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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 10:43 pm 

Joined: Sat Aug 28, 2004 3:25 am
Posts: 1025
Although I question the relevance of Amtrak service (or lack of it) to the field of "railway preservation", this discussion seems to have drawn a lot of attention. Right now there's an ongoing discussion about rerouting the Chief from going via La Junta CO to using the BNSF "Transcon" via Amarillo TX. If the reroute does take place, the Raton Pass route could become history, so I guess this has a literal element of "railway preservation".

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

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
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Location: Inwood, W.Va.
Whooee, I go away to take care of things like "honey, do" projects, and come back to see all this conversation going on here. . .

I'll start with an apology to T7, in that I didn't mean to say you were wrong as such, or that you and your acquaintances hadn't had such experiences. What I was trying to point out is that there are other stories, others had different experiences, and these people do not seem to be the somewhat more technically proficient bunch that's here on this site ("technically proficient" in this case basically means being able to tell a 4-8-4 from an F-unit).

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/03/magaz ... wanted=all

I'll also not argue with anyone who says Amtrak isn't broken, or at least could do things a good deal better. There's no denying that. That said, the service is picking up riders, and doing so in spite of poor timekeeping, in spite of a sometimes hostile environment from its Class I landlords (who are the ones responsible for that rough track in the Carolinas), in spite of a lack of funding, in spite of a playing field that's still strongly tilted against it (and railroading in general--motor fuel taxes barely pay 50% of the cost of the road system on a cash-flow basis), and in spite of some really old equipment. This had been going on now for almost 10 years, and even the long-distance (sleeper) trains show gains, although very small compared to other trains in the system:

http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/178/1001/Am ... 13-031.pdf

http://www.wnyc.org/blogs/transportatio ... dy-damage/

http://www.wnyc.org/blogs/transportatio ... ince-2000/

If a "broken" Amtrak can do this, what could a better service do?

Where is this coming from? Well, I won't say it's because Amtrak or most American rail service is that good. A good deal of it is coming from the alternatives falling apart. Air service has delays, Transportation Security Agency hassles, seat spacing tighter than on a bus (and sometimes with smells and other experiences to match) and a something called a "fare bucket" structure that seems to make no sense at all, not to mention additional fees for everything from a suitcase to a sneeze. Highways are overcrowded, in poor repair in places, and you have hassles from trucks, drunks, idiots, the distracted, the wild, and the senile, not to mention gasoline that keeps going up and up over time.

This is most pronounced in younger people, who seem to be increasingly uncaring about cars. This is probably in contrast to most of the readers here, or at least people they knew, who wanted to get licensed the day they turned 16 or so. It's a social trend that's also been tracked now for the better part of a decade, and it's gotten to the point where people in the car business, and in associated lines like car insurance, are getting spooked--they see their future customers just not coming around at all.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/won ... g-anymore/

Different people attribute various reasons for this. They include young people preferring to use digital devices to connect with friends rather than to visit in person, young people being lazy, young people being out of work and not having money, to cars costing too much and being too ugly or not exciting enough, to not needing cars to "get laid" (Mom and Dad are out working their two or three jobs, the house is empty), to driver licensing and insurance becoming more onerous and more expensive. One thing rarely mentioned is that there's too much traffic in most places to enjoy driving; the days of "See the USA in your Chevrolet" and the cruising that was reenacted for the film "American Graffiti" are as much a part of the past as our steam locomotives and cab units and the passenger trains and loose-car freights they pulled.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhR8GZ_WWMM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qxmy6BzgGE4

A lot of people who are studying this also blame the current poor state of the economy. I don't think that's so. The poor economy is certainly a factor, but I consider it more an accelerant than root cause, the reason being that this started before the economy went south.

http://www.thecarconnection.com/news/10 ... -you-think

The arguments and discussions in this field can be amusing. One rather famous "conservative" columnist thinks the efforts to revive rail transport are a "liberal" plot at social control:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2 ... vency.html

Some people lament the apparent drop in automotive interest in ways that sound a lot like the discussions here about attracting a younger crowd for preservatioin:

http://www.autospeed.com/cms/A_112816/article.html

The authors of two editorials I can't currently find claim this as a crisis that is emasculating America (how will we fight wars if we have to teach soldiers how to drive first?), and that the declining interest in cars is a "failure of freedom," that the older generation didn't instill this love of the "freedom of the highway" upon the young.

Others claim modern cars have all the personality of refrigerators and washing machines, that they have become appliances. They say too many young people know nothing of a thumping V-8 in a red convertible with fins (Whooee, that fellow was giving away his age!) The automakers themselves seem to be, well, confused:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/23/busin ... d=all&_r=0

Another site had part of an address from an automotive designer who said the number one task of automakers around the world was "to hook them [young people] back to the car."

http://www.copenhagenize.com/2010/08/pe ... ility.html

My own (suggested) tie with this in regards to preservation is that we may have "memory" of what a good rail service should at least start to look like. Not too long ago we had a thread on how railroad maps, specifically those of an interurban, would look in modern style as a transit system map, and how that could be used as a tool to show how easy it used to be to get around by rail. In a variation of that concept, one of the means used to promote the revival of commuter rail service in some parts of Cape Cod was the reading of New Haven timetables at public hearings, illustrating just what the railroad did on that piece of land that once had so many rail lines on it. And in preserving the past, might we also show illuminate a path to the future--and in return, spark interest in preservation as well?

http://www.progressivepolicy.org/2010/0 ... rail-race/


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Wed May 29, 2013 8:49 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
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Location: Baltimore, MD
J3a-614 wrote:
My own (suggested) tie with this in regards to preservation is that we may have "memory" of what a good rail service should at least start to look like. Not too long ago we had a thread on how railroad maps, specifically those of an interurban, would look in modern style as a transit system map, and how that could be used as a tool to show how easy it used to be to get around by rail. In a variation of that concept, one of the means used to promote the revival of commuter rail service in some parts of Cape Cod was the reading of New Haven timetables at public hearings, illustrating just what the railroad did on that piece of land that once had so many rail lines on it. And in preserving the past, might we also show illuminate a path to the future--and in return, spark interest in preservation as well?

http://www.progressivepolicy.org/2010/0 ... rail-race/


Not trying to turn this into a political debate, but simply an observation: My own personal experience has been that, aside from vaunted attempts to throw money at pork barre--- errr, to subsidize historic restoration in the name of "transportation efficiency," "progressive policy" with regards to transportation is largely centered around eradicating the "old" and starting anew, preferably with as many shiny new doodads as possible. Woe be unto you if you refer to the new "light rail" as "trolleys" or "streetcars," for example.

I mean, they call it "progressive," for goodness' sake. Hanging on to the "old ways" is considered "conservative" at its core.

I'm not saying whether such a strategy is right or wrong for transit advocates, or those trying to persuade people into a multigenerational shift away from private to public transit, as I happen to be watching in many urban areas. I just don't think any of this will ultimately help rail preservation long-term.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Wed May 29, 2013 12:28 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
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Location: southeastern USA
And, last night, our city council finally voted to continue work on the STREETCAR project......as it is known. This shot down a city budget before, and has been made unnecessarily devisive......and nobody has risen above the noise to offer real information as to its value in terms of not only replacing a free bus service, but also reaching out as a redevelopment engine into some neighborhoods that have only had pubic sector attention in the form of having highways rammed through them for the past 40 years to serve the sprawl dwellers. The sprawl dwellers aren't pleased with having to take some responsibility for remedying the damage they caused by supporting development out there in the first place. Seems to me we need to make the developers build all necessary infrastructure to feed their projects including remediation of damage to existing neighborhoods before they are allowed to turn a shovel. That would support public transit options just as streetcars did in terms of outgrowth in 1890.

dave

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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Thu May 30, 2013 1:23 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 2:02 am
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Location: Albany, Georgia
An example:

Prior to May 1, 1971, Albany, GA had been a significant hand-off point for numerous famous name trains running between the mid-west and Florida, generally running through either Atlanta or Birmingham. The City of Miami and the Seminole are two of these, with the COM being the last to run through Albany before Amtrak. About 15 years ago there was much discussion about getting "high-speed rail" from Atlanta south to Griffin, Macon, Americus and on to Albany. Fifteen years later and there is no rail service out of Atlanta anywhere except the Crescent heading north at night to Washington, D.C./NYC or south in daylight to Birmingham/New Orleans.

From Albany it takes around 3.5 hours to get to Atlanta's Peachtree Station. Savannah is a solid 4+ hours east. (I once had to spend the night in the Savannah station waiting for the 12-hour-late train, which was 24 hours late by the time we arrived in NYC.) Birmingham is farther. Jesup is around 3 hours or so, if I recall correctly. All of these stations provide for north or south Amtrak access. If I wanted (and if I could afford!) to travel to the left coast on Amtrak I have to drive 6 hours west to New Orleans, or catch a northbound to wherever I could catch a train to Chicago. To go to Washington state (mostly) by rail requires (best option) getting to New Orleans, then riding north to Chicago before heading westward.

My point (dull as it is): a city that was formerly in the thick of it has had no passenger rail service for 42 years and it doesn't look like it will be returning any time soon. There are numerous other cities in the same situation, and the reality is that Amtrak has not the funding and equipment to satisfy current need much less adding service, even if it fills a geographical gap. Unfortunately for Albany, of 7 lines that once radiated out of the city there is only one remaining intact north-south route and that winds up in Tallahassee, so a significant link for possible mid-west to Florida routes is pulled up and gone. As you might suspect, I don't ride Amtrak very much...but I would, if only...

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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Thu May 30, 2013 3:31 pm 

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Location: S.F. Bay Area
Then Georgia better start doing what Michigan did and start buying up those rails. It's not going to happen any other way.

Here's what people are overlooking. The freight network is already in severe overload and there simply isn't room for the existing Amtrak routes, to say nothing of tossing on new ones. A lot of the suffering Termite7 was talking about happened in the 2006-ish traffic crunch, when the rail network was coming apart for all the trains moving over it. You had contractually committed hotshots like the UPS train right behind Amtrak, both crawling because of a coal train ahead of them, and every siding for 300 miles was stuffed with trains. The railroads were giving the icy cold shoulder to single car traffic and shortlines. UP and BNSF were throwing down rails as fast as they could (mind you, you can't just restore ripped out double-track, because of new rules requiring 30 foot spacing between mains.) And around then, AAR published a study saying that, essentially, this was the new "normal", and by 2035 the entire system would look like an L.A. traffic jam unless the railroads got $380 billion of new infrastructure. The recession gave temporary relief, but the problem will come back with a vengeance, only moreso because fuel prices have gone crazy since the AAR study.

Upshot: you look at J. Random rail line between X and Y and go "That'd be a great place for Amtrak service"... oh really? Sit behind the dispatcher's desk for a week and say that.

Now, Amtrak California, you say. First, notice where it is not. It is not over Tehachapi. It is not on any of the lines east of L.A. Not on the UP north-south trunk. Basically it's on the San Diego line, the Cal-P (Oakland-Sac) and the BNSF Valley spur. Which are pretty much all underused (the only underused) trunk lines in California.

So you're not going to get any new passenger rail in this country unless you solve the capacity problem, and the AAR is already in Washington with its hat out because it's infeasible for the railroads to self-capitalize $380 billion. Of course they want all this track for their exclusive use, and they intend to keep snubbing Amtrak. Meanwhile sitting right next to them in the waiting room is the high speed rail gang, looking for billions to lay track for THEIR exclusive use. Awkward.

Now if America was really committed to high speed rail, they wouldn't have sold Conrail. Because if HSR is the game, the Water Level Route is pretty choice, and the Broadway Limited line isn't half bad either. Conrail had some good HSR corridors in its portfolio (and also their alternates)... and just dispersing them to NS/CSX was not the smart play. As things are, that's where Michigan is being smart with their acquisition of the Michigan Central. Shame that line is so twisty, though.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 11:32 pm 

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Location: Inwood, W.Va.
I've wondered if the interest in modern passenger rail could be leveraged into interest in rail preservation. Something like that just may be happening here:

http://millennialtrain.co/


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 6:35 am 
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Okay, as someone who is a big supporter/rider of Amtrak, I feel I need to add my two bits worth to the discussion.

Amtrak Cascades:

First of all, for those on this forum (Bob Harbison, Lee Bishop, etc.) who live in Western Washington/Oregon, we are indeed lucky to have one of the better corridor services in the current Amtrak system. In terms of ridership, the Cascades has the highest annual ridership outside of California and the Northeast "spine services." Over the last several years, the Cascades has ranked either 7th or 8th in terms of ridership across all individual routes (not compared in route groups). The Cascades has the benefit of reasonable pricing, schedule/distance, and ontime performance, spectacular scenery (who doesn't like watching Puget Sound drift by on a warm summer's evening?), and a parallel route to a very congested highway artery (holiday weekend or not, there are a number of sections along Interstate 5 where you can say with almost absolute certainty that it will be a parking lot).

The Cascades is also one of only a handful of Amtrak routes that utilizes specialized equipment, the others being the 3 Amtrak California lines and the Acela Express (of course, when the Nippon Shayro cars start delivery in the next couple years, the Illinois services will join that list, including the revived Blackhawk).

For many years, as ridership on the Cascades was growing at an exponential rate, there was discussion of ordering additional articulated, tilting trainsets from the same European manufacturer that had produced the 5 trainsets currently in use: Talgo of Spain (that name is probably familiar to many now for the devastating wreck in northern Spain earlier this summer). With Washington State and Amtrak already sharing ownership of the 5 current sets, Oregon agreed to "pick up the tab" so-to-speak for the new order. Well, after several years of waiting, the 2 new trainsets have gone through final assembly and testing (at Pueblo) and have arrived in Seattle for final preparation and crew training/familiarization before going into service. They had their public unveiling the last weekend of July, and I was very impressed with the new interiors and the technological advancements included when compared even to our "modern" 5 trainsets that had gone into service at the close of the 1990's. They will be in regular revenue service sometime in the next few months (Thanksgiving consistently sees a swell in traffic during the entirety of the holiday week, so that's likely the deadline they've set their schedule to).

As a side note to the Talgo trainsets, Wisconsin had a big opportunity to join in on the specialized equipment club, but a big change in state politics led Wisconsin to flip around entirely. The manufacturing facility where the 4 trainsets (2 for the Cascades and 2 for Wisconsin) was located there, but just as final assembly was taking place, the state stopped making the necessary payments to Talgo, which has now reseized the 2 trainsets, and it doesn't look like Wisconsin is going to pay up any time soon. Many, including myself, are wondering if Amtrak, Washington, Oregon, or some other state (Michigan, Illinois, who knows) won't seize the opportunity to come to an agreement with Talgo to "redirect" the 2 rejected sets to another route where the political climate will mean a warmer welcome.

Service Gaps in the Pacific Northwest/West:

For 20 years, it was possible to travel Amtrak directly between Denver/Salt Lake City and Portland/Seattle via the Pioneer, Amtrak's replacement of the UP's City of Portland. While the terminii changed a few times (extension over the Overland route to Denver after the San Francisco Zephyr rerouted as the California Zephyr), the service provided a valuable link between the Front Range and the Pacific Northwest. When Amtrak went through one of its Congress-induced financial comas in 1997, however, the Pioneer along with its cousin, the Desert Wind (Amtrak's replacement for UP's City of Los Angeles), were removed from the timetable.

So for the last 16 years, anyone wishing to go by train between Seattle and Denver, has had to use both the Coast Starlight and the California Zephyr, making the layover at Sacramento (you could potentially do so at Davis, Martinez, or Emeryville, but that wouldn't be a "guaranteed connection" in case of delays). I have done this modern version of the trip multiple times, and I can say with absolute certainty that if the Pioneer option was available, I would make the trip via that route instead.

The same "reroute" is true for anyone wishing to go between Denver and Los Angeles. Take the Southwest Chief to southern Colorado and then board an Amtrak Thruway bus to Denver. If wanting to go entirely by rail, that means a trip north via the Coast Starlight to Sacramento to make the connection.

As you can see, the loss of the Pioneer and Desert Wind was definitely a negative cut for the Western states, as it not only removed a direct connection from the Centennial and Bee Hive States to Los Angeles and the Pacific Northwest, but it also cut off some larger cities from Amtrak service, notably Boise and Las Vegas. From my understanding, the Desert Wind was consistently full between LA and Las Vegas. Let's not forget all the smaller towns along the way that also lost service, such as Green River, Wyoming and Hermiston, Oregon.

Another route worth noting that was cut due to another "financial coma" was the North Coast Hiawatha. I've heard many-a-time that a restored NCH would take away passengers from the extremely popular Empire Builder, but one must remember the number of larger towns that the NCH served along its route across the southern flank of the Big Sky State and South Dakota. That included Bismarck, Billings, Butte, and Missoula. In addition, the NCH was the closest one could get by rail to 2 major National Parks: Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore (okay, Mt. Rushmore is a National Memorial, but still NPS).

The current political climate in Washington, D.C. (Congress has the lowest overall approval rating since the lean years in the 1980's) means that any restoration of the Pioneer, Desert Wind, and North Coast Hiawatha services is years away.

Section Two Below.

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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 7:20 am 
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The State of Services on the Current Long Distance Routes:

The Lateness Factor:

While I can only speak in particular for the routes that I have personally travelled (my total mileage is not as high as Robert MacDowell), the current state on the long distance trains is better now that it has been for a number of years. With the swell in passenger traffic, there has coincided an increase in the quality of onboard service options and a drop in the lateness of some routes that were notorious for tardiness just a few years ago.

One of these routes in particular that I have ridden is the Coast Starlight, which was so well-known for being behind schedule that it received the nickname "Coast Starlate." I experienced that extreme tardiness on one occasion back in July 2007, but for a reason that wouldn't have normally been the root cause.

After doing just fine coming south from Seattle and through Oregon, our train came to a halt in a passing siding somewhere on the eastern flank of Cascade Pass (the Natron Cutoff), remembering back it was most likely either Abernathy or Calimus. We soon found out that there was both a broken rail and a broken signal somewhere to the south, meaning that alll trains on the line had to find a siding and wait. Well, the repairs were made and then all the freight trains cleared before we proceeded.

The next day I had the pleasure of seeing Lake Shasta, Redding, and the northern end of the Valley all in daylight. I had both breakfast and lunch on the CS before alighting at Sacramento. We were so far behind schedule that I missed my guaranteed connection to the CZ, which meant a paid-for night's rest in the hotel across the street from Sacramento Union Station and breakfast the next morning at the adjacent Denny's (which is now a really good breakfast diner called "Perkos," I went there during both layovers on this year's trip) before boarding the CZ.

I've been late since then on the Coast Starlight, but never again so late that I missed the connection to the California Zephyr at Sacramento. Last year when I went the CS had an encounter with a 60-foot fir tree just to the south of the station stop at Klamath Falls after a strong thunderstorm earlier that evening (apparently we were the first train through since the storm, which was why no one had given warning of a tree across the line). The tree encounter caused a minor delay to the schedule, which meant breakfast the next morning while passing through the Valley, but no trouble making the connection.

On this year's trip, the CS was absolutely on-time going through northern California, which meant for the first time in my Amtrak travels an early 5:00 AM wake-up and alighting at the Sacramento platform as the sky was turning blue to the east. Going home, the layover at Sacramento was also shorter that it has been before. Last year, the CS didn't leave the platform until 2:30 AM, but this year, it was actually early by 15 minutes. Back in 2007, the freight train ahead of the CS had been involved in a messy encounter with a semi-truck somewhere north of Emeryville, which meant a very early-morning departure from Sacramento.

Onboard Services:

Going back to the onboard services, the menu options in the dining car have definitely become higher caliber in the last several years, making it quite enjoyable to make a selection at any one of the three meals offered onboard.

As for an overall passenger experience on the long distance trains, I would say that for every rider that has a really bad experience, either due to a non-engaging onboard crew, annoying fellow passengers, extreme tardiness, or malfunctioning equipment (or a combination thereof), that there numerous passengers that have an experience worth repeating.

Just for counter-balance to what I said above, I have heard many of the nightmare stories that Termite7 mentioned, as well as the nicknames for some of the more "poorly-behaving" long-distance routes, such as the "Late-for-Sure Limited" and the "Texas Evil." But again, that doesn't mean that the majority of Amtrak travelers have a bad experience.

Section Three Below.

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Last edited by Rainier Rails on Sat Aug 31, 2013 7:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 7:22 am 
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Why People Travel by Train:

For those that take the train today outside of the corridors, there a few different reasons why they might choose Amtrak over the bus companies or the airlines.

Reason 1: they don't mind a more leisurely trip between Point A and Point B. The airlines might be faster, but you can't see the beauty of the canyons of Colorado from a 737 at cruising altitude.

Reason 2: they may not live in Points A or B, they may live in Point C, one of the towns along the way. Green River, McCook, Dunsmuir, Elko, Havre, the list goes on. In the past, maybe they would've taken a bus or driven to the nearest airport with shuttle service to some larger hub. But the bus companies, even the large ones like Greyhound, have ended or severely cut back on the service to their town, and the shuttles have gone away too, or the ticket price tripled due to "fuel costs" or the like. What's left? The one form of transportation that was there even before the first highway came through: the passenger train.

Reason 3: tied in to the "more leisurely trip" and the "tripled ticket prices" of the 2 reasons above, some have simply chosen to walk away from the airlines. Beyond extravagant prices and being shoved into a small coach cabin, there are long lines at the airport just to get out to the gate. There's no since of service or comfort anymore. In flight meals? Forget it--here's your 5 peanuts, move along please.

Reason 4: traveling by car is not "what it used to be." Fuel prices, insurance prices, the costs of owning and maintaining a vehicle (especially when out on the road), as well as the costs of overnight accomodations and meals along the way really do add up quickly. Traffic, under-maintained highways, and other mitigating factors mean that for many Americans (not just the "tech-saavy" under-40 crowd), traveling from Point A to Point B via automobile is no longer a leisurely affair.

Ridership Growth:

As my closing statement, I mention the growth in ridership over the last several years.

Since 2002, the annual ridership of Amtrak has been climbing steadily to all new heights. For fiscal years 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012, the annual ridership was a new record, and for 2011 and 2012, the annual ridership went above the 30 million passenger mark for the first time in the history of the corporation.

There are a number of factors which have led to this rapid increase in passengers, which are too numerous and complex to list here in detail, but one thing is for certain: economic recession or not, Amtrak has seen a swell in business that has pushed their fleet to its greatest possible usage extent and have put more money in the company coffers through ticket and service revenues than anyone could have imagined.

If not for this upsweep in traffic and the resultant revenue boost, Amtrak would have suffered another "financial coma" at the hands of the current and previous Congresses. Amtrak has been able to reduce its subsidy percentage of its overall annual budgets to an amount that can be successfully allocated from Congress without a resultant cut in services. That is something that has been nigh impossible for Amtrak to accomplish in previous years.

As a sign of what ridership will look like in the years to come as the economic recession becomes more and more a distant memory, one can look at the swell in ridership resulting from the opening of the oil field in North Dakota. At Williston alone, Amtrak boardings and alightings have increased by a mind-boggling 700%.

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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 1:01 pm 
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Rainier Rails wrote:
First of all, for those on this forum (Bob Harbison, Lee Bishop, etc.) who live in Western Washington/Oregon, we are indeed lucky to have one of the better corridor services in the current Amtrak system.

And those of us in the area to ride it are quite aware of how good a network we have here. I once lived next to the NE corridor when I was still in the Army and am now totally spoiled, yet all too aware that these are exceptions.
Even still, you're often left to ask if the Cascades will get you to where you need to go in the timeframe you need it. They don't run trains that get to the mid point stations very early in the morning, so anyone trying to use the Cascades as any form of commuter option will mostly be out of luck.
And it's not really cheap. The only times I've ever ridden the Cascades was when I was going alone to either Seattle or Portland for an event which was very close to - or right at - either RR station at my destination or with a fan group (such as taking the train down to Vancouver to catch the 4449 ferry move to Tacoma for the NRHS convention there). Transportation options from the stations aren't like they were back in the day. So when they have National Train Day at Portland Union Station, it did make sense to take the train as I could step off the Cascades right where I needed to be, and would be cheaper than driving myself there and looking for a parking space. Had my wife come along, though, it would have been far cheaper to drive. There is the primary issue.
Also, until communities start taking the plight of passengers stranded at an Amtrak station seriously, I wonder how viable the train will ever be even in the more travelled routes...

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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 5:58 pm 
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You made some good points, Lee.

p51 wrote:
Even still, you're often left to ask if the Cascades will get you to where you need to go in the timeframe you need it. They don't run trains that get to the mid point stations very early in the morning, so anyone trying to use the Cascades as any form of commuter option will mostly be out of luck.


True. The current schedule for the round trips is not the best from a commuter standpoint, although I know from riding experience that a number of riders use the Cascades as a weekend-weekday service from home in one city to work in another. It has allowed for a transportation-oriented employment flexibility, where one doesn't necessarily have to pack up and move when the job changes cities (it also makes it easier for working couples whose employers are in different metro areas).

Another statistical group that heavily uses the Cascades from one end of the corridor to the other is university students. College-age persons don't want to have to battle the traffic nightmare that is Interstate 5, and they definitely do not want to experience the hassle of the airports if it at all can be avoided.

p51 wrote:
And it's not really cheap. The only times I've ever ridden the Cascades was when I was going alone to either Seattle or Portland for an event which was very close to - or right at - either RR station at my destination or with a fan group (such as taking the train down to Vancouver to catch the 4449 ferry move to Tacoma for the NRHS convention there).


While it is true that the Amtrak fare bucket system means that the prices increase as the train fills up and as the departure date approaches, it also means that for those who plan their calendar weeks (if not months) in advance (such as the weekend-weekday commuters I mentioned above), they can take advantage of the lower fares ($23 starting fare for SEA-PDX) when tickets first become available.

p51 wrote:
Transportation options from the stations aren't like they were back in the day. So when they have National Train Day at Portland Union Station, it did make sense to take the train as I could step off the Cascades right where I needed to be, and would be cheaper than driving myself there and looking for a parking space. Had my wife come along, though, it would have been far cheaper to drive. There is the primary issue.
Also, until communities start taking the plight of passengers stranded at an Amtrak station seriously, I wonder how viable the train will ever be even in the more travelled routes...


While it is true that a number of towns do not have viable transit connections at their Amtrak stations, many of the stations on the Cascades route do have multiple connections. At Seattle, the Metro Tunnel is one block over, and Portland has one of their 2 north-south transit malls terminating at the station. The one and only light rail line in Seattle runs through the Metro Tunnel, and Portland's new streetcar extension to the Rose Quarter, Lloyd Center, OMSI, and the new roundhouse runs over the Broadway Bridge at the station. Projecting forward, as Sound Transit's Link light rail service expands, both the North Link (opening to the UW, Northgate, and Shoreline-Lynnwood in stages) and East Link (to Bellevue, Overlake, and Redmond-Microsoft) lines will run through Downtown via the Metro Tunnel. Also, the new streetcar line from Pioneer Square-King Street to First Hill-Capitol Hill is currently under construction. Unfortunately, the George Benson streetcar line which provided easy access to all the waterfront attractions, the Ferry Terminal, and the Cruise Ship Terminal from King Street has not operated since 2005.

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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 01, 2013 9:41 pm 

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Location: Inwood, W.Va.
This turned up elsewhere, and I thought it might be of interest here:

http://www.voicesonthesquare.com/essays ... il-service


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 6:54 am 
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Location: Seattle, WA - Land of Coffee
If Ohio can successfully break away from the "we'll never build it here because we don't think we need it here"-style politics that have also befallen Wisconsin, Florida, and to an extent also Indiana, then they can jump in with Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri in developing the connectivity of passenger trains in the Great Lakes/Upper Midwest.

If the Columbus-Fort Wayne-Chicago proposal gains enough of a foothold, then maybe Ohioans will start asking: "Hey, whatever happened to that Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati line we were supposed to get?" Sometimes, if the direct approach (through the door) only gets stonewalled, then maybe a sideways approach (through the window) will get results. The best of luck to those in Ohio who legitimately want better transit between their cities and to their western neighbors.

Who knows, maybe they'll do what Michigan has done and find a line or two that the railroads don't want anymore and have the state buy them for transit growth. Would help clear the way for the Federal funds needed for 110 MPH running, PTC signal upgrades, siding extensions, and grade separations.

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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak - Geographical Service Gaps by Rail, Why?
PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2013 10:28 pm 

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Rainier Rails wrote:
If Ohio can successfully break away from the "we'll never build it here because we don't think we need it here"-style politics that have also befallen Wisconsin, Florida, and to an extent also Indiana, then they can jump in with Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri in developing the connectivity of passenger trains in the Great Lakes/Upper Midwest.

Who knows, maybe they'll do what Michigan has done and find a line or two that the railroads don't want anymore and have the state buy them for transit growth. Would help clear the way for the Federal funds needed for 110 MPH running, PTC signal upgrades, siding extensions, and grade separations.


The people of Ohio will need a new governor first. This fellow not only cancelled the rail service, he appointed a former asphalt lobbyist as the Secretary of Transportation.

Who says the National City Lines case was just a lot of hooey?


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