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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Mon May 27, 2013 9:15 pm 

Joined: Thu Nov 22, 2007 5:46 am
Posts: 2447
Location: S.F. Bay Area
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
In decades of following Amtrak, I've found that the vast--VAST--majority of complaints about route insuffiencies can easily be boiled down to one simple query: "Why won't you run a train from where *I* live to where *I* wanna go?"


Step 0. Start with some prejudices:
- New homes are better (they are also built on the surburban fringe where public transport has yet to even think about going, and won't for 20 years.)
- Realtor knows best (he also sells what sells, not what you want).
- Anyone over 16 using a sidewalk is a mark of urban decay (so much for the inner suburbs).
- Schools, schools, schools.

Step 1. Shop for a house. Criteria are cost, amenities and location.
Amenities = favoring new-build homes usually found on the exurban fringe.
Location = based on a leisurely automobile drive at noon on Sunday.
Transit accessibility is absolutely not a factor at any level, in fact your preconceptions are actively rejecting transit. In fact, land use incompatible with transit is precisely what makes the neighborhood appeal to you.

Step 2. Get a job at a business in a modern greenfield office development with similar characteristics.

Step 3. Find the commute at 8am on Monday morning is a wee bit different than Sunday when you were house shopping.

Step 4. Search for transit alternatives.

Step 5. Reap what you sowed.

Step 6. Oh, it's worse than that. Your kids need to do a lot of commuting too -- school and afterschool activities. The suburb is so spread out that it's impracticable (even unsafe) for them to just walk. Guess who the transit is. YOU!

Now that you have carefully crafted yourself into a situation where transit could not possibly work because the land use is all wrong for it (by design)... THEN

Step 7. Whine about how transit doesn't serve you.


Last edited by robertmacdowell on Tue May 28, 2013 12:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Mon May 27, 2013 10:42 pm 

Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:29 pm
Posts: 318
Please!!!...you want to show me a pile of internet reviews and call me wrong??? What I said was...if you talk to people (real people---not railfans) with Amtrak experience then you will find some real negative experiences.

I know a fellow who was trapped on a frozen (no food, no bathrooms) Lake Shore Ltd. that was 13 hours late...that experience was not on Travel Advisor or a Washington Post travel story. That is a real life experience that really happened.

How about all the times that the Crescent is furloughed below Atlanta? You likely do not hear about those events unless you know people whom it effects. Or the fact that the Sunset is often 12-13 or more hours late? Or...have you ever been on an Amtrak train where they run out of food...or selectively serve meals when they see fit? These are real life experiences...and they happen every day.

The railfans will do whatever they can to defend Amtrak...but in reality it is badly broken.

T7


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Mon May 27, 2013 10:45 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2012 4:32 pm
Posts: 154
Actually, there is a fairly interesting argument here that I haven't seen brought up. There is a huge missing link in the network, between Cincinatti, OH, to Atlanta. It is one of the best rail lines in the country. It was well served by Southern and briefly some Amtrak test runs over the years. And after the test runs, NS the successor, claims the line is too busy and denies Amtrak access to them from what I've heard. Anyone know more about this? I'm rather uninformed on this but have heard many people discussing...


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 1:51 am 
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Location: Pac NW, via North Florida
robertmacdowell wrote:
Step 1. Shop for a house. Criteria are cost, amenities and location.
Amenities = favoring new-build homes usually found on the exurban fringe.
Location = based on a leisurely automobile drive at noon on Sunday.
Transit accessibility is absolutely not a factor at any level, in fact your preconceptions are actively rejecting transit. In fact, land use incompatible with transit is precisely what makes the neighborhood appeal to you.
True. I must agree, when my wife and I were looking build out in the sticks, one of the 'selling points' was that we were nowhere near mass trainsit, "and all that entails," which I took to mean that we wouldn't be dealing with riff-raff on busses and such. Frankly, I would have loved to have built within walking/biking distance of where I could get on an Amtrak train, but my wife wouldn't hear of living that close to any RR line (funny thing, we built near one anyway, but far enough not for her to be woken up by the grand crossing signals).
Termite7 wrote:
The railfans will do whatever they can to defend Amtrak...but in reality it is badly broken.
In some places, for sure. But in the Puget Sound area, we have the Cacades service which is one of the better routes and train services, especially south of Seattle...

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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 11:02 am 

Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:29 pm
Posts: 318
p51 makes a good point...and it goes towards long-distant travel versus inter-state travel. In the places where Amtrak performs as a commuter (or inter-state) line they do as well as any. Ride from say...Baltimore to DC and everything will be "fine". Not glowing...not perfect but adequate and reasonably priced.

Everything goes topsy-turvy when they have to run overnight service. It is a whole other world...and if you have not tried it in the last, say...5 years...it is nothing like it used to be. I was shocked at how rough the switches and cross-overs have become. They will make your feet fly out from under you...how they do not break more wheels and axles I will never know. Amtrak has very little control over that issue but to a passenger it does not matter who is at fault.

The last time I was on the Crescent it was white knuckle through the Carolinas when the train would hit rough turnouts in the middle of the night...no sleeping on that line. At Atlanta 3 coaches worth of passengers de-trained leaving three completely empty cars to dead-head to New Orleans completely empty except for the garbage in the floors...the doors swinging...and the stench of the bathrooms (gag). At that point the club car had available...burritios and diet giner-ale served by somebody who made some snarky comments to me and my travel companions. It was...typical...in my experience.

T7


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 11:36 am 
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Location: Pac NW, via North Florida
Termite7 wrote:
In the places where Amtrak performs as a commuter (or inter-state) line they do as well as any. Ride from say...Baltimore to DC and everything will be "fine". Not glowing...not perfect but adequate and reasonably priced.

Everything goes topsy-turvy when they have to run overnight service. It is a whole other world...and if you have not tried it in the last, say...5 years...it is nothing like it used to be. I was shocked at how rough the switches and cross-overs have become. They will make your feet fly out from under you...how they do not break more wheels and axles I will never know. Amtrak has very little control over that issue but to a passenger it does not matter who is at fault.

Good point. I've never ridden anything overnight on Amtrak, as I've been hearing those same types of horror stories for the better part of 20 years now. I'll defer to your experience and that of the majority of people I've known who have also done overnight runs. All of those people described experiences just like yours.
My Amtrak riding experiences have been limited to runs where it was more convenient or faster than driving. For example, a recent Cascades ride to Portland for National Train day which was at the station made more sense than driving all that way and then looking for parking. And a couple of runs up the NE corridor Northward out of Aberdeen, MD when I was stationed there in the Army. All those experiences were well worth the time and money...

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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 11:44 am 

Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:50 pm
Posts: 2091
Location: Northern Illinois
If the IRS was instructed to run a railroad, Amtrak is what you'd get.

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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 12:39 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 03, 2004 9:42 pm
Posts: 2431
Why no Amtrak Chicago to Florida?

Well, first of all, you can book a round trip flight from Chicago to Orlando for $400, possibly less if you work at it.

Second question, are there reasonable routes suited for passenger train service connecting the two in a fairly direct line?

J3a-614 wrote:
I was told one irate lady buttonholed the park superintendent there, and exclaimed to him, "You've ruined my clothes! You've ruined my clothes! Your brochure says you run a steam train. It doesn't say you run a coal train!"

Ah, people. . .


Most tourist don't pack common sense.

That said, maybe she'd ridden an oil burning steam train on previous trips. Typically you don't get any fallout, though if you're not careful first thing in the AM you can spit out some oily water from the stack. Warming the engine up with a short run and careful use of the cylinder cocks helps avoid that.

I once had a customer complain that there wasn't any smoke. She came up to the engine and said "I thought this was supposed to be a steam engine!" (Maybe she thought it was a fake like at Six Flags, I don't know...)
I assured here that it was indeed a steam locomotive. She replied "It couldn't be, I didn't see any smoke the entire trip!" I replied that I took that as a compliment on my firing skills, and then opened the firebox door and said "Have a look!"...


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 12:41 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 03, 2004 9:42 pm
Posts: 2431
robertmacdowell wrote:
Step 1. Shop for a house. Criteria are cost, amenities and location.
Amenities = favoring new-build homes usually found on the exurban fringe.
Location = based on a leisurely automobile drive at noon on Sunday.
Transit accessibility is absolutely not a factor at any level, in fact your preconceptions are actively rejecting transit. In fact, land use incompatible with transit is precisely what makes the neighborhood appeal to you.


That's true in much of the country, but not all of it. Many folks in the Northeast don't even own a car, especially those in the big city. For them, transit is a big factor in deciding location.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 3:24 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 5:10 pm
Posts: 951
On the other hand, my wife and I are about to move from a totally car-dependent and transit-less region to a small city 95 miles away which offers public bus service on three routes within walking distance of our new home and no less than 13 daily Amtrak trains each way. We will be able to shed 50% of our current automobile ownership at that point. Are we an anomaly? We're able to make this move because we are on the cusp of retirement.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 4:15 pm 

Joined: Fri Apr 26, 2013 5:56 pm
Posts: 89
Location: Ontario, Canada.
Have always thought a train trip from this area to Florida would be very enjoyable.
Just looked on line for fun. Air from say Toronto to Orlando is $200 and less one way. Easy to find many options.
Amtrak doesn't show any rates Toronto to Orlando, or at least, I couldn't find it. Would have to do Toronto to New York to Orlando. Looks like around $300 coach fare but a night's stay in NY! Plus another night on the train, food, etc..
Driving is a couple of days with a night's stay somewhere, food, etc..
As much as we all love train travel, the reality of cheap air fares speaks for itself.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 4:30 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5252
Location: southeastern USA
Realistically, there ate two models for LONG passenger rail - old school slow passenger trains combined with stops and tourism as a land cruise, or dedicated ROW modern high speed intercity service that would make cities that are within perhaps 500 miles of each other as accessable by rail as by air. Until we're capable of creating an intermodal national transit policy that not only subsidizes all forms, but limits each to what it does best, we're going to get nothing better than what we have right now - cheap and unpleasant air bussing, and less cheap but possibly less unpleasant rail, but the less unpleasant takes longer so in cumulative effect it probably negates any advantage.........

dave

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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 7:00 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 5:10 pm
Posts: 951
The real problem is there is no integrated national transportation policy. The various modes are all competing with one another, so there isn't a lot of effort made to work together. Take a lesson from Schneider National or UPS and learn how they use rail for long-distance hauls and their own rigs for pick-up and drop-off of containers. Let airlines have the long-distance flights, connected at the airport to high-speed rail lines for intermediate distances. Integrate bus lines to handle services to smaller cities along the rail routes, where people can use local transit agencies to get to their final destinations.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 7:34 pm 

Joined: Thu Nov 22, 2007 5:46 am
Posts: 2447
Location: S.F. Bay Area
Well at the rate things are going, fuel prices are going to do that for you. The question is whether we suffer cataclysmic economic loss from being unprepared.

And Termite7... clearly, you don't fly :) I travel a fair bit with a strong preference toward Amtrak. I ride overnight Amtrak trains a lot (I'll ignore short-haul service in this discussion.) So I've probably taken, dunno, 30 or 40 overnight Amtrak rides in my life. Slightly fewer airline flights, but still quite a few. All 48-state. About 1/3 of the Amtraks were full 2-day runs from Chicago to the Pacific coast. I consider this body of experience to be large enough to be statistically significant. I am well acquainted with Amtrak's timekeeping. I have had some interesting delays. Oh heavens, yes.

Of that world of experience, my worst delay was 6 hours not moving for no damn reason, crew getting noticeably agitated about this, confined to our seats by order of the TSA, with no food except pretzels or peanuts, and we could look right out our window and see a building full of food service but we couldn't get there since everyone who WAS gated and whose passengers WERE enjoying Cinnabon and Five Guys, were not going to give that up for us. A couple hours in, they moved us from the hold location at Y11/Q to the R-ramp where they restocked lavs, galleys and fuel, so at least there were plenty of pretzels and beer and place to deposit them. TVs in the back of every seat, 50 channels and somehow the best thing on was Kathy Griffin.

So while JetBlue holds the trophy in numerical delay, the far more material thing is the color of the experience. Sitting in a narrow airline seat for 12 hours (actual flight included) is brutal and I would've swapped it for Amtrak any day.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 9:44 pm 

Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:29 pm
Posts: 318
So you want to use statistics and your own railfan rapture to prove me wrong that...the general public does not see Amtrak as an attractive alternative? No...go talk to some real (non-railfans) who have ridden Amtrak recently and see what they think. They do not seem to have a lot of good things to say.

T7


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