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I can see host railroads fighting this tooth and nail.  Congress laughing, as they never seem to give enough money.  Want passenger service in the USA.  Brightline in Florida is the model we should be following.  Get Gov out of since they seem to over pay and screw it up sooner or later. The private sector with maybe a little help from the Gov is the way to go.

Until some rail road creates "non-stop" routes between major cities, you can forget it as something that a lot of people want to do.

I can remember 30 years ago, taking the Amtrack from D.C. to NYC.  Seems like there were 20 or more stops along the way.  Go 13 miles, come to a lurching stop.  Get started again, go 16 miles, come to a lurching stop. And on and on and on.

On top of that, the cars were filthy and stunk.

Want to go D.C to NYC today?   Get on a non-stop private bus that pulls up next to the curb in Alexandria, Virginia or downtown D.C., pay $40.00, and take off.  Last I checked, one leaves about every 45 minutes.

And, whatever happened to the plan to have little Smart Cars available for rent at every train stop??

Never happened

Mannyrock

First day of megabus in Houston I did a RT to San Antonio.  Could nor beat intro price $2.00 RT.  3 hours downtown to downtown.  Faster than downtown-airport-fly-airport-downtown.  Using taxis to and from downtown in the flying model.

With delays at airports, and getting to and from them, mega, Flix and Greyhound look good.  Plus a full bus is more eco green than an empty train.  Might be more cost effective for concurent diamond lanes for intercity buses to do 80mpg than rail in some corridors?

(mega(bus) uses a small "m".)

Last edited by Dominic Mazoch

I've used trains when I could to travel for business.  A few observations.  Until they have the same infrastructure (car rentals, public transport, etc) that airports have at their destinations, it is a non-starter.  Arrival times at cities along the route can be inconvenient.  Pulling into a city at 2AM or 1PM is generally not convenient.  Being delayed an hour or more, regularly, is not exactly an endearing feature.  I used the same formula for any trip - if driving takes 125% or less time compared to any other method, drive.

Brendan

It’s a bold plan that has merit in locales where population expansion necessitates a need for new or increased rail service. The southeast and southwest for sure.

It appears the studies for potential users has already been done as evidenced by the new and expanded service locations.

It will take an enlightened Congress to embrace the vision of where transportation in the country is headed.

of course that two word description of the legislative branch is an oxymoron.

During a WWII cartoon short, Bugs Bunny kicked himself off a train at the end.  Why?  Trip non essential.

CV-19 and Zoom showed us that maybe a lot of trips are not essential, and should not be taken, or combined.

Maybe that should be the push.  It would be greener both from a money as well as eco.

Question: Why are the "greens" not pushing this.

Oh, great!  Here we go:  The Travel Czar is going to have to authorize people to depart from their houses.  Should said Czar determine the trip is non-essential, look the doors to keep them home, and we'll call it a WIN for the Green (Red).

No thank you, sir.  I will determine what constitutes essential for my travels.  We are not at war.

CV-19 and Zoom showed us that maybe a lot of trips are not essential, and should not be taken, or combined.

Maybe that should be the push.  It would be greener both from a money as well as eco.

The post-Covid boom in air traffic and auto traffic shows that Americans are taking a lot of trips, essential or not. Unfortunately, at least for now, it appears Americans are going to take their trips - that's the reality. Covid is waining in importance for many, and Zoom will stop some traffic, but not enough to put a dent in travel.

But if automobile and airline (big polluters) traffic can be reduced by a relatively clean train travel alternative, that would be beneficial.

@Mannyrock posted:

Until some rail road creates "non-stop" routes between major cities, you can forget it as something that a lot of people want to do.

I can remember 30 years ago, taking the Amtrack from D.C. to NYC.  Seems like there were 20 or more stops along the way.  Go 13 miles, come to a lurching stop.  Get started again, go 16 miles, come to a lurching stop. And on and on and on.

On top of that, the cars were filthy and stunk.

Want to go D.C to NYC today?   Get on a non-stop private bus that pulls up next to the curb in Alexandria, Virginia or downtown D.C., pay $40.00, and take off.  Last I checked, one leaves about every 45 minutes.

And, whatever happened to the plan to have little Smart Cars available for rent at every train stop??

Never happened

Mannyrock

30 years is a long time ago Manny.  Even then what you describe seems exaggerated.... at least I never experienced back then what you claim to have  experienced.  The train stops where the most customers will embark and disembark so the railroad ( Amtrak ) can earn revenue.  Stops ... yes there are a few somewhat close together at the beginning of the trip to NYC ... as   the train comes out of DC Union station with a stop at the Capital Beltway Station ( DC suburb ) where there is an ample amount of passengers waiting to board ... because of easy access to parking, subway, and other modes of ground transportation.  Next stop is BWI Airport with connections to rental cars, light rail, air, and other modes of ground transportation and plenty of parking.   Next stop Baltimore City's Penn Station with access to all forms of ground transportation, and light rail.  After Baltimore the stops are much less frequent. What you describe in terms of the, cleanliness of  coaches, sounds like the waining years of the Pennsy.   Never was my experience as I used Amtrak pretty frequently even 30 or more years ago.  

In the mid 2000s as the AEM7 locos began wearing out due to age  there were lots of delays because of locomotive mechanical failure. That could be frustrating and deter one from taking the train.

My experience with Amtrak ( NEC ) over the last 10 years from BWI airport to NYC ( round trip ) has been nothing but positive.  Clean coaches, stops at major cities, and trains run on time ( at least the vast majority of the time ).    If I book early enough I can get a round trip ticket for less than what I pay in tolls and gas when driving my car not to mention the wear and tear.  I can grab a snack in the cafe car and walk around to stretch my legs a bit.  The additional perk is I can see what's going on alongside the railroad and where the former Pennsylvania RR, and Penn Central left there mark.  It's always fun to peer through the glass of the rear coach's back door and watch the rails go by.  I learn a lot about the current and former railroads that way.  

My experience with the inexpensive bus over the last 10 years is most of the time I get a clean coach.  On time arrival is dependent on traffic conditions on I95 and the NJT.  One accident and the arrival can be delayed from 1 - 4 hours depending on the severity of the accident.   It's up to the whim of the bus driver as to if the bus stops at a rest stop ... and of course when they do there is always those one or more passengers who are late back to the bus causing a late departure.  Yes, the $40 bus is a good deal and much cheaper than making it by car ... but my preference is Amtrak over the bus round trip from DC/Baltimore/ BWI.   Now that 30 years has passed you yourself might want to try Amtrak on the NEC.   Doing so just may change your tune.  Just sayin.

I have lifetime free travel on American Airlines, as does my spouse.  I would rather pay and ride Amtrak.

Apparently there are a lot of folks who like train travel - try booking a seat next week.

It will never be as nice as it was in the six axle heavyweight era, but it could easily run a bit faster.  I wish we could have double-tracked the coast line and aligned it for 80 mph between stops, instead of wasting billions on the bullet train to Modesto.

Amtrak is ok on the NE corridor.  The extra fare for Acela gets you a higher chance of on time arrival and a better clientele.  Outside of that area, on time performance is shaky and you better not be on a schedule.  The airlines move you more quickly so the subhuman treatment at least is brief. 

The WaPo article is a pipe dream, but it has been years since it has been a factual newspaper.

I'm happy to live in a country where we're all welcome, and in fact many people believe obligated, to say what you believe.  However in addition to the emotion that all of us are throwing into our comments, please add some facts.

Ray, what I hear in your comment is something I hear very often, but is not based on fact.  Do you look at Amtrak's on-time performance figures?  Region by region? They're posted you know.  Are the airlines on time?  What do their on-time figures say?

Manny, with all do respect what happened 30 years ago has little bearing on today.  Things change, and they do so rather quickly, even with railroads.  Buy tickets.  Try it out.  You might enjoy it.  Then come back with your comments.  We'd welcome your observations.

I normally take a trip that's about 4 or 5 hours long, several times a year, and have gone cross-country a few times as well.  The shorter trips are mostly on time, or at the worst rarely more than an hour off, and the most-extended long trip I've been on was two-hours late coming in after a 33 hour journey.  The equipment is always clean, although worn at times.

In my experience going back thirty years Amtrak's treatment of its passengers has definitely not been as sub-humans, especially when compared to the airlines -- and there are too many instances where the airlines don't keep their treatment of passengers brief.

A couple of questions for both of you:

  1.) When was the last time you took a trip on Amtrak?

  2.) How often do you take it?

"Bellyaching-without-backup" has become a career -- on many kinds of forums.  It pays to know what the data says before adding your two-cents worth on any topic.

Finally a comment about Post-COVID: We are not now, and will likely never be, "post-Covid" because the virus is mutating and strengthening.  If we don't smack it down hard via vaccinations it will be back, and soon.  Have you ever thought about why we can't cure the common cold?

We may never be able to because it mutates faster than we can keep up with it.  COVID-19 is not much different, and making the situation worse is that COVID-19 is much more deadly than the common cold.  If we allow COVID-19 to mutate, and return stronger, we'll be shutting things down again soon.

"Just my $0.02".

Mike

My only additional comment here: the passenger business "nail in the coffin" was when the Post Office pulled their contracts.  IF the government returned that business now, it would be nothing but an accounting trick, as they now run both.  And both lose money.

What I can't understand in this age of UPS, FedEx, and Amazon is how Amtrak lost money on their Express business.

What I also can't understand in this age of national "casual dining" chains is how Amtrak can lose money on their dining cars.  They can't subcontract to Applebees or something for a guaranteed built-in customer base?

Okay.  That was three comments.

Jon

Memorial Day Weekend after spending over 1,000 miles driving a U-Haul loaded with furniture and prewar trains for a 90 year old friend from Lexington, KY, to his home in S. Thomaston, ME., I needed to find a way back to my home near Albany, NY. Finding a flight from Rockland, ME. to Boston was easy and inexpensive ($129), but from Boston to Albany another story. Thanks to airline deregulation in the `80's the less than $50 direct flights I used to take on business had suddenly become $1600+ with a choice of 7+ hour flights via either Tampa or Milwaukee! The bus was about $40 with no guarantee of a seat, but I was able to take the Lake Shore Ltd. on Amtrak for $32. The train was almost sold out, but I was able to reserve a comfortable, clean seat with real legroom and a view of more than just clouds. I arrived in Albany relaxed and on time for my wife to pick me up. Also I learned that most line side relay cabinets have somewhat rusted lower portions. Time to get the weathering powders out. Manny, take a train trip sometime - you might learn something new.

Last edited by modeltrainsparts

Glad to hear from folks that Amtrack has changed so much in the last 30 years.   Maybe next time I'll give them a try.

Up next maybe:   A major company announced last week in London that they were going to provide brand new Hydrogen blimp transports, next year, with large luxury coaches, from London to major cities that were 200 to 300 miles away.   About 100 passengers per trip.  Can take off and land in any large flat area with a large concrete pad, so no need to take off and land in Airports.   Speed about 60 to 80 miles per hour. (No stops along the way.)  Passengers are free to get up and walk around in the common areas during the flight.  Full bar onboard.

Total time for the trip, including check-in, take-off, travel and landing, is about the same or maybe a little more than a Jet flight, but no crowded airports, or cramped seats, or other airline hassles.  Ticket price about the same or less than a Jet flight.   Electric powered props, so no massive jet fuel consumption and attendant pollution.

Thx,

Mannyrock

Have there been instances of combative/disruptive/drunk passengers causing the train to make an unscheduled stop, so the police can board and drag him/her off? Have we got that far, yet? Or, is that still just up in the friendly skies?

My only AMTRAK trips were wonderful ...  two round trips between NYC and Montreal. All four legs were on time, or very close to it. The other passengers were great, and a couple of Budweisers (Or were they Coors?) with a cheeseburger was plenty good enough for me as I relaxed, watching the beautiful mountain forests go by.

Last edited by EBT Jim

I was happy to hear they have made hydrogen non-combustible.

From what the link showed about the new extensions to Amtrak, the extensions should be state projects.  Even with these extensions, one could not move across most of the USA by train.  States would be better and more efficient than the Federal government and they would have to raise money from the rail users or at least charge enough to pay for the lines.

Charlie

Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie
@Mannyrock posted:

Until some rail road creates "non-stop" routes between major cities, you can forget it as something that a lot of people want to do.

I can remember 30 years ago, taking the Amtrack from D.C. to NYC.  Seems like there were 20 or more stops along the way.  Go 13 miles, come to a lurching stop.  Get started again, go 16 miles, come to a lurching stop. And on and on and on.

On top of that, the cars were filthy and stunk.

Want to go D.C to NYC today?   Get on a non-stop private bus that pulls up next to the curb in Alexandria, Virginia or downtown D.C., pay $40.00, and take off.  Last I checked, one leaves about every 45 minutes.

And, whatever happened to the plan to have little Smart Cars available for rent at every train stop??

Never happened

Mannyrock

How does the Amtrak of 30 years ago have any relationship to the Amtrak of today?  Especially on the NEC.  30 years ago E60s were still pulling long distance trains while AEM7s pulled largely un-rebuilt fleets of Amfleet cars on the Clockers.  All are long gone.  The Acela came and soon will go, the E60s were gone by 2003, the AEM7s by 2017, and the Amfleet cars have had at least two rebuilds since.  On the long distance trains that use the NEC all have Viewliner I and II cars mixed in with the Amfleet cars and the heritage fleet is but a memory.

I am excited to see America's railroad expand in places where it makes sense.  Not everything on the map probably does, but at least it's forward thinking.  We can't pave our way out of congestion.

Sorry, ignorance is not bliss.

@EBT Jim posted:

Have there been instances of combative/disruptive/drunk passengers causing the train to make an unscheduled stop, so the police can board and drag him/her off?

I'm sure it happens occasionally.

We took Amtrak No.3 to California in 2018.  The Concuctor, upon departing Albuquerque, made the obligatory on-board announcement about food services and the prohibition against smoking.  He made it clear that smoking or use of vulgarity would result in the passenger being set off at the next stop.  We had a 20 minute delay at Winslow, where the police met the train and the Conductor set off a passenger who had lighted a cigarette in the restroom.

@EBT Jim posted:

Have there been instances of combative/disruptive/drunk passengers causing the train to make an unscheduled stop, so the police can board and drag him/her off? Have we got that far, yet? Or, is that still just up in the friendly skies?

My only AMTRAK trips were wonderful ...  two round trips between NYC and Montreal. All four legs were on time, or very close to it. The other passengers were great, and a couple of Budweisers (Or were they Coors?) with a cheeseburger was plenty good enough for me as I relaxed, watching the beautiful mountain forests go by.

I was on the Broadway Limited headed west bound around 1988 when we had the police pulled a drunken and disruptive passenger off in Tyrone, PA in the middle of the night.  It happens on occasion and the crews dealt with the issue professionally and appropriately.

My last long distance trip was 2014 on the Capitol and while we were held up by NS trains at the time, I enjoyed the trip thoroughly.  My Keystone corridor experience in 2016 running from the terminus to terminus on the Harrisburg to NYC route was like riding on glass.  Every seat had a 110 outlet and wifi did not have an additional charge.  We arrived on time on a completely non-eventful trip.  That is what we in the west crave for corridor routes.  For example in my case, Phoenix to LA would be a great route.

Last edited by GG1 4877

Last time I took Amtrak was late February 2020, right before the pandemic hit.  The Acela to and from NYC.  Was talking about COVID with a passenger and we were wondering how bad it would get.  I think I actually had COVID from that trip - an awful flu like thing and I was down for the count for a couple of days (no sense of smell either) and I had a flu shot.  In any event, it is amazing what has transpired since then - seems like a different world.  In any event, in “normal” times I would take it at least a few times a month on the NE corridor, typically the Acela because it’s for work, there is typically an appointment to keep, and I like to minimize nights away from home.  I have taken it long distance two times, each time a schedule disaster and won’t do it again.  I do want to check out the new Moynihan station.  Hope this gives the color you want.

Last edited by Rich Melvin

Take AMTRAK to VA to visit the grandkids, usually on time. We've taken many trips Newark, NJ to Lakeland FL on the Silver Star. We have the handicapped bedroom. Took our own food when they took the dinner off, one snack bar for the entire train was a disaster. Haven't gone recently due to Covid but at least they've added prepared meals for the sleepers. Usually within an hour or two of the schedule. The worst delay was about 7 hours--someone committed suicide by walking into the train just outside of Lakeland where they had done a crew change. Between the police activity and finding a new crew it was bad. Ran out of food on the train. When we got into DC our car attendant went and obtained box lunches for the folks in the sleepers.

Planning our next trip for this fall and looking forward to it.

Actually passed through the Moynihan train hall last night. NJ Transit train stopped at platform west end. Before I knew it I was in the hall a bit disoriented. Had to get over to the LIRR and found my way via the old north corridor.

Moynihan is gorgeous. Hopefully when all the connecting work is done at NY Penn it will be a pleasure.

During a WWII cartoon short, Bugs Bunny kicked himself off a train at the end.  Why?  Trip non essential.

CV-19 and Zoom showed us that maybe a lot of trips are not essential, and should not be taken, or combined.

Maybe that should be the push.  It would be greener both from a money as well as eco.

Question: Why are the "greens" not pushing this.

The greens have been pushing it for a long time, they have been arguing working from home and using teleconferencing could prevent a lot of pollution, where people are in traffic jams or the like, same with flying to business meetings vs teleconferencing. And no doubt Zoom and the like are going to be part of the permanent landscape.  Managers are the ones who pushed back , time and again, they claimed if people worked remotely they would goof off, that unless they were there to crack the whip it would fall apart, collaboration wouldn't happen (of course, same business managers pushed for the infamous open floor seating, claiming it improved collaboration, when in reality allows fitting a lot more people in a given space.

On the other hand speaking from personal experience working remotely, using Zoom, has its limitations, there are still reasons for in person meetings and interactions. For jobs that can handle it I think hybrid work flows are going to be the norm for many people, whether you have to be in x days a month, or 3 days a week, will vary.

Same for business travel and the like, I think that using zoom and teleconferencing will replace some business travel, there is no doubt. On the other hand there will be pressure for face to face meetings, too, not to mention those business meetings they don't want any kind of a record of other than person to person communication. Or for that matter, the business types who insist that it be done in person.

The other thing is people don't do vacations by zoom, they want to see family and friends in person, for many reasons,visit places. People are going to travel because they want to see new things, if zoom was the answer then travel could go away, people could just watch you tube videos to see the world *shrug*. Right now even though Covid is not totally eradicated, travel is really heavy, at least in the US (my son just got back from a music competition in Italy, the planes were half full, though later this year flights are more and more getting filled up)>

Not to mention that technology is not necessarily that green, the infrastructure that runs zoom, the web/cloud farms, use a tremendous amount of electric power that is still generated mostly by fossil fuels. Amazons server farms are huge, same with other cloud providers, the power for all those computers (though obviously laptops and desktops and the like don't use nearly as much power).

Amtrak is ok on the NE corridor.  The extra fare for Acela gets you a higher chance of on time arrival and a better clientele.  Outside of that area, on time performance is shaky and you better not be on a schedule.  The airlines move you more quickly so the subhuman treatment at least is brief.

The WaPo article is a pipe dream, but it has been years since it has been a factual newspaper.

Yes and no, with airline travel you have to get to the airport, fight traffic and try to park (or ride an uber or something), then go through the wonder of TSA and the like, with trains into central cities you are right there. 

Amtrak is ok on the NE corridor.  The extra fare for Acela gets you a higher chance of on time arrival and a better clientele.  Outside of that area, on time performance is shaky and you better not be on a schedule.  The airlines move you more quickly so the subhuman treatment at least is brief.

The WaPo article is a pipe dream, but it has been years since it has been a factual newspaper.

Well, fiddlesticks re: the WaPo. Marty Baron, among others, has done a fantastic job with the paper.  Whether or not you think the Amtrak plan is a pipe dream has nothing to do with the paper. The Amtrak extension isn't WaPo's idea. They're just reporting the information.

My experience with Amtrak, and those of my friends who've ridden it (all outside the NE Corridor) confirm what you say about schedules. As is well known, having to work around the freight railroads who own the tracks can slow things down at any given time, so time windows when riding Amtrak need to be generous.

These delays airlines are experiencing with computer/IT hiccups seem to be happening with more frequency these days (Southwest Airlines had a big one this past week). Most flights are predictable and relatively on schedule, but various delays/reroutings due to computer problems, weather, overbooking, delays in connections and crew availablilty, and other issues, means getting to your destination on time with the airlines is not always a sure thing.

Yesterday, I dropped my wife at the ferry dock. She took the boat into Seattle then walked a few blocks to the train station. She sat in the comfortable main concourse of historic King Street Station for twenty minutes before boarding the Coast Starlight.

She boarded and shortly afterwords the train departed to the minute on-time. The car was clean, quiet, and the windows clear. The dinining car won't return for another week but there was a cafe car and she had packed a nice lunch besides. Passing along the shores of Puget Sound, Mountains Rainer and Helen's in the distance, the Columbia river below and into the City of Bridges, Portland, Oregon. Another hour or so she disembarked at a small station in Salem, Oregon exactly on-time. Her best friend from years ago waiting across the street.

She had read a book, napped and dreamed to the motion of the quiet steel below, listened to her music, shared her lunch and conversation with a passenger from across the aisle. She called last night excited to tell of her travels and thats why I felt like commenting.

The fare was $54.00, she didn't make a return reservation, there was no need with three trains daily. It took less than six hours and she really enjoyed herself. She never felt constrained or claustrophobic. The air was clean and comfortable and she disembarked and took a short walk while the train was in Portland Station. 

In a few weeks I will take the Empire Builder out to Essex Montana and spend a few days hiking in Glacier Park. I will stay as I have many times past at the Izzak Walton Inn along the Marias Pass route of the Great Northern. I will walk near the right of way. I will hear whistles and some will be from yesterday. My wife Julie and I, we don't put up with rail travel, we love it. regarding all the ways one can travel; I hope the option to peer out the window of a moving train and dream, remains my choice for the rest of my life.

Oh by the way, that passenger across the aisle? My wife and her have promised to stay in touch and take a train trip together in the fall.

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