Amtrak to go private?

friscobob Jun 17, 2011

  1. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    As I noted earlier in this topic, a lot has to do with our educational system. They often present railroads as a past event. So that too many students come away believing it is an outdated, outmoded venue.

    :tb-wacky:

    Boxcab E50
     
  2. Flashwave

    Flashwave TrainBoard Member

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    Seeing as I graduated last year, I can agree. Several of my classmates, even teachers. would ask why I would want to get into the railroads. Then they'd take the Cardinal up to Chicgao, which is not Amtrak's best by far, but they are still amazed.
     
  3. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    Mike, sadly that scenario would only add another layer of government bureaucracy to a system already bloated with bureaucrats. I don't know about NJT, but CTDOT and MASSDOT (owner of the T) are both state government bureaucracies, not private corporations. I must believe the only reason that NJT and Metro-North survive and are successful is that their government "owners" and the riding public accept that these are Public Service systems provided for the public to ride, just like every city bus and subway. Now all we Americans must do is accept that long distance passenger rail is also a Public Service system, funded as needed by the government, just like every other country's successful rail passenger systems.
     
  4. friscobob

    friscobob Staff Member

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    i know it's hard to talk about Amtrak without mentioning government funding, or even the decisions from Washington over the past 40 years, but let's keep the political rhetoric to a bare minimum, please.
     
  5. SecretWeapon

    SecretWeapon TrainBoard Member

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    All of the agencies I mentioned are state run. Each state would have to subsidize there part of the RR. The biggest problem is that the people in Washington don't realize just how much it costs to run a RR. If there is no money for Passenger RR's ticket price would soar through the roof! At least 3-4 times what they are now.
     
  6. Mudkip Orange

    Mudkip Orange TrainBoard Member

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    The other problem with killing Amtrak/state run agencies is that Amtrak possesses unique operating and liability agreements with the freight railroads that were negotiated in exchange for the railroads' ability to get out of operated ICC-mandated passenger services.

    Those agreements COULD NOT be negotiated today at anywhere near similar levels of cost and advantage.

    To give you an idea of how important these existing agreements are, Amtrak Cascades are only able to operate using Talgos due to an FRA waver that was originally issued to the Northern Pacific for a "demonstration" project in the 50's. Without this waver Talgos could not operate due to the obsolete FRA/AAR train strength requirements.

    For that reason, and for the fact that Amtrak provides a pre-existing pool of rolling stock and institutional knowledge, Amtrak makes an ideal "pass-thru" for state supported services, whether you're talking once a day (Oklahoma's state-subsidized "Heartland Flyer") or a full, intensive corridor service (Keystone Service, subsidized by PennDOT).

    If you were to "break up" Amtrak, every state looking at a state-subsidized service would have to procure its own new rolling stock, hire and train its own engineers, conductors, and maintenance staff from scratch, and then build and rebuild knowledge of basic railroad operating procedures that Amtrak has inherited generationally.
     
  7. southparkline1

    southparkline1 TrainBoard Member

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    [QUOTE
    If you were to "break up" Amtrak, every state looking at a state-subsidized service would have to procure its own new rolling stock, hire and train its own engineers, conductors, and maintenance staff from scratch, and then build and rebuild knowledge of basic railroad operating procedures that Amtrak has inherited generationally.[/QUOTE]

    Its working for North Carolina, NCDOT provides all the locomotives and cars for the four piedmont trains and some for the Carolinian to NY. It has worked so well NCDOT is talking about adding a 3rd frequency and maybe even a 4th each way between Raleigh and Charlotte and new trains to Asheville and Moorhead City/Wilmington before 2020 with increased speeds to 110 m.p.h. in some places. With the increase of riders and improvements studies show the currently subsidized Piedmont could become a money maker by 2015. It also helps that NCDOT owns all of the track except to Ashville so they have a big say in all descisions and agreements with Norfolk Southern.
    Alex
     
  8. Flashwave

    Flashwave TrainBoard Member

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    Right, but how busy us that track? I cannot forsee CSX handing over the Bee Line, the Big Four, etc for Indiana to man the Cardinal/Hoosier State. And How much pull does NCDOT have in the Carolinian? It seems like to me they'd still need a nationsl entity to run interference between each state, and the states and the railroad.
     
  9. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Key word here is "could" not "would." It's not a guarantee of financial success, but rather an interestingly qualified statement which leaves a door open for the event of it not coming true.

    Boxcab E50
     
  10. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    California owns their rollingstock too. That's pretty typical. Also, I believe State of Washington owns most of the Cascade equipment including the Talgos.
     
  11. southparkline1

    southparkline1 TrainBoard Member

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    In answer to how many trains the NC railroad carries, it is the main freight artery for both NC freight traffic and Norfolk Southerns Piedmont Division. It is currently having numerous upgrades including full double tracking from Charlotte to Greenville and 5 new sidings from Greenville to Raleigh to allow more passenger trains.

    Yes, I believe California and and Washington both own the rollingstock and both states are making huge progress with passenger rail (did you see the news segment on NBC Nightly News tonight on California hsr). Although, I believe long distance trains should stay under Amtrak control so I agree with you there.

    I know it is just a projection that it could be self sufficient by 2015 but I am betting it will be eventually because the region it runs through is projected to grow by 25% by 2025 adding nearly 2.5 million people along the route.

    When all is said in done though I believe Amtrak is best off in on piece then lots of little chunks.
    Alex
     
  12. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    When I was involved with these things, I advocated and still do, regional efforts. Which will then grow and intersect with others over time, forming an interconnected way to travel.

    Boxcab E50
     
  13. Thieu

    Thieu TrainBoard Member

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    I don't understand what the article wants to tell me: will the infrastructure be seperated from operating trains? Will Amtrak loose its ownerschip of the tracks, signs, traffic control etc and turn into an operator only? Will the infrastructure be in one hand?

    If this is the case, then Amtrak will be released of its (financial) burden of maintaining infrastructure. It can focus on running trains instead. This construction can work. But it can also cause new problems, like bad communication between trackowner and track operator, and the fact that you can't run anything you want because you don't own the system anymore... These are some of the problems we face in our Dutch railway system.

    But maybe our Thalys can come to the USA and run trains on the NEC? :)
     
  14. subwayaz

    subwayaz TrainBoard Member

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    Well at least the Fed's are shedding one non profitable thing from the budget...:mbiggrin:
     
  15. Southern Oregonian

    Southern Oregonian TrainBoard Member

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    I don't think the educational system is "failing us." Well, at least not the northwest's and possibly not Utah's. The younger people in these places can be told ( I don't recall it) that trains belong in the past, but it seems to go away when you take one home. Keep in mind these are public owned and ran entities with decent levels of success. Something that doesn't work from my view as a passenger is Amtrak.

    When I lived in SLC I couldn't use Amtrak to go home to Oregon or visit family in North Dakota because Amtrak's routes don't allow it and I couldn't go to the station to figure it all out because it was only open in the middle of the night for the only train that comes. I worked it out and I would have to ride to LA first, then transfer to the Empire Builder or Costal Starlight (the CS NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER makes it to Portland on time). This would be about a week of travel time and a small fortune.

    I think Train Magazine got it right when they said that while other parts of the country fight over new passenger train systems and come up with multi-billion dollar projects, The PNW started out small and grew from there. So while they fight over giant money pits, we can enjoy coffee on a system that already exists.

    I'm only 26 and I took a train from Portland to Eugene many many times and it was 1,000 times better the Greyhound and Amtrak Bus. I've even gone the Empire route from Portland to North Dakota (sleepers are awesome) and that was better then flying and much better then the drive back. Also while living in Portland (those where dark times) I noticed that pretty much everyone from every class and income bracket rode the MAX and Cascades. I even met the western regional manager for US Bank and a good chunk of the Portland City Council, all by accident when I was commuting. I can't say I noticed the same on the Empire Builder and Costal Starlight.

    Only issue I ever had with the commute was on the Costal Starlight. I took it 4 times out of necessity and regretted it every time. It never arrives on time and UP being UP put its train full of scrap before us every time. Just remember that Railroads own the rails, not the government and they don't have to let private passenger trains on if they don't want to. Last I heard Oregon wanted to by an old SP&S line to get away from UP and they can sell this to the population because the Cascades works and has proven itself. Even Utah is building it's own rail lines to the same places UP goes to because UP and the FrontRunner had "conflicting schedules." Rail Roads are a for profit business and if they don't see profit in passenger service, then they won't back it. At some point Oregon even thought about extending the Cascades to Medford or Ashland, but I think CORP's (a division of RailAmerica) poor maintenance was a factor. I went to college in Ashland and I don't think washed out bedding and a 2 in 5 average for broken ties is normal for a passenger safe rail, but CORP had it's own problems with The Port of Coos Bay suing it.

    Granted there are younger um, eco friendly folk out there and I'm friends with a few of them, but it wasn't to hard to convince them that a 30,000 ton train is better then 1,364 semi trucks. Also helped that locomotives and cars tend to last longer then semi tractors and trailers.

    I think at some point we need to bite the bullet and stop envying Europe and Asia for their rail systems and do something with what's left of our own but not in a all or nothing method. Something people in other regions of the country want is a Portland like mass transit system and they want it all now. They forget that the MAX, TRAX, WES, FrontRunner, Cascades, and so on took decades to become what they are now and because they are what they are now, they keep growing. When the Max started in the 80's it was one line that went for 15 miles. now it has 52.4 miles and 4 lines with more in the works. It would also be nice not to have to slow down to protect the workers of abandoned ODOT work sites, but I can't have everything.

    I'll stop now.
     
  16. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    At twenty six, you've not seen the changes many of us have indeed noted. The place in history of railroads as portrayed is often of an archiac device and general nuisance, when minimally presented at all. We used to have safety around trains discussed every year in at least grade school. (Actually it was drummed into our heads and rightly so.) We were taught to respect not just the railroads, but private property rights and more. Now, it seems far too many young folk believe rail rights of way are private pathways/playgrounds. And freebie art easels. Yes, it also lays upon their parents as well, but even they also seem to often to have some very wrong ideas, many coming from the schools, post-1970.

    I noted this earlier in the topic. When I was active in rail advocacy issues, this was what I pushed. You end up with a more natural progression at less cost and with less potential for failure.

    Essentially the existing routes were grandfathered in place. Plus, they are not supposed to delay Amtrak trains, even though they do, all too frequently. Gutless bureaucrats aren't doing their jobs. The problem is the way Amtrak was set up, was simply so flawed it is not funny. Right from day one and before....

    Again, I have been saying this for quite a long time. Having been within the process, I know these attempted comparisions do not work for us. But, people who do not have the in-depth data, knowledge, skills to work from see a rainbow, where none can ever exist. All of what is happening now, was proposed, researched and planned, decades ago. I can remember 35 plus years ago, when we were talking, looking and thinking ahead to 2020 and beyond. A lot of those projects unfolding now, were kicked off many decades back. Transit, light rail. Even the present Alaska RR extension, is old news for me.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 23, 2011
  17. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    I road the coast starlight last christmas and there were only 2 delays. One at oakland (we were still on time into sacramento) and then in portland itself waiting for the Steel Bridge that was up. UP has made many improvements. Also, I'm not sure what SP&S route you're refering to. Surely not the Oregon Electric which would be 10,000 types of nightmare in portland itself and is nothing but slower through the valley and is owned by PNWR. Its also already being used by wes. Maybe that's the extension you've heard of. There is talk of running wes down the OE to at least Salem assuming they can figure a way to coordinate that with the counties. There's also talk of running a wes line down to newberg and McMinville, but that will take money since Rex Hill is essentially shut down.

    I'm curious why a trip from Salt Lake City to Portland would require a stop in LA? Couldn't you pick up the zephyer and take it to Sacramento and pick up the Coast Starlight there?
     
  18. Southern Oregonian

    Southern Oregonian TrainBoard Member

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    Now that you mention it, I think it was Oregon Electric and Oregon was trying to secure federal funding for it. It was a while ago, but at the time it was for the cascades with no mention of the wes. I was just on ODOT's website and they got the grant and now there's talk of High Speed rail and possibly passenger service to Medford? Right now ODOT is in the Q&A/Research phase so we'll see what happens with the money. What seemed to be top priority was replacing Union Station's roof and rehabbing the platform. I like Union Station, I just never want to live right next to it again.

    As for Amtrak, their website simply said it couldn't make connections except through LA. I just tried it and they fixed it. The trip is 30 or so hours. Ashland even exists now as a stop. For the longest time their site couldn't make any connection work with the Ashland bus to klamath Falls. Last time I tried Ashland to Salem I was deterred by the 20 hour layover but that was years ago and I had to call to figure it out. I thought it was a little strange that a city with a university student body of 4,000 had no Greyhound stop and a Amtrak bus that is scheduled to arrive just after the train leaves. there is a bus system to Medford that has a Greyhound station, but this was before they moved it and I wasn't thrilled about waiting around a sketchy station near downtown Medford (Eugene's is still sketchy). Plus I always had the felon in violation of their parol sitting next to me once I got on. I got a car and took my chances on I-5 in the winter with 2 hours of sleep after Greyhound cut all costal routes.

    I'm still leery of the Costal Starlight. When I was riding it (2003-2005), the station workers in some cities kept a tally of the on time vs late arrivals and every time I rode it something always happened. My worst experience ever on it was a 7 hour delay. It was 2 hours late to Eugene, left 30min after arriving since a freight train had to pass us, got side lined for more freight, then the signals went out so we crawled, and literally within Portland City limits our engineer's hours expired and we sat (with TriMet busses passing us) for 2 hours and our conductor became very hostile. The drive between Eugene and Portland was faster. Another time going to Eugene it derailed. It seems to catch gremlins every time I ride it. I've always had good luck on the Cascades however.
     
  19. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    Well, 2003-2005 were the heart of bad service on the UP and the Coast Starlight. It's improvement has been considered one of the success stories.
     
  20. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Mostly N Scale Staff Member

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    My last four trips on Amtrack (Southwest Chief and Texas Eagle) in the past two years have been uneventful and on time. Things must be improving.
     

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