Amtrak's Future

BarstowRick Jan 11, 2020

  1. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    I realize we've beat this horse to death in other discussions. I wanted to post this on the tail end of another thread I started but can't fine it. My Contents, isn't working. I blame that on the Internet Service Provider I'm (for the moment) stuck with.

    No one has a crystal ball that can accurately predict the future. If the past is any indicator. Particularly after some of us old farts saw most railroads drop their passenger service saying it was unprofitable. Is that the future of Amtrak?

    Well, you might want to check out this next video.

    It's all speculation at best, so watch it with a relatively open mind. Warning: There is a built in commercial at the end.



    Personally I don't care what happens to Amtrak. I'm still stuck on the bitterness felt when seeing some of the railroads finest passenger trains, gone. Having gone the way of the wind.

    The future will depend on a lot of things. Congress, it's members and how much they want to keep trains running in or through their states. Where most of the funding for Amtrak comes from. The new CEO will make some differences but keep in mind he isn't the only one in charge of this politically inspired, hotly contested... quagmire.

    May I ask? Have you been that impressed with Delta...lately? Oh boy, I'm going to get it for that remark. I better duck and run. Incoming! Grin!
     
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  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I, too, am not happy the private sector passenger trains we once knew are gone. But, without Amtrak, (which that operation bears no fault in their passing), I really doubt we would see anywhere near the passenger rail travel we know today. The common carriers would have done away with their trains, unprofitable as they were and there would have been NO successor(s). Then where would we be? Especially since some of the commuter and other regional operations piggyback on Amtrak facilities, which would not otherwise exist. Hmmmm.
     
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  3. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    Ken, I have no problem with Amtrak taking over. It was how it all went down that has me on edge.

    In a world where airplane tickets are cheaper then train tickets. Meals will cost you more and for a longer period of time. You have to ask yourself why do fine folk travel by train? There are plenty of reasons why but I won't go into that here.

    The CEO at the helm of Amtrak, will need to be asking himself such questions.

    Right now we have the best services one can hope for and if he decides to make cuts like he did at Delta. Hummm??
     
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  4. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Rick- If only Amtrak received the same consideration as airlines, in massive tax breaks, with enormous subsidies, all un-re-paid, while Amtrak is being held to rigid standards..... The fact it is instead such a sick political football..... If people could actually take the train, ALL the way to a desired end destination..... These are the real reasons rail passenger transportation, outside of commuting, (a different demographic), may never again be a first choice of the masses.
     
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  5. Josta

    Josta TrainBoard Supporter

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    I got to agree with Boxcab; if it wasn't for Amtrak we'd have next to nothing as far as passenger rail.

    Delta Dick: while I hate the idea of the cutbacks; it does seem to be working. Here is a recent report that Amtrak is close to turning a profit. If this is the only way to preserve American passenger rail, by having airline style meals and other things, then so be it. Operating in the red simply is not sustainable over time. And then when Amtrak is turning a profit, there'll be no more reason to call for shutting down Amtrak.

    Meals, by the nature of the transportation mode (longer, as would driving or a bus) will naturally cost more. But the scenery, relaxation, and camaraderie cannot be beat.

    https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2019/11/15/amtrak-profit-train-ceo-richard-anderson

    Hopefully he can enforce the regulation that passenger trains are supposed to be given preference over freight trains.

    I'm just glad we still do have passenger rail, albeit a shadow of its former self. We've ridden Amtrak from Chicago to San Bernardino, from San Bernardino to Cheyenne (back in the '70s) on a through sleeper, and also from Seattle to Los Angeles, and they were good experiences that we would do again.
     
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  6. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    I want to start this off with well, but I don't agree. Just to catch your attention. The thing is there's no argument.

    However: You knew that was coming.

    The original negotiations for Amtrak to run on freight operated railroads included moving the status from class 1 trains, to sub-service. Read the trains magazines of the times and you'll get an interesting mix of ideas and thoughts on this very subject. The historical facts may or may not be accurate. After the dust settled. The hosting railroads had no intent to give passenger trains top priority. Which is why we are, where we are today.

    You'd think the host railroad would want to see passenger trains run on a on-time schedule, as a statement to shippers to demonstrate how their shipments will be handled. Like in any-other business, follow the money. Money talks. And in case any of us missed it. Passenger trains do not generate money as in a profitable business. That's why the government took over subsidizing Amtrak with yours and mine... tax dollars.

    Prompting me to ask the question: How come a tax supported institution has to run profitably? Does that spin your head a little.

    Can passenger trains generate a profit? It's been put out there in this vain of thought, not unless they can run packed trains. Really? That won't solve the overall problem, either.

    Consider. Just for a moment airlines. Airlines don't maintain tight schedules or on time flights. Some flights, fly all all but empty while others are supper crowded. Flights can be cancelled at a moments notice. Fly in to Boise, ID., Oakland, Ca, Ontario, Ca. See how many times these flights are cancelled. Consider comfort when three good sized guys weighing 200 lbs plus, sit next to each other. They are in for a elbow fight all the way to the landing. There's no lounge to go sit in, dome car to enjoy the scenery or sleeper to catch some winks. Add to the mix, arrival time, time to wait for luggage or baggage. Security issues. More.

    Yes, most airports are tax funded and tax built. How many of the flights are subsidized by the tax payer, I have no idea. So, what's the answer?

    Just thought I'd throw this out for your consideration. Knowing full well I don't have the answer.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
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  7. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    In defense of the hosting railroads. NS, BNSF, UP and CSX all have been as good as can be to Amtrak. Thinking, I should duck for cover right about now.

    Most railroads have tight schedules of their own to maintain. Most try to schedule Amtrak in and behind their fastest, high priority freight trains. If Amtrak isn't ready to go. Can't board an adequate crew, maintenance issues and so on. Holding the train in station until it can be cleared. The hosting railroads have to make room for them. Translated: The late passenger train may find themselves sitting in a hole (siding) somewhere, until another hole can be worked out and they are allowed to proceed.

    If there are mechanical issues with a locomotive while in route, the same a fore mentioned railroads have taken a locomotive out of their assigned consists to keep Amtrak rolling.

    It's by far more complicated then this but this will at least give us a launching pad, for further discussions or not. Grin!
     
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  8. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Not true, Rick. Decades back, I spent time in rail advocacy. Both for keeping and improving Amtrak, and preservation of existing rail corridors. This issue with hosts not forwarding Amtrak, as required by law, has been around since startup. The enforcement problem is that penalties are not stiff, combined with the hosts being incredibly powerful lobbyists. Just one bit of reading: https://www.railpassengers.org/happening-now/news/blog/making-the-trains-run-on-time/

    The flights themselves are not directly subsidized. It is the essentially government provided facilities, along with tax breaks. If you owned a chain of grocery stores, how would you like it if the property and facilities thereon were all built and maintained by government, while you simply had to sell goods and then just pocketed the net? Could be lucrative, unless you were really a fumbler.... Yikes. My question is those operating losses the airlines report- how much is simply legal use of paper manipulations, and not actual cash flow?
     
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  9. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member

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    While I can see how meal service needs to flex with the times, airline-style meals are not the way to go. Unless you're having Turkish Airlines and Luthansa do your meal service (they have great airline food). By going this direction, you essentially make rail travel a much more time-consuming alternative to congested airports and flights.
    My two personal experiences aboard Amtrak (train #5 in 2004, #7 in 2009) in the dining car were highlighted by the notable food service. Considering the limitations of a tiny rail kitchen, the food was always very good. Removing such a uniquely -rail attraction to Amtrak travel certainly cannot be a long-term ridership gainer. Maybe in short term, (without going down a PSR rabbit hole about short term gains in spite of long term investment), but how much of that improvement could be attributed to holiday travel?

    John,
    There's been some news on this issue recently. A bill has been drafted that would (if approved/signed) allow Amtrak to sue the host RR for making Amtrak trains late. Latest status: Senate - 11/20/2019 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

    More reading:
    https://www.durbin.senate.gov/newsr...es-bill-to-improve-amtrak-on-time-performance
    https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/2922/text

     
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  10. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    Although my family of Santa Fe Rails wouldn't appreciate this. Putting them out here like this. So, I won't or not. You'll know where I heard it from.

    Rumor as in more factual then alleged. The news from Topeka, was Santa Fe would give up the passenger service on their lines although contested by Santa Fe stock holders. Some wanted the passenger service to stay with Santa Fe. The Boomerang that came through was 1st Class passenger trains would no longer run on Santa Fe's rails.

    Later in Trains, several articles highlighted this decision as a negative.

    Local papers out of San Bernardino, and Barstow carried the same news.

    It's true. I won't knowing lie to you.

    Now I better duck and run for cover.
     
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  11. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    The question has come up before as to why we don't have high speed trains.
    I can't answer that but this next video might.
    Check it out.

     
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  12. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Of those interviewed, only Robert Cervero comes close to understanding why. His only slip was comparing autos per thousand people in the USA versus China. Otherwise, he completely understands. Listen to what he says!!!

    Most of the others are in the dark at best. Idealistic, not realistic. The one fellow who stated he didn't understand why, it is people of his ilk who are the problem. They should not be involved in such things, being so disconnected. He thinks it is just money and politics. It is not, as Robert Cervero outlines the real issues.

    BTW- The California HSR is now estimated at just shy of 100 billion, it keeps climbing and is nowhere near completion. In a nation trillions of unrecoverable dollars in debt, where do the people think the money will come from? Listening to their nebulous ideas becomes laughable. The private sector idea is likely our only salvation. Failing that, forget it. The environmentalists in their fanaticism will never ease up, thus adding crippling dollar amounts and crucial time. They want us out of our cars, but block, impede, hamper, stall and stop. Hypocrisy in it's finest display.
     
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  13. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    Well put Ken.

    No argument here.
     
  14. Mo-Pac

    Mo-Pac TrainBoard Member

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    Unfortunately this only applies to the USA. Yes, over here in Europe the only thing that has been a issues with rail travel is disputes with their unions. Planes have to compete with the trains to win over passengers. For example off season for two people to fly from Corsica to Paris(there's no train crossing the Sea yet) is about 500 euros. A lot of passengers from here will either take the ferry or fly to Nice or Marseille then take a train to Paris due to cost. Yes, normally a train from Nice to Paris is cheaper than flying. This is until the summer rolls in then you have the super cheap airlines that can outdo the trains. Though they will charge for extra for luggage, drinks and anything else that is commonly free of charge on other company flights. For example a direct flight out of season for a weekend in Paris from here for two is over 500 euros. In season with the cheap companies its around 200 euros. The other hurdle is we have to go through(just like going though the airports in the USA)the international side.
     
  15. Mo-Pac

    Mo-Pac TrainBoard Member

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    Yes, this is where the government dropped the ball with rail travel. China has better rail service than the USA. They started to fund air travel then they saw opportunity and created the fastest true long distance rail travel. It comes down to where the government is willing to fund for their country. China wants to improve their infrastructure and the USA decides to use something old, outdated, and not so cost effective.
     
  16. Mo-Pac

    Mo-Pac TrainBoard Member

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    Problem is the government is not wanting to improve Amtrak. If they were wanting to improve rail transportation they should look how China created their system. It shouldn't be hard to build up along current right of ways and old ones that connect the major cities in the USA with true High Speed rail service. Sorry, to me Acela is not truly high speed service.
     
  17. Mo-Pac

    Mo-Pac TrainBoard Member

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    The only issue I disagree with you on is that the government went in the wrong direction fifty years ago in the infrastructure route.
     
  18. Mo-Pac

    Mo-Pac TrainBoard Member

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    BINGO!!!!
     
  19. Mo-Pac

    Mo-Pac TrainBoard Member

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    Not to many years ago the USA national debt wasn't that high. We will reap what we sow.
     
  20. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    While seemingly lower, when compared to economics of those times, we were past not repayable decades ago.
     
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