclassified as a long distance train (750+ miles).

Privatization (and a operating as a split route) would be a hindrance to the success it has seen.
Re: New Haven, CT, I did merge a few Carolinian threads in including one on that very idea. But why New Haven? Why not make it a "full" regional, and run it to Boston?
Did anyone tell them we've strung wire all the way to Boston?

On a more realistic note, maybe they picked the first major station after 750 miles? I don't have the exact route mileage, but that feels like a pretty plausible reason.
  by Anthony
 
troffey wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 6:17 pm
Jeff Smith wrote: Mon May 11, 2020 8:24 am
nomis wrote: Sun May 10, 2020 3:30 pm North Carolina (NCDOT) was inquiring in 2017 into the prospect of extending the Carolinian up to New Haven, CT and thus getting it reclassified as a long distance train (750+ miles).

Privatization (and a operating as a split route) would be a hindrance to the success it has seen.
Re: New Haven, CT, I did merge a few Carolinian threads in including one on that very idea. But why New Haven? Why not make it a "full" regional, and run it to Boston?
Did anyone tell them we've strung wire all the way to Boston?

On a more realistic note, maybe they picked the first major station after 750 miles? I don't have the exact route mileage, but that feels like a pretty plausible reason.
If they want to make the Carolinian a LD route, why not extend it the other way to Atlanta and reschedule it as a day train between the two cities. This would create the day train between NYP and ATL a lot of people on this forum have suggested. To go a step further, Have it run all the way to DFW via Brimingham, AL, Meridian, MS, Monroe, LA, and Shreveport, LA as an overnight train. This would also lead to better times for the train's arrival in Ft. Worth than splitting the Crescent would.
  by gokeefe
 
Anthony wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 7:38 pmIf they want to make the Carolinian a LD route, why not extend it the other way to Atlanta and reschedule it as a day train between the two cities.
Because that would require a track slot from CSX. Much easier to figure something out to NHV.
  by Tadman
 
troffey wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 6:17 pm
Did anyone tell them we've strung wire all the way to Boston?

On a more realistic note, maybe they picked the first major station after 750 miles? I don't have the exact route mileage, but that feels like a pretty plausible reason.
That might be it. Also, there's a service location there. And perhaps crew requirements came into play.
  by troffey
 
Also, if I recall correctly, the consensus opinion is that New Haven Station is very well laid out for engine changes and switching moves since it spent such a long period of time as the engine change point. So operationally it was probably one of the easier places to terminate the train once you add all those together.
  by Bob Roberts
 
RE: Virginia funding for the Carolinian.

I read about this a while back and I am 96% sure that NC pays 100% of the state-supported cost of the Carolinian. Keep in mind that cost is low in normal times as the train pays 95%(ish) of its costs. The article linked below suggests (but does not confirm) that NC is the only contributor to the train.

The linked article discusses the rationale for NCDOT cancel all Piedmont service due to low demand and a budget crunch at NCDOT. One train a day will run between Charlotte and Raleigh and it will now be the Carolinian (one Piedmont per day was running while the Carolinian was cancelled since early April). According to the story linked below, the 79-80 will only run between Charlotte and Raleigh. NCDOT will save approximately $13,000 per day by using Amtrak equipment rather than NCDOT equipment for the run (Amtrak is currently offering a 20% discount on state payments for service). I am a little uncomfortable about the very vague language about when Piedmonts will return.
By stopping the final run of the Piedmont, NCDOT will save about $13,000 a day, mostly by not operating the state-owned engines and rail cars, Orthner said. Under its arrangement with Amtrak, NCDOT continues to pay the railroad to provide passenger rail service in North Carolina during the pandemic, though at a 20% discount because of a subsidy provided by Congress through the CARES Act.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local ... 98691.html
  by Riverduckexpress
 
Jeff Smith wrote: Sun May 10, 2020 1:29 pm
njt/mnrrbuff wrote: Fri May 08, 2020 5:10 pm Within the next decade as part of the improvements for Virginia to buy the RF&P and the possibility of the S-Line being reactivated, Virginia DOT, NCDOT is going to give Amtrak the approval to run four additional Carolinian trains each way from NYP to Charlotte and back. In addition, NCDOT is going to allow Amtrak to add some more Piedmont trains. With the addition of the increased Amtrak frequencies in the next 10 years, it's going to be critical to have that brand new yard built west of Charlotte.
...
Although off-topic, allowing that it was in response to Mr. Roberts, to whom I defer on all matters NC, I'm going to answer with a question: Where do you think Amtrak is going to find four slots (eight round trip) in the North River Tunnels? Or will VA acquiesce to NC plans, since they'll own the ROW?What's your source? Also, who's funding this? My impression is the Piedmont and Carolinian are NC funded, not Amtrak.

NOTE: I"ll move this to the NC topic, and edit out the OT portion in this thread. No harm, no foul.
Those four trips trips are part of the broader SEHSR initiative. The plan is for 4 new roundtrips between New York and North Carolina (3 terminating in Charlotte, 1 terminating in Raleigh) using the reactivated S-Line. The Carolinian would continue to run once a day along its existing route, and there would be 4 Piedmont round trips a day for a grand total of 8 round trips a day between Charlotte and Raleigh, and 6 round trips between New York and Raleigh (including the Silver Star, which as previously mentioned, would be rerouted over the S-Line).

These pictures are from Chapter 2 of the DC2RVA Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Here's current service between DC and Richmond. Red lines are the Virginia NE Regionals, green is Auto Train, purple is Carolinian, the blue lines in the center show the Palmetto and Silver Palm/Meteor. The top left corner shows the Roanoke NE Regional, Crescent and Cardinal. The map is slightly outdated as it doesn't show the 2nd round trip to Norfolk that started last year, but you get the point.
Image

Here's the full SEHSR plan.
Image
You can see the addition of 9 SEHSR trips - the 4 new North Carolina trips and 5 new Virginia Regionals. Also shown are proposals to add a 2nd Lynchburg/Roanoke Regional, make the Cardinal a daily train, and extend two Virginia Regionals from Richmond to Norfolk (this includes the 2nd trip to Norfolk added last year) - these are not part of SEHSR. The Richmond to Raleigh Final EIS (all compiled in a gigantic 1,100 page document) also talks about it a bit around pgs 19-23, 111-112, and 119-125.

The plan Virginia laid out earlier this year for expanded NE Regional service by 2030 is its very incremental implementation of SEHSR.

Of course funding is the big question mark for SEHSR. Aside from the partial RF&P right-of-way purchased by Virginia, and the sidings scattered here and there, I don't think any of the SEHSR-specific infrastructure is funded yet. The Final EIS for both the DC2RVA and Raleigh-Richmond segments are fairly silent in this regard. In terms of operating costs, the new Virginia regionals would be funded by VA, and I assume the four North Carolina round trips would be funded by North Carolina just like the Carolinian. Again barring the specific improvements Virginia has targeted for 2030, I don't think there's a timeline for anything SEHSR either. Better hope VA and NC can claw something from infrastructure week. :-)

There's also no concrete details in the FEIS on how these trains would fit on the NEC, but I would assume most or all of them will just be extensions of Regionals ending at Washington. I don't know to what extent NEC schedules will change over the next decade or two, but just looking at the existing timetable, in a scenario where all the infrastructure and slots are there to allow it, and you're willing to sacrifice some evenness in the schedule, you could extend ten round trips south from WAS and have most of them arrive/depart Charlotte/Raleigh/Richmond/Newport News/Norfolk at decent daylight times (with a few 3/4 AM departures)
Bob Roberts wrote: Fri May 15, 2020 4:49 pm RE: Virginia funding for the Carolinian.

I read about this a while back and I am 96% sure that NC pays 100% of the state-supported cost of the Carolinian. Keep in mind that cost is low in normal times as the train pays 95%(ish) of its costs. The article linked below suggests (but does not confirm) that NC is the only contributor to the train.
That's right, Virginia doesn't contribute a dime to the Carolinian. On the DPRT website listing Virginia's financial contributions to Amtrak, the Carolinian isn't mentioned at all. Virginia's statewide rail plan (chapter 2, pgs. 13-14) also explicitly mentions that the train is supported by North Carolina (though it does mislabel the Carolinian as an LD train that happens to be supported by NC).
  by SouthernRailway
 
Unfortunate to see if the Piedmont suspensions and the murky language around their restoration but ridership is likely almost nonexistent now. I wonder if $13,000 per day is the current loss or the loss in normal times?
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