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article- Why can't America have great trains?

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bikkuri bahn

Thirty-nine minutes into his southbound ride from Wilmington, Delaware, to Washington, D.C., Joseph H. Boardman, president and CEO of Amtrak, begins to cry. We're in the dining car of a train called the Silver Star, surrounded by people eating hamburgers. The Silver Star runs from New York City to Miami in 31 hours, or five more hours than the route took in 1958, which is when our dining car was built. Boardman and I have been discussing the unfortunate fact that 45 years since its inception, the company he oversees remains a poorly funded, largely neglected ward of the state, unable to fully control its own finances or make its own decisions. I ask him, "Is this a frustrating job?"

 

http://www.nationaljournal.com/magazine/amtrak-acela-high-speed-trains-20150417

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toc36

America has great trains. They move freight.

 

Google "Amtrak makes money" and you will be linked to a ton of article as to the state of Amtrak. Only 3 of the 44 lines makes a profit. 45 years of operating in the red.

 

For example, it takes me 11 hours to drive from DC to Chicago. Via Amtrak, it would take 17 to 24 hours depending on which train and it would cost 1.5 to 3 time the cost.

 

A bus from DC to NYC take about 5 to 6 hours and cost less than $20. Amtrak takes 3.5 hours and cost 4 time more.

 

The US does not have the inter-urban commuter rail network that is prevalent throughout Japan. Once at your destination, you would probably need to rent a car.

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Guest keio6000

Why? Because car gas and aviation fuel are both in effect heavily subsidized and people are too fat.  End of story.

 

(yes, the latter does matter).

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kvp

Yes, it looks like passenger rail travel is just not the right solution for the US. Little to none intra city commuter systems, so no way to get to a station. (the reason = low ubran density in cities) Freight oriented track system, that can't support high speed trains. (the reason = freight is profitable)

 

Now let's look at the profitable routes:

East coast: (Boston, New York, Washington corridor)

-high density cities with a good commuter network

-direct connection of commuter rail to intercity rail

-dedicated high speed tracks, because there are enough passengers

 

West coast: (Vancouver to Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles areas)

-high to medium density cities with a good to working commuter network

-direct connection of commuter rail to intercity rail

-good mixed use tracks, because there are enough passengers

 

What could be done to make it work:

1: separate the lines into 4 groups:

-profitable

-near high density areas, can be made profitable

-unprofitable legacy routes with little to no passengers

-unbuilt routes that would be profitable

2: make a new strategy for each route:

-for profitables: raise capacity to meed demand

-around 0 routes: increase interconnetivity to local transit to raise the number of travellers into the profitable range

-unprofitable routes: look for ways to provide the same service cheaper (if they have to be kept for political reasons)

-try to build those routes where there is a demand (this can be left to private investors)

 

If there is enough political will, then for the unprofitable, low passenger number routes an alternative transportation method can be used to provide the same or better service, cheaper. One of them could be a high speed interstate bus system with large buses running at the maximal allowed speed of each interstate highway. (i'm thinking about maximal allowed vehicle length and speed) Any route that can't be served with long buses (around 200 seats or 3 long distance amcans) has enough passengers that it's worth keeping and upgrading.

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It would be interesting to see a route by route table of every Amtrak route with cost, income, number of passengers per train, length, average speed and tracks used. Does anyone have a table like this?

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bikkuri bahn

Sectorization would be the best option, but unlikely politically. Get rid of long distance trains, and replace them with state supported short and medium distance shuttle trains, possibly intercity DMUS linking only the state capitals and biggest cities in the viable markets- rather than one train a day going through town, have at least 3 a day, which makes it useful for more folks.

Edited by bikkuri bahn

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Guest ___

In my six years as a NARP Ambassador at DC Union Station, I once asked a few of the senior leadership at NARP why Amtrak doesn't look to follow the service model that airlines like Southwest use or JetBlue uses, or Bolt or MegaBus to bring in more PAX, especially on long-distance traisn that have trouble filling seats. The answer shocked me, "Amtrak is not interested in serving this demographic of passenger"

Ask the average American (or at least Democrat) what Amtrak is ITHO, and the answer on average from people, is that Amtrak is public transportation on par with a subway, or public bus system on baseline, and on par as the public equivalent of Greyhound on the other end of the spectrum. And, is something they wouldn't ride, but should exist to serve the lower classes who can not afford to fly.

 

The public sees Amtrak as a national public transit system for the masses, while Amtrak sees its demographic as white-collar middle class and up, 65K yearly income and retires. Amtrak sees itself as a premium product (compared to the airlines) and in many ways they are correct.

 

http://www.narprail.org/our-issues/ridership-statistics/ (may be behind login wall)

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velotrain

I have no interest in discussing the politics of this topic, but will give my experience of Amtrak and present a case for "slow trains".  I was surprised to get quite a few hits when I did a search for slow trains - there might even be some in Japanese ;-) 

 

 

I have primarily used Amtrak to support my bicycle tours.

 

 

From Boston my choices are west (Lake Shore Limited) or SW (NE Corridor), and the reduced number of trains / stations with baggage service increasingly made things more difficult.

 

 

Boston - Buffalo - Niagara Falls - Harrisburg, PA - Philly - Boston

 

 

 

Boston - Flagstaff, AZ - Red Rock country - Scottsdale - Boston

 

            After the conference in Scottsdale, I returned via San Antonio and New Orleans

 

 

 

Boston - Minneapolis - Minnesota + Wisconsin - Milwaukee - Boston

 

 

 

Boston - Utica, NY - Finger Lakes - Rochester, NY - Boston

 

 

 

Boston - Cleveland - Pittsburgh - Cumberland, MD - Washington, DC - Boston

 

 

 

Boston - Rochester - Erie Canal - Albany - Boston

 

 

The cycling was between the sets of paired cities at the ends of every line.

 

When I was working, if my employer chose to fly me to a conference somewhere, I made sure to take at least one week of vacation and work in a bike tour. 

 

 

A fond memory from the earliest days of Amtrak, when it was all "heritage" equipment, was the Slumbercoach.  This was a very small private compartment that had all the basics - seat, bed, sink, toilet - and for an amazingly low price.

 

 

The most complex trip (logistically) I did was when I had a week-long conference in Anaheim, CA, and then a shorter conference in San Diego at the beginning of the next week.  I flew into LAX and found a bus driver to take my conference clothes to the Anaheim hotel.  After a day exploring LA by bike, I took the Coast Starlight to San Francisco.  It was a new city to me, so I spent a couple of days there, then started cycling down the coast.  I got to San Luis Obispo, and took a train to Anaheim.  I found a guy at that conference also going to the one in S.D., so he drove my conference gear down for me.  I biked down over the weekend, and then after that conference struggled to get everything on the train to L.A., and then back to LAX.

 

 

After a 1994 tour from Bourdeaux to Marseilles, I took the TGV to Paris - but hated it.  I much prefer a train speed between 40-60 MPH.  For me, the main benefit of a train trip is looking out the window.  I haven't taken an interstate bus in over half a century.  The only benefits of a bus over driving is that it's cheaper, and you don't have to pay attention.  There's virtually nothing to look at, outside of expressways, gas stations, etc.  Unlike a train, you can't get up and walk around.  There's much less legroom - especially for sleeping.

 

 

OTOH, a train passes though much more interesting terrain - people's backyards, woods, mountains, the guts of cities, industrial areas, and even train yards.  The landscape you see isn't "prettified", such as that facing major roads - you get a genuine "slice of life".

 

 

I may need to take a train trip this fall - with or without a bike.

Edited by velotrain
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kvp

 

Ask the average American (or at least Democrat) what Amtrak is ITHO, and the answer on average from people, is that Amtrak is public transportation on par with a subway, or public bus system on baseline, and on par as the public equivalent of Greyhound on the other end of the spectrum. And, is something they wouldn't ride, but should exist to serve the lower classes who can not afford to fly.

 

The public sees Amtrak as a national public transit system for the masses, while Amtrak sees its demographic as white-collar middle class and up, 65K yearly income and retires. Amtrak sees itself as a premium product (compared to the airlines) and in many ways they are correct.

 

They are right about baseline public transportation, since most of the long distance network has a service level of that. The prices however are not quite right. Maybe if they restored 3rd class service on those routes (as many european and japanese trains did), way below airline price (around the bus price) and collabortated with highway bus companies (or even operated there own) to bring in more traffic. Adding a few higher density, cheaper coaches for these routes would allow people like migrant workers to use the network. Adding or at least connecting existing bus routes into the network would help too.

 

The two coast corridors have what we can call a high speed airline level service. Also many of these lines have slower, cheaper services with more stops and the same tracks provide commuter services around bigger cities. That part of the Amtrak network is actually functioning as it should.

 

 

Thanks! Actually i think the reason why these unprofitable long distance lines are kept as they are is that they don't cost that much, doesn't take up lots of rolling stock and it can still be said that a service is provided. Nobody really cares about its level and there are no attempts to fix them. Most upgrades go to the profitable routes, which is ok. The fact that these legacy routes with one train a day keep Amtrak in the red means they don't have enough profit from the profitable routes. Also the medium distance service is something that exists but i'm sure most people are not aware of it and even Amtrak doesn't seem to care that much about it. State supported and high speed services look fine to me, at least from the financial standpoint.

 

Actually things like these long distance Amtrak trains are still present in many countries. One example are the slow trains in Hungary running on long, low speed routes with ancient diesel power and 60 years old rolling stock. They are popular amongst migrant agricultural workers, poorer families going on a vacation (usually to lake Balaton) and bikers/rowers as you can take bikes and even canoes on board. The service is slow and the rolling stock is mostly made up of so called worker's coaches (originally built for suburban commuter service) and ancient long distance stock (which is a bit rickety but very comfortable), including large baggage cars, usually upgraded with a bicycle logo on the doors. What makes them competitive is they are dirt cheap (you get billed by distance and no extra fees for baggage) and mandatory cooperation with local bus services to provide a local door to door service in each region. (usually every regional bus service must stop at all nearby passenger stations and city bus services must route at least one line to each local station)

 

Japan seemed to have them until the privatisation (as public service), when every non high speed and non profitable line was spin off to a 3rd sector company to manage or close up. This process still continues as new shinkansen lines mean more and more lines are removed from the JR network. JR companies may think themselves as providing public service, but the larger ones think that public service must be profitable, so if there is no profit, there is no service anymore. This process could lead us to islands of commuter networks connected by high speed lines and a few freight only lines remaining with sporadic private/3rd sector service here and there. As it's in line with the government's goal of concentrating people around a few large cities, this might work.

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Jace

 ...unable to fully control its own finances or make its own decisions...

 

Never mind finances, they can't control their own costs. Amtrak runs their trains, on average, at 45-65% capacity. Their costs go from roughly $35 (no food service Keystone) to about $250 per passenger (long distance). Obviously, the more passengers on board the lower your per passenger cost. Outside of their better corridors, they can't seem to offer a service sufficient to generate enough revenue to cover costs. Improving service brings in higher fares but this can be very costly. Their best bet would be to cut their costs, labor in particular, only they can't because of political considerations. There's no way I can see them breaking the unions like the bus companies (or the freight railroads for that matter). 

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velotrain

Actually i think the reason why these unprofitable long distance lines are kept as they are is that they don't cost that much, doesn't take up lots of rolling stock and it can still be said that a service is provided. Nobody really cares about its level and there are no attempts to fix them. 

 

The other part of it is that while congress doesn't really support Amtrak, polititians would make a lot of noise if Amtrak tried to remove service from their state.

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railsquid

On a more positive note... Mrs. Railsquid has got it into her head that it would be a great idea to take Railsquid Jr. on a coast-to-coast train tour of the US when he's old enough to appreciate such things, and who am I to deny this plan? However, is it remotely feasible? I have a couple of railway books which depict impressive-looking tourist-style trains sweeping dramatically through impressive-looking scenery but they date from the 1970s.

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Martijn Meerts

On a more positive note... Mrs. Railsquid has got it into her head that it would be a great idea to take Railsquid Jr. on a coast-to-coast train tour of the US when he's old enough to appreciate such things, and who am I to deny this plan? However, is it remotely feasible? I have a couple of railway books which depict impressive-looking tourist-style trains sweeping dramatically through impressive-looking scenery but they date from the 1970s.

 

That's something I'd love to do as well, and I think it's still quite possible, but I don't think there's anything remotely like those 1970s trains these days :)

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kvp

There is! You just have to go north to Canada. You can choose from two trains that crosses North America from coast to coast and they are tourist trains, but they run in Canada. The coastal trains (both on the east and west coast) are good, so i would say go from San Diego to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Banf, Calgary, Winnipeg, (with an optional detour down to Chicago), then Montreal, Boston, New York and finally to Washington. These cities have either high speed rail or tourist train connections. What you can't see this way is Las Vegas and mostly the south USA, where rail connections are little to non existent, including the California-Florida route which has afaik been out of service for years.

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cteno4

LOL yes hard to do Las Vegas by rail unless being a hobo! Not worth the detour unless you want to see the 3/4 scale (yes everything is compressed in Las Vegas to make it seem bigger than it is) shrine to overindulgence!

 

West coast us route is quite nice!

 

These are pretty long trips, I would suggest doing segments and staying a few cities for a few days along the way. Trains Canadian I think still has the setup where you can get off at points and they have bnb setups to cater to train folks well.

 

The old issue with the us and rail is that it's big and rail usually slow, so it's a trip where you do in parts or have a lot of time and patience!

 

I have done a number of the long hauls and enjoyed them all over the years! Folks really get into a very relaxed and pleasant mood on the longer runs. High speed ne corridor is a bit more commuter rail feel unless you are on one of the thru trains.

 

Jeff

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velotrain

Mr. and Mrs. Squid -

 

Yes, it is definitely possible.  My parents took my brother and I on such a trip when I was 7 years old, and I still have some memories of it 60 years later.

Here's the current Amtrak national route map - although it may look different by the time you make your trip, if some of the commentators / prognosticators have their way

 

 

 

gallery_941_135_131021.jpg

 

 

 

Of the four western routes, the only one I haven't taken is the Omaha - Denver - Salt Lake City route, and it might be the most interesting of them all.  While VIA does indeed do much more to market it's route through the Rockies, I'm not sure how different it actually is from the northern US route (in terms of general type of landscape), and I'm fairly certain that Amtrak is quite a bit less expensive than VIA - largely because it is not marketed so much as a tourist train.  However, from what I read, even VIA will be much less than the tourist trains in Japan;-)

 

One general recommendation.  Try to avoid the sleeper rooms, as I think they're something like $300++ for a night.  Instead, plan your trip so you get off the train every couple of days to explore a city or region, and spend the money on a hotel there.

 

Regarding my comment on the Rockies, my impression is that both the northern US and Canadian routes pass through it where the landscape is generally wooded, while I suspect the Denver route encounters far more dramatic bare rock formations.  I'm willing to be corrected by those who have ridden this route.

 

So, unless you particularly want to see the south and SW - Atlanta, New Orleans, San Antonio, Tuscon - you could take the Denver route in one direction and the northern (either side of the border) in the other.  You'd also need to be willing to miss Tinseltown - although that's also probably the easiest / cheapest place to fly into.  If you take the northern Amtrak route (east), I'd connect to VIA at Toronto, and perhaps take the Amtrak Adirondack to NYC from Montreal.  Quebec City and the Maritimes are not without interest, but you need to make some decisions - unless you can afford to spend several months on this journey.

 

You could continue on to DC, and then go Cleveland - Chicago, or further south via Cincinnati.  Whenever I plan a train trip, as much as possible I try to be in the most scenic sections during daylight hours.  However, sometimes the Amtrak schedule has their trains passing through these areas overnight in both directions.

 

Whatever you do, I'd allocate three weeks at a minimum, and carefully research where you wish to spend your off-train time, building your trip around that.

 

The trains may not be from the 70's (they just operate them kind of like they were, with lesser food and service ;-), but the scenery is still there, largely unchanged.

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kvp

The coastal routes are operated with fairly new or more exotic stock, while the canadian tourist trains are a mix of modern and heritage stock. Taking a dedicated tourist train is good in a sense that the schedule is made around the photo and view opportunities with designated photo stops and on certain routes off train lodging. The cities i wrote on my list above is where i would stop for a full day or two to look around. While as a kid i really liked the trains rumbling across downtown Reno while standing next the old wooden station, but this is sadly gone and taking a desert route with a young kid is imho not a good idea.

 

Going up the west coast then going down on the east (or in reverse) means it's possible to see the most interesting and famous cities. For trains, i mentioned the San Diego to Los Angeles route first as it goes across the Trestles, while the routes around Seattle operate with talgos. I wouldn't miss San Francisco (check the cable cars, the cable car museum/engine house and the trams, i liked the ship museum at the wharf too). The east coast is easy as you have the acela there which is a must if you are going there. I would suggest to stay longer in New York and ride at least one of the elevated lines (Flushing line /irt 7/ and Rockway line /ind A/) and at least a full day in Washington. The Niagara is between Canada and the US, so you can just drop by and see it and you can reach it by train from Toronto on your way to Boston.

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Guest ___

Amtrak has two targeted demographics they look at, short distance business class travels, along corridors, and retirees and families for long distance travel.

 

Corridor service is an easy sell, to avoid the congestion and hassle of the spoke and hub system of air travel on the coasts to short to medium haul commuters. Sadly, TSA screening at many large stations is likely going to chip away at this selling point.

 

Additionally, logic is that long haul service is not going to compete with air travel, so sell the travel experience to those who can afford the time to travel and to those who can upsell premium services such as Suerpliner/Viewliner sleeping car services to.

 

I love VIA Rail, they really sell the transcons as a tourist experience to much greater extent than Amtrak does. I honestly do not think that Amtrak is really interested in selling long distance service, but they keep pushing for it like any other government entity does; give up territory and you give up funding. Simply put, if Amtrak kills it's long distance trains, they give up the right to request funding.

 

Personally, I wish Amtrak would either go fully private, or operate like many of the US commuter rail systems do, with a public/private partnership. I remember the numbers a few years back that ever $9.oo cheeseburger sold in a cafe car, an additional $15 was covering the food services from the tax payer for a nearly $24 microwaved cheeseburger.

 

Amtrak did have a good idea to lover food costs by contracting to Subway for cafe car services, which I thought was a great idea, however the unions were not so keen on it. I believe NARP was very much for the Subway deal as it would have cut several hundred million a year that could have gone towards service and equipment upgrades.

Edited by 写真家

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velotrain

 taking a desert route with a young kid is imho not a good idea.

 

???

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cteno4

After watching and playing with many, many young kids on long train trips, I don't think after a very short while it matters much what the scenery is out of the window! Having good toys and games and the races up and down the stroll way becomes the kids focus, not the scenery!

 

LA to Fort Worth is a great trip thru big bend, spectacular scenery.

 

Much more to see in the sf area as well (and train goes thru east bay not sf).

 

A day in Washington?! It's the museum / monument capital of the world!

 

Problem visiting the U.S. is it's like saying I'm going to see europe in 3 weeks! Best to focus on areas and do multiple trips If you can. I've talked to so many foreign tourists that lament they tried to do too much in the us and blew it by not focusing more on one area at a time and even if they got only one trip they would rather have seen one area well.

 

I would suggest maybe trying flying to one interesting area, spending some time, then dong a long haul train trip to another interesting area and spending some time there as a first trip in case the long haul train trips in the us are not to your liking!

 

Cabins can be expensive and have to be reserved in advanced in the high travel seasons, but are much more comfortable sleeping and easy to deal with young ones at times! You can still roam the train.

 

Jeff

Edited by cteno4

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kvp

Velotrain, the idea of staying near the highly populated areas is that you can get off the train every day, so after every dozen hours of rail travel. This makes it overall slow, but the kids don't have to endure way too long trips. Also the big cities are located near the coasts, so plenty to see for the not so train oriented wifes/kids. Staying at an off train hotel is also better for the kids and since corridors have higher speed services, you can take trips between two cities faster, which gives more time to see them.

 

Cteno4, i know one day is not enough for Washington, i just said at least one full day, from morning to evening, which might include two half days and more full days, depending on the museum list. For San Francisco, afaik you cross the Bay Bridge from any Amtrak station to downtown. Many years ago we were staying at an old hotel just off market street.

 

LA to Forth Worth may be good, but where would you go after that?

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velotrain

Velotrain, the idea of staying near the highly populated areas is that you can get off the train every day, so after every dozen hours of rail travel. This makes it overall slow, but the kids don't have to endure way too long trips. Also the big cities are located near the coasts, so plenty to see for the not so train oriented wifes/kids. Staying at an off train hotel is also better for the kids and since corridors have higher speed services, you can take trips between two cities faster, which gives more time to see them.

 

IIRC, it was the wife who suggested the trip.  Jeff - I've always been very visual, so wanted to see everything that I could, even as a child.

 

I don't know if this trip will ever happen, but we have a dozen cities proposed with at least one day each, so with train and plane connections we're already talking a 3-week + trip.  If there's a need to reduce that, the left coast is the most likely target for an initial foray.  

 

Many big cities (the early-settled ones) are along coasts, but by no means all of them.  Some are along major rivers - such as Budapest.  If they go through the northern Rockies in one direction, they need to return somehow - unless flying as Jeff suggested.  Taking the Kansas City - Albuquerque route would bring them back to the most  likely arrival point.

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cteno4

Amtrak goes thru Oakland in the east bay. They use to have an Amtrak bus to take you over to sf (via the bay bridge.)

 

Yes I can stare out the windows for hours at most any scenery from a train, kids though get bored pretty quick by it!

 

You could go to Chicago from Fort Worth. Big bend is spectacular scenery.

 

Just kidding on dc. It's the old joke folks think they can see some museums in a couple of days and realize after running themselves ragged that a week would not have been enough for many of them!

 

Jeff

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toc36

For KVP:  

 

Check out:  http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2013/03/01-passenger-rail-puentes-tomer

 

I think the 30 page report "A New Alignment:  Strengthening America's Commitment to Passenger Rail" will have a ton of information that will be of interest to you.

 

Are you an expat?  Did you spend a lot of time in the USA?  I ask because you have a very well informed perspective of US passenger rail.

 

For VELO:

 

You might want to consider Colorado.  Mountain scenery and STEAM locomotives.

 

http://www.colorado.com/scenic-historic-train/cripple-creek-victor-narrow-gauge-railroad

http://georgetownlooprr.com/

http://www.durangotrain.com/

http://www.traintour.com/?source=google&cn=tours&ag=train&gclid=CIuTnOPX78YCFQeBaQodIE4Epw

 

Great scenery, cool mountains, mining towns, western cowboys!

 

If you end up in California, you might plan on visiting the Tehachapi Loop

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g33163-Activities-Tehachapi_California.html

 

Cajon Pass

http://www.cajonpassrails.com/

Edited by toc36
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kvp
I think the 30 page report "A New Alignment: Strengthening America's Commitment to Passenger Rail" will have a ton of information that will be of interest to you.

 

Thanks! The pdf is longer, but even the route by route profit listing linked from the webpage has enough strange points by itself. The 8 biggest money loosers are the long distance, one train only routes. They happen to be the longest routes too with 0 state backing. The actual costs of these services are almost double of the ticket incomes, which i don't understand as the rolling stock is old, the tracks are almost free and one train doesn't need a lot of staff or fuel either. Operating costs should be in the range of a double stack container train, but look to be as high as a japanese cruise train with ticket prices around half their actual worth. I do understand that getting rid of them would cut the Amtrak network into 3 islands, but the operating costs are much higher that rational. (or i'm missing the obvious somewhere)

 

From the PDF:

However, this regional coverage comes at the expense of low ridership figures: they carried only 17 percent of Amtrak’s passengers in 2012 but, combined, constitute 43 percent of Amtrak’s route-associated operating costs.

 

I would really like to know what are these route associated costs, when you have a single train per service going over private freight networks? If this 43 percent could be brought down to 17-20 percent, Amtrak would be out of the red. (not making profit, but at least not loosing money either, a good position for a government operated public service) The report mentions a way to incrase ridership and income on inter metropolitan services and that sounds like a good strategy, but still fails to explain the high operating costs for these low frequency, long distance routes.

Are you an expat? Did you spend a lot of time in the USA? I ask because you have a very well informed perspective of US passenger rail.

 

Not really, i just have the larger part of my extended family in Canada. I've been in the US, but only as a tourist for a few weeks at a time and that was when i was a kid and a much younger adult. Since 9/11 i just don't use planes at all, so getting across the Atlantic would only be possible with a ship. On the other hand, i lived in Canada for a longer time, but that was many years ago. Also i worked for General Electric Europe as an engineer before my current company, but the farthest i got with them was to live and work in France. (the 2x2 hour commute between Paris and Buc was bad, not to mention the regular riots of the local french-africans) In short, i'm just a railfan who happen to like american trains beside japanese ones...

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velotrain

I would really like to know what are these route associated costs, when you have a single train per service going over private freight networks? 

 

I would guess that a decent chunk of it is paying station staffs to man a station that only has one or two trains a day - I don't know if these are "full time" jobs, even if only a few hours a day are needed.  I know they have cut back a lot on manned stations and baggage service, but each of those long distance routes probably still has a fair number of manned stations.  Someone previously mentioned unions in relation to food service, and eventually the unions being so defensive could cost all of the members their jobs.

 

>  They happen to be the longest routes too with 0 state backing.

 

The state-funded routes are perceived as having a specific benefit to the state, even if the train passes through other states - such as the Vermonter and the Ethan Allen.  The long distance routes pass through many states, so there may be some benefit to each state, but not enough for any one state to be willing to sponsor the train.  What I don't know is if anyone has tried to assign a certain percentage of the cost / benefit to each state the train passes through.

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