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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.

Today's local paper (St.Paul Pioneer Press) has an article on the MN state legislature just approving $10 million towards adding a second Amtrak train between the Twin Cities and Chicago. If all continues to go well, it will start in 2024. Biden's infrastructure plan also includes reinstating trains from the Twin Cities to Duluth - Superior.

Earth's atmosphere is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, everything else is a 'trace' gas making up the remaining 1%. However, hydrogen is more common than helium; it's believed part of the reason the Hindenburg burned the way it did was the US wouldn't sell Nazi Germany helium so it had to use combustible hydrogen.

In any case, the difference between a blimp and an airship is the construction, not the gas. A blimp is basically a big balloon with gas inside it; an airship has a rigid frame with large pockets inside for holding gas.

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

I'm so tired of the apologists for Amtrak.

My friend and I did a railpass trip last year. As railfans, we had realistic expectations of what to we were getting into. Even at that, we were dismayed and appalled by some of the rotten service that we received as so-called first class passengers.

The average Mr. and Mrs. Joe Blow and their children have unrealistically high expectations, based on Amtrak's brochures and other advertising. Imagine them going through some of the things we were subjected to.

While sitting in Hartsfield Airport (ATL), preparing to board our flight to Denver, we  received texts advising us that our first train, #5, was cancelled due to fire in Glenwood Canyon. (The previous day's #5 went through on UP across Wyoming.) the message concluded with "No alternate transportation will be provided". Nice way to leave people high and dry.

Being savvy, we got up the next morning, booked a flight to ABQ, and went to the Amtrak Ticket Office in DEN, before the angry mob arrived.

The very helpful agent thanked us for having our itinerary changes written down in an organized and concise manner and proceeded to change our booking to #3 ABQ-LAX, and #14 LAX-EMY.  We thanked him and wished him luck, as we knew the other stranded passengers were not going to be as easy to deal with as we were. He was in for a real lousy day. We asked him if we could have an upgrade to first class on our second to last train (Capitol Limited CHI-WAS), to make up for our inconvenience and the cost of our airfare to salvage our trip. He told us that he could not make that happen, but that Amtrak Philadelphia could and probably would. (They did).

So far, so good, however missing #5 through the Rockies and Sierras was a major disappointment. For my money, that is Amtrak's most scenic route. No I'm not blaming Amtrak for the fire, but the stranding is unconscionable.

Fast forward to #14, a few days later, from EMY-TAC. The conductor visited our roomette three times, twice after we had gone to sleep, because our sleeping car coupons were prepared incorrectly. WE DIDN'T PREPARE THEM, AMTRAK DID, but we were being treated like we did something wrong and having our sleep interrupted to boot. A much nicer and exceedingly more competent conductor, the next morning, apologized for the other jerk's behavior and advised us to visit the K-Falls ticket office during the extended stop and they would fix the clerical mistakes. We did so, but the crummy sleep from the night before caused my to doze and miss some of the scenery in the Cascades.

Two days later, we arrived at SEA, to find the platform elevators out of order. After dragging my bags up an extremely long staircase we found ourselves on a street corner across from the station. There were only two ways into the station, a long staircase down or an elevator which, you guessed it, was out of order. When I inquired as to why all the elevators were out of order I was told that was the only way that they could keep the homeless and drug addicts out of them. So once again, screw the people who pay the freight and, instead, kowtow to the dregs of society.

To be fair, most of the on-board personnel on the various trains worked hard to accommodate the passengers, with the exception of the one dining car attendant on the Empire Builder and the entire D.C. based crew on the Capitol.

The dining car attendent on #8 asked us if we were eating in the diner or taking our meals to our roomette. We chose to eat in the diner and told him so. He returned a few minutes later and literally dropped a bag with our food on our table and walked away without comment. The meal was only halfway heated.

The Capitol crew was utter garbage, from the surly, imperious conductor on down.  Our sleeping car attendant was MIA when it came to setting up the room and never answered the call button. When I finally found him over an hour later he was trying to chat up a female passenger. In the morning I had to cool my heels at the snack bar while the female attendant was flirting away with a male passenger at one of the tables. These people should get their nookie on their own time, not mine.

Adding more trains and shiny new equipment means nothing if you don't provide a pleasurable travel experience.

@OGR posted:

Guys, get this topic back on track please!

It's right in Wikipedia along with footnotes and sources.

As Amtrak approached profitability in 2020, the company undertook planning to expand and create new intermediate-distance corridors across the country. Included were several new services in Ohio, Tennessee, Colorado, and Minnesota, among other states.[76][77]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Amtrak continued operating as an essential service. It started requiring face coverings the week of May 17, and limited sales to 50% of capacity.[78] Most long-distance routes were reduced to three weekly round trips in October 2020.[79][80]

In March 2021, following President Joe Biden's American Jobs Plan announcement, Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn outlined a proposal called Amtrak Connects US that would expand state-supported intercity corridors with an infusion of upfront capital assistance.[81][82] Also in March 2021, Amtrak announced plans to return 12 of its long-distance routes to daily schedules later in the spring.[83] This would expand service to cities including Las Vegas, Phoenix, Baton Rouge, Nashville, Chattanooga, Louisville, Columbus (Ohio), Wilmington (North Carolina), Cheyenne, Montgomery, Concord, and Scranton.[84]

John

I'm so tired of the apologists for Amtrak.



Adding more trains and shiny new equipment means nothing if you don't provide a pleasurable travel experience.

All,

I'm not an apologist for anybody or anything.  I'm just stating the facts as I've experienced them.  I have truly NEVER had a bad experience, and I take Amtrak often, and to many places.  Annoying at times?  Yes, several.  Bad enough to make me livid? No.

Many of you have obviously had bad luck with it -- you probably should stay away.

(It would be a pity for the moderators to have to strike this thread because it's descended irretrievably into politics but I think it's time to do so.  Any possible value that we may have gotten out of it, say for instance learning from or helping fellow modelers, or train lovers, and travelers in this case as well, has long been gone.)

Mike

Another option for railfans, who want to see broad swaths of the country, is to consider riding the beautifully restored (by clubs and private owners) vintage coaches, domes, sleepers, and dining cars that are pulled at the end of a regularly scheduled Amtrak train. 

https://www.amtrak.com/privately-owned-rail-cars

I've done this. Yes, you are beholden to the Amtrak schedule, which can mean delays. But the car's furnishings--except for the toilets--usually beat the amenities of any modern Amtrak coaches.  The staff on these cars are exceptional because they are typically railfans themselves who actually want to be on the train!

@Brendan posted:

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

Case in point: #3 Arrives Flagstaff (stop for the Grand Canyon, one of the biggest natural attractions in the United States) at 04:19. I am actually hoping the train runs 2-3 hours late. Having monitored its performance over the last month, it appears that there is a high likelihood that my wish will be fulfilled.

Outside of the northeast and a few short corridors, Amtrak will never serve as any more than a land cruise. If you want to retain riders, you will have to provide services akin to what you find on a cruise ship, and that would by necessity cause fares to skyrocket.

It's pipe-dreaming to think that long distance trains will ever be the choice of business travelers again. They are an anachronism to most members of the general public. I know that is hard to swallow, but it is a fact nonetheless.

Outside of the northeast and a few short corridors, Amtrak will never serve as any more than a land cruise. If you want to retain riders, you will have to provide services akin to what you find on a cruise ship, and that would by necessity cause fares to skyrocket.

It's pipe-dreaming to think that long distance trains will ever be the choice of business travelers again. They are an anachronism to most members of the general public. I know that is hard to swallow, but it is a fact nonetheless.

That's one way of looking at it, but from a different vantage point than a lot of people in this country have.

For those ensconced in larger cities, with their own automobiles, and the ability and desire to drive long distances, and living near airports with convenient passenger schedules, and who can afford to fly - yes, for many of these people, train travel for any reason other than leisure may not make sense, other than for those living adjacent to major corridors. But looking more closely at the data, and studies that have been done, and listening to the consensus of residents of smaller cities along Amtrak routes, and a different point of view and a different reality shows up. For many people in small towns and cities, and their surrounding areas, Amtrak is their only choice for travel beyond their immediate area. This is one of the factors driving the consideration for expansion.

Many people don't own their own car, or can't afford to keep it insured and serviced or have the ability to drive long distances, because of health reasons or cost or any number of things. These small towns and cities may be hundreds of miles away from airports with regularly scheduled airline service. For these people, Amtrak service is important, and they don't want it taken away. It is a public service of great importance to them, and it is a necessity for many of them. It is their link to the outside world. Big city dwellers don't get it, and they don't think about it, either.

This has been shown in many studies. I recall a number of years ago when consideration was being given to discontinuing the Texas Eagle, which runs from Chicago to St. Louis to Little Rock to Dallas and Ft. Worth and on to San Antonio (linking with the Sunset Limited). There was a tremendous outcry from the public in smaller cities and towns along the route, citing the same arguments and concerns mentioned above. There were organized campaigns to fight the discontinuance, letter writing and telephone calls, etc. From this, congressional representatives got involved, and after the uproar, plans to shelf the Texas Eagle were scrapped.

These Amtrak patrons aren't looking for a cruise ship experience. They just want a reasonably confortable method of transportation they can access.

Trains as travel are pretty much DOA in the states. All you have to do is look at Eurorail and Japan for "rail done right". We cant even get a high speed train driven in california across huge swathes of empty land without landowners demanding fair market x3 or more in compensation.

Here in MD, we have a maglev project to drive from dc to baltimore with very few stops and a much-faster-than-car-or-Marc total trip time. Yet, all I see is people _who aren't even in the affected path_ putting "Stop the Maglev" signs all over the place. Maglev trains are immensely energy efficient, fast, and easily outcompete things like the Marc or the Amtrak NE corridor.

The (DC/MD) Metro purple line, from the east side of dc to the wnw, intended to efficiently move people from where there are no jobs, to where there are jobs, has had one endless setback after another. The silver line, from dc to Dulles Airport is years overdue, and has had critical concrete pour failures.

We have done a terrible job maintaining our infrastructure, and nobody seems to want to invest in it, be it rail or road.

The Maglev_Project

Last edited by Rich Melvin

I believe that Nick and Erik have precisely described factual reality. Although there are other viewpoints, the last 50 years would indicate that these are perhaps based on wishes and hopes.

90% of Americans aren't train people and don't want to be train people.  The inner city elite in NY, Chicago and other mega-cities who don't own cars and don't drive are a very tiny minority and don't reflect the rest of America.



As far as basic transportation, Folks who simply cannot afford to rent a car are better off taking a bus.  (I traveled across the country twice on Trailways when I was young, and it took me to almost any place wanted to go.)       Improving long term bus transportation, bus stations and bus stops would be incredibly cheaper than building entire rail lines from scratch, and far more useful.

And, as others have pointed out, the getting from Point A (one train station) to Point B (another train station), leaves you stranded at Point B and far from the mega-suburbs which rule this country.  Train stations do not have the collateral supportive infra-structure to help you complete the last 25 to 50 miles of your journey.   That leaves you with the option of taking a filthy taxi ride, or calling somebody to come pick you up.  Bus stations can be situated almost anywhere on a one acre piece of ground that has a parking lot.

Remember about 5 or 10 years ago when the "Plan" was to offer the little Smart-Cars for rent at train stations?  That lasted about 6 months.  Nobody liked the trains, or the Smart Cars.  :-(



Mannyrock

@Mannyrock posted:

90% of Americans aren't train people and don't want to be train people.  The inner city elite in NY, Chicago and other mega-cities who don't own cars and don't drive are a very tiny minority and don't reflect the rest of America.

I would offer that a more accurate statement is "90% of Americans have never been on a train and don't know if they want to be train people."

I don't know if we have the train system that they have in Europe, but on my extensive business related travels to Europe, I almost ALWAYS prefer to take the train over a plane.  I find train travel (at least where there are dependable schedules) to be much more relaxing and comfortable than plane travel.

I don't mean any disrespect, and I don't live in the city, but calling these folks "inner city elite" is a pretty condescending thing to do.  Insulting folks is not a way to seriously get a point across.

Jim

Let's not forget that Amtrak is a Quasi government entity.  Mostly private with some federal rules.  Without those rules they could get away with customer abuse.  Let's not forget The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 is a United States federal law that was designed to regulate the railroad industry, particularly its monopolistic practices.[1]

Here is a lawsuit filed by Public Citizen (which is described by corporate media as "left leaning" to disparage it) that got little or no cable news coverage.

Beginning in 2019, Amtrak amended the terms and conditions for its passenger rail transportation services to include an arbitration provision that forces individuals into a private justice system that has no judge or jury, has limited right to appeal and is not bound by precedent. Amtrak’s arbitration provision states that it is “intended to be as broad as legally possible” – applying not only to individuals who buy tickets, but to “family members, minor passengers, colleagues and companies” for whom tickets are bought.

The provision specifies a litany of claims that cannot be heard in court, including negligence, gross negligence, disfigurement, wrongful death, medical and hospital expenses, discrimination and failure to accommodate an actual or perceived disability. The clause also prohibits class actions.............................................................................Amtrak, which began operating in 1971, is an institution of the federal government that must comply with the U.S. Constitution and acts only pursuant to authority delegated by Congress. Congress directed Amtrak to provide passenger rail services to America’s travelers; it did not authorize Amtrak to force travelers to waive their right to go to court if they are injured by Amtrak, the lawsuit says.

Yet complete privatization efforts have been going on for quite some time and continue to do so.

https://www.ble-t.org/pr/news/headline.asp?id=3873

The vehicle for this is corporate owned media who have reduced discussions to only three criterion:

1.  WORDS - what someone said, slogans, grouping people into categories.  Almost all American media is focused on Words.  Take a look at the articles, take notes in front of the TV.  See for yourself

2.  TONE -  How to read into what someone said if you want to put words in their mouthes.

3.  OPTICS - statues, facial expressions, gestures, etc

What's missing?  SUBSTANCE.   In 1984 we had 50 independent news organizations.  They have been consolidated into roughly six who have dumbed down the conversations into the three categories I just mentioned so that a politician in America today cannot  even run for office without a slogan.  If it isn't simplistic, it isn't newsworthy.  People are now categorized and grouped by what they SAY and you can't tell the person grouping them otherwise.   Even with the ability to do more research today than in the fifties, sixties, and seventies thanks to the internet people are somehow less informed and at each other's throats much more.  Who benefits?  Those who already have everything that own the media, the courts, and our politicians.

Rant over.

John

Total ground transportation:  Amtrak and bus (Greyhound, Trailways, and other dependable companies) working together so people can travel the USA to many chosen destinations with no fuss or high blood pressure attacks.

Would not a USA rail/bus pass get the job done and not see any wars breaking out between them?  A win/win situation or not?  Let's hear your ideas please.

Jim,

Glad to hear you were not offended.

I've made an excellent living advising inner city elite folks, including some living in Manhattan.  I doubt that they will ride trains much though. 

I too have enjoyed riding the trains in Europe, but like most Americans, I  am not ready to pay the very high income taxes they pay in order to get the service.

I have absolutely no doubt that Amtrak can establish long term passenger routes, from big cities to big cities.    What I tend to doubt, though, is that they will make a profit based on passenger service for those routes.  They will have to continue to get our tax money to survive, and will probably have to haul 50 cars of cargo behind the passenger cars to make ends meet.

Trinity,       in the 1970s, Trailways offered the "Golden Eagle Line," than ran really nice new buses, on a non-stop basis, between major cities that were about 250 miles apart.  The seats were really great, and they had a "Stewardess" on board, who wore  a nice uniform and served box lunches and cold drinks.   I use to ride it from Durham, NC, to D.C. about 4 times a year.

Rail and bus service will have to be fully integrated to make the system work.





Mannyrock

After I retired from my main gig I piloted a 19 seat airliner between Ely Nevada and Las Vegas. It was a government subsidized route. After airline deregulation many communities were left without airline service. We usually had 1 to 3 passengers each way. We were a private airline and not government employees.

Maybe it would be better if the existing railroads provided passenger service subsidized as we were. It would probably be cheaper than funding Amtrak.

(Based on pure guesswork with no facts to back up anything.) 

Mannyrock:  Sounds like the Trailways Golden Eagle Line trips you took were more than just a way to get from point A to B for you but provided lot's of fun as well.

GV Dobler:  In our globalized world today, I've often wondered why Austrialia's operator of long distant passenger trains hasn't considered running trains in America like they do with the Indian Pacific, The Ghan, Great Southern, and The Overland on the rails Down Under?  As a subsidiary, it would provide the same type of excellent service in North America.

Check out Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions on YouTube.  It's a great way to take the train over a good cup of java in the comfort of your home!

Item:  The Indian Pacific includes auto racks so you can take the family vehicle with you much like AutoTrain does to/from Florida on the U.S. East Coast.

Joe          US Army Transportation Corps 1964-67          49th Transportation Group (Germany)

Last edited by Trinity River Bottoms Boomer

To state that the war torn status of Japan and Europe was the sole reason for their modern rail lacks credibility. Further, Japan has extensive mountainous terrain. It isnt flat like the eastern seaboard (where the NE Corridor is just baaaaaaaad). Any extended rail trip in Japan will have you running along side mountain cliffs, at the edge of the ocean, _through_ mountains, across highly active seismic terrain, past locations prone to flooding and mudslides, you name it. Yet some how, even during the Great Tohoku Earthquake, _the rail never stopped running_.  Moreover, Japan simply executed eminent domain anywhere they needed land, and did not muck about with NIMBYs. Fundamentally, the Japanese culture is about cooperation looking out for communal interests. There are a lot of negatives that come with such a heavy focus on the community over the individual, but mobilizing for the common good is definitely not one of those negatives.

Here is a good read on why their bullet trains never stopped, despite the enormous scale of the Great Tohoku Earthquake:

https://www.railway-technology...tures/feature122751/

The japantoday article is, and is not accurate. Would have to look to see why it was written the way it was.

Evicting people in Japan is a BIG nono. Again, comes back to community. But if you look at local and bullet train lines, you will see they rip right through neighborhoods and towns, splitting them in half, with weird, curvy roads to get through and under the line to the other side. Taking peoples rice fields is 100% free game. Kicking people out of houses, not so much. So generally, new lines and existing lines ran through areas where they could take the land, without impacting the community, and went to excessive lengths to ensure that neighborhoods/towns they bifurcated could still function as before. It is largely all done with these things:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...sen_201408081002.jpg

that I cant remember the name of. It isnt a trustle... but like, a hm, i dunno. Someone knows the name of it probably. It demonstrates minimum land impact to ensure the route was executed on. Given that the MD maglev is also on piers like this, it is hard to see why it is such a huge deal here. The maglev project is in extensive collaboration with Japanese rail companies, but hey, we cant have nice things!

Re: US ED, look no farther than the mess the keystone? pipeline project was in before it was finally killed and burnt with fire.

The california rail project, land was seized, _but nobody is getting paid_. That isn't a very well organized project!

https://www.latimes.com/local/...-20190610-story.html

The japantoday article is, and is not accurate. Would have to look to see why it was written the way it was.

"Japan has very weak eminent domain powers, as evidenced by the high-profile opposition to the expansion of Narita International Airport, and the disproportionately large amounts of financial inducement given to residents on sites slated for redevelopment in return for their agreement to leave, one well-known recent case being that of Roppongi Hills."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eminent_domain

The Supreme Court in Japan by the way has 15 justices not 9.  But they too are unelected.

John

Last edited by Craftech
@KOOLjock1 posted:

I do get a kick out of folks who compare rail in Europe and Japan with the United States for two reasons:

1.  At some point in the 1940's both Europe and Japan were encouraged to completely rebuild their rail infrastructure from scratch.  Something happened to it.

2.  Geography.

Jon

Jon,

I don't think that most of us are a naive as you might think. 

Will we ever have good passenger rail service though the entire U.S.?  Absolutely not, and one of the main reasons is what you have stated, geography.  After all, the U.S. is a really big place.  Could we have better passenger rail service? Absolutely.

When I take trains in Europe, its usually trips of upwards of a couple of hundred miles.  I can easily get from my hotel to a train station is city 1 (often without even a taxi) arrive at the station 30 minutes before the train leaves, arrive in city 2 and easily get to my hotel.  If I fly, I usually have to take a long taxi ride from my hotel in city 1 to the airport, get there two hours before my flight, go through a long security line, fly to my destination, then have a long taxi ride to my new hotel in city 2.  Train travel is a much, much, more relaxing (and often cheaper) alternative.

We also need to be careful when we talk about "Europe", as rail service is not the same through the whole continent.

I think we also kid ourselves when we talk about taxes and subsidization.  Federal taxes help pay for air travel, roadways, and keeping waterways navigable.  To be clear, I don't advocate spending unlimited money on upgrading passenger service in the U.S, but I think some degree of spending to improve this service really makes sense.

Jim

Regarding the comparison of the trains systems in the U.S. vs Europe and Japan,

Do we need to consider that after WWII, the U.S. paid to substantially rebuild the infrastructure of most of those countries, through the Marshall Plan and similar programs?  Their rail lines, being military targets for many years, had to have been substantially destroyed.  Those countries may tout their great transportations systems, but the fact of the matter is that they would have been substantially third-world countries for 50 years after the war if we hadn't provided the financing to rebuild them.  (Query:  Did France ever repay its War debt to the U.S. after the War?  I doubt it.)

One of my law partners, being 15 years older than me, grew up in Hamburg in the late 1940s and early 1950s.   (His father was a Vice President of Ford Motor Europe.)    He said that large areas of the city still lay in ruins and rubble at that time.

I don't remember hearing that the U.S. paid hundreds of millions (perhaps billions?) to upgrade our transportation system from the ground up after the War.  (Perhaps the closest thing was the building of the Interstate Highway System in the early 1960s?)    I can't remember when AMTRAK came into being.  Wasn't it in the 1960s?

Mannyrock

Last edited by Rich Melvin

https://www.cbo.gov/system/fil...-10/41955-Amtrak.pdf

This is an extremely long, painful read. If you asked why I bothered to read it, mostly because I was curious about the topic and wanted to further educated myself.

Two things were imminently  noticeable:

Page 79 has an extensive list of Amtrak services that recover _less than 1/3rd of operating costs_. Not half, or 2/3rds. 1/3rd!!!

Page 46 demonstrates that TCO for rail per seat mile (in dollars) is .12, vrs buses at .04, and AIR!!! at .08. Thats right, TCO per seat mile is higher than even air! And this is back in 1980, before they jammed us all into planes like sardines. I am going on a vacay to Seattle from MD this late august, and I am not looking forward to being a sardine. :|

There are a lot of interesting figures in that document, that have held relatively stable over the years. Cbo.gov has other related Amtrak docs.

From CATO Institute: (https://www.cato.org/commentar...-no-way-run-railroad)

"Since 1972 Amtrak has received more than $13 billion of federal subsidies. Twenty‐five years later, Amtrak appears no closer to financial independence than the day taxpayer assistance began. "

So while I appreciate Mannyrock's fervor, the reality is that the feds (i.e. you and me and everyone else here paying taxes) have been pumping tons of money into Amtrak for an ever degrading service that has never taken a step forward into solvency. For 13 billion (and that isnt including what the dollars are translated to 2021 amounts after inflation), I would expect a ride where the food isnt horrible, the seats are somewhat comfortable, and the trips don't include a dozen of stops over a short 120ish mile hike on the NE Corridor.

For sure, I am tired of paying for Amtrak subsidies and not seeing any fruits for my loots.

Cest la vie.

The 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s were a time of almost incredible highway construction, in both the the U.S. and Europe.  The difference is that in Europe railroad construction and improvement never stopped.  In the US, it largely did.  Expanding cities in Europe and developments in outlying areas lie along public transit routes.  In the US, early developments like Levitown, Long Island were not along public transit routes.  They were built to be accessed via automobile only.  That happened all over the US.

To be fair, the freight tunnels in Europe were already there so that drove down construction costs, but a system like the RER in France ALONE transports more people than the entire US does COMBINED.   And they didn't do it by not paying their debts to the US SEVENTY FIVE YEARS ago.  They continue to invest in it for their "people" instead of insisting that tax cuts for the wealthiest people in their countries will somehow someday for sure bring prosperity for everyone.  They know better.

In Europe, what they call a “commuter rail” operates frequently, all day, and cost the same fare as other local transit. That’s the difference between regional rail and commuter rail.  In the US less than half the population can utilize the public transportation we have built and neglected.  Then some blame the transportation itself instead of the lack of interest or foresight on the part of our elected officials.   How is it possible to convince so many Americans that up is down?

https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...5#156561155832183245

John

Rich, as mentioned, that document is just one of many from CBO, across a multitude of investigations. Are you suggesting that in the past 39 years, Amtrak has somehow come to a better place, than when it was prior to 82? Last I checked, airfare is still better priced to go from point a to point b in most locations that Amtrak could transit you to... which STILL lines up with TCtO per seat mile. DCA to Boston is 99$ roundtrip. By Amtrak? 220. And flight is a lot faster.

I still stand by all the data out there, which has consistently, over many decades, shown that federal investment into Amtrak is not producing results. Unfortunately, this is not a problem that can really be solved in a short term project. It is just a sad reality.

Re: roads being a 0 RoE, this isn't true, since gas taxes in some states are used to support road infrastructure. Cant drive a car without roads, and if you are driving a car on roads, you are buying gas, and feeding taxes into the infrastructure pot for that state. Sadly, not all states do this, and as a result there are some places where the term "road" is very loosely used. Bare earth, mixed with occasional spots of asphalt or cratered concrete, definitely doesnt fit it for me. Im lookin at you, rural PA!

edit:

Rich: https://www.cbo.gov/budget-options/54773

It is government discretionary funding forecasted to 2028. This took literally 2 seconds to google: (google search: "site:cbo.gov amtrak")

excerpt:

The federal government subsidizes intercity travel in various ways. For example, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation—or Amtrak—received appropriations of about $1.5 billion in 2017 and $1.9 billion in 2018 to subsidize intercity passenger rail services. The 2018 figure includes $650 million in grants for the Northeast Corridor and debt service and about $1.3 billion in grants for the national network that Amtrak operates. For comparison, Amtrak's capital spending in 2017 was $1.6 billion and its operating expenses totaled $4.2 billion (including $0.8 billion in depreciation and amortization costs).

That is a LOT of subsidy.

Last edited by Erik the Newbie

Rich, as mentioned, that document is just one of many from CBO, across a multitude of investigations.

The CBO doesn't do "investigations".  That would be the Congressional Research Service and the Government Accountability Office.

I still stand by all the data out there, which has consistently, over many decades, shown that federal investment into Amtrak is not producing results. Unfortunately, this is not a problem that can really be solved in a short term project. It is just a sad reality.

edit:

Rich: https://www.cbo.gov/budget-options/54773

It is government discretionary funding forecasted to 2028. This took literally 2 seconds to google: (google search: "site:cbo.gov amtrak")

Like I said, that wasn't an investigation.  On the very first page it says the following:

CBO periodically issues a compendium of policy options (called Options for Reducing the Deficit) covering a broad range of issues, as well as separate reports that include options for changing federal tax and spending policies in particular areas. This option appears in one of those publications. The options are derived from many sources and reflect a range of possibilities. For each option, CBO presents an estimate of its effects on the budget but makes no recommendations. Inclusion or exclusion of any particular option does not imply an endorsement or rejection by CBO.

excerpt:

The federal government subsidizes intercity travel in various ways. For example, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation—or Amtrak—received appropriations of about $1.5 billion in 2017 and $1.9 billion in 2018 to subsidize intercity passenger rail services. The 2018 figure includes $650 million in grants for the Northeast Corridor and debt service and about $1.3 billion in grants for the national network that Amtrak operates. For comparison, Amtrak's capital spending in 2017 was $1.6 billion and its operating expenses totaled $4.2 billion (including $0.8 billion in depreciation and amortization costs).

That is a LOT of subsidy.

NO, it isn't.  I posted a comparison with other countries above on page 2.  In fact it is among the LOWEST

See:  https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...0#156561155865103710

John

Last edited by Craftech

Rich, as mentioned, that document is just one of many from CBO, across a multitude of investigations. Are you suggesting that in the past 39 years, Amtrak has somehow come to a better place, than when it was prior to 82?

No! All I was trying to do is point out that you cited a 39-year old publication as if it was current.

I have no dog in this fight. I have never ridden an Amtrak train and have no plans to. I don’t care what we do with Amtrak.

Erik, Your airline vs Amtrak numbers are skewed as it is virtually impossible to fly anywhere in the U.S without flying through a major hub. To put this in the the form of real numbers: on 5/31/21 on one days notice I needed to travel from Boston to my home near Albany; airfare was something north of $1600 and took me through Tampa in a little over 7 hours; Amtrak was $32 and did it in less than 4 hours and without crushing my already damaged knee. 51 years ago when I worked for a NYS Legislative commission I frequently had to fly from Albany to Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester, Olean, Elmira, Massena, and NYC on a few hours notice. Try doing that by plane or train today. You can't because we've become so dependent on the automobile, and the airline deregulation of the`80's did not offer a suitable alternative for many of us. Rail service between MSA's of a predetermined population might be the answer.

I wish the US had a better rail system. I don't travel much but I never hear anything good about flight. It would be nice to take a train from Youngstown to Chicago (for family) or Pittsburgh (for friends) at a reasonable hour. The available trains are all over night. The Chicago one isn't bad. I could get to get at 2AM when I board and wake up about 7 hours later in Chicago. But there are no trains to board after work on Friday to go down to Pittsburgh to catch a Pirates game.

Hearing the German exchange students talk about the trains in Europe when I was in college really brought the differences into view for me. We'll see what Amtrak can accomplish. I wish them all the best because I do believe the railroad is a good way to move stuff. I also happen to like trains and be a member of a certain forum with an interest in model railroading

Last October, after a $25 billion bailout in grants and a similar amount in loans, the airline industry was looking for more money.  At the start of the pandemic the major carriers threatened massive layoffs if they didn't get federal grants to help them out after people were too scared to get in a fuselage incubator to spread Covid and weren't booking flights.

The airline industry is consistently singled out for favored treatment in economic calamities.   That industry truly does not deserve it because consistently their CEO's have used the money to enrich themselves and spend it on stock buybacks.  Thanks to weak antitrust enforcement, airlines reaped flush profits. 2015 and beyond were the best years for the industry ever.

Despite the history of airlines bleeding cash in recessions — and therefore needing to preserve capital for later — from 2014 through 2019 the big four carriers (American, Delta, United and Southwest) plowed $42 billion into stock repurchases in the hope of improving their share prices. $13 Billion from American Airlines alone.  In a six year period the CEO's of the major 4 carriers pocketed of $340 Million in stock purchases.

Since the pandemic, airline stocks have plunged.  Executives got rich anyway while delivering mediocre or worse returns because their pay was calibrated over short-term periods. Usually that is a problem for the shareholders who coughed up the investment.  But not when the government steps in and refuses to demand that the airline industry maintain adequate capital.   Since the airline industry has done this before they already know (like large banks who do the same) that they can take risks and reap the benefits when times are good and always get a bailout when times are bad and still clean up.   The pandemic bailout came with a few restrictions this time, but for only two years.

They refused to forego their gains and the federal government refuses to force them to.  They do not and will not maintain solvency and this scenario with them will repeat itself over and over.  CEO's will pocket whatever they can grab and next time we will again pay that handful of people their self enrichment guarantee when they threaten layoffs and call themselves a danger to national security if they fail.

John

We need a GOOD reset.  Need complete new BOD's.  And a diversity of outlooks.  Need one for customers.  Another for workers.  If there are no customers, the company is worthless to everybody.  Workers, not so much on wages, but an outlook on how the product line is produced.  No product, or bad product, no customers.  No customers......

Amtrak BOD?

Last edited by Dominic Mazoch
@Craftech posted:

Last October, after a $25 billion bailout in grants and a similar amount in loans, the airline industry was looking for more money.  At the start of the pandemic the major carriers threatened massive layoffs if they didn't get federal grants to help them out after people were too scared to get in a fuselage incubator to spread Covid and weren't booking flights.

The airline industry is consistently singled out for favored treatment in economic calamities.   That industry truly does not deserve it because consistently their CEO's have used the money to enrich themselves and spend it on stock buybacks.  Thanks to weak antitrust enforcement, airlines reaped flush profits. 2015 and beyond were the best years for the industry ever.

Despite the history of airlines bleeding cash in recessions — and therefore needing to preserve capital for later — from 2014 through 2019 the big four carriers (American, Delta, United and Southwest) plowed $42 billion into stock repurchases in the hope of improving their share prices. $13 Billion from American Airlines alone.  In a six year period the CEO's of the major 4 carriers pocketed of $340 Million in stock purchases.

Since the pandemic, airline stocks have plunged.  Executives got rich anyway while delivering mediocre or worse returns because their pay was calibrated over short-term periods. Usually that is a problem for the shareholders who coughed up the investment.  But not when the government steps in and refuses to demand that the airline industry maintain adequate capital.   Since the airline industry has done this before they already know (like large banks who do the same) that they can take risks and reap the benefits when times are good and always get a bailout when times are bad and still clean up.   The pandemic bailout came with a few restrictions this time, but for only two years.

They refused to forego their gains and the federal government refuses to force them to.  They do not and will not maintain solvency and this scenario with them will repeat itself over and over.  CEO's will pocket whatever they can grab and next time we will again pay that handful of people their self enrichment guarantee when they threaten layoffs and call themselves a danger to national security if they fail.

John

Is there anything in here appropriate for this forum?  Where’s the moderator with the big delete key?

Erik, Your airline vs Amtrak numbers are skewed as it is virtually impossible to fly anywhere in the U.S without flying through a major hub. To put this in the the form of real numbers: on 5/31/21 on one days notice I needed to travel from Boston to my home near Albany; airfare was something north of $1600 and took me through Tampa in a little over 7 hours; Amtrak was $32 and did it in less than 4 hours and without crushing my already damaged knee. 51 years ago when I worked for a NYS Legislative commission I frequently had to fly from Albany to Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester, Olean, Elmira, Massena, and NYC on a few hours notice. Try doing that by plane or train today. You can't because we've become so dependent on the automobile, and the airline deregulation of the`80's did not offer a suitable alternative for many of us. Rail service between MSA's of a predetermined population might be the answer.

But you must remember The Big Dig, it had to happen because vehicle traffic couldn't get to Logan, yada, yada. Now we need to spend billions more cuz Americans really want to go west on trains? "If we build it, they will ride."

Today, there are direct flights from Boston to Albany almost every hour but I do remember those days of flying through either Atlanta or Dallas no matter where you were going. I also remember the days when you could board a flight when there was only half the seats occupied.

Is there anything in here appropriate for this forum?  Where’s the moderator with the big delete key?

This is in the real trains forum.  The topic is about Amtrak's plans to extend rail service.  Other folks who have replied have felt the need to bash government involvement in rail service.  Comparisons have been made to other modes of travel.  I think pointing out that the airlines have repeatedly failed at remaining solvent - and have to be bailed out through subsidies - is totally on topic.

If you don't like the topic, just move along.

Is there anything in here appropriate for this forum?  Where’s the moderator with the big delete key?

As a forum member, you are under no obligation to read every single thread posted to the forum.

I can never understand why any forum member would suggest that a thread be deleted just because it doesn't interest them?  In the last 24 hours, there has been 78 active threads, on all types of train related topics, so everyone should be able to find something of interest.

Regards,

Jim

@jd-train posted:

As a forum member, you are under no obligation to read every single thread posted to the forum.

I can never understand why any forum member would suggest that a thread be deleted just because it doesn't interest them?  In the last 24 hours, there has been 78 active threads, on all types of train related topics, so everyone should be able to find something of interest.

Regards,

Jim

Those following this thread and the varying opinions would see that comparisons between the airline and railroad industries and government's role in funding those is germane to the discussion and most of my comments have been about the railroad industry and Amtrak.

Maybe he wanted it deleted because he doesn't agree with it, but you have to admit the discussions on this forum are truly civilized compared to other forums and Facebook.   There are forum members of every political persuasion here and I personally think that our mutual love for model railroading supersedes any differences.  I know it does for me.

John

Last edited by Craftech

Is there anything in here appropriate for this forum?  Where’s the moderator with the big delete key?

What do you mean? If we are discussing the viability of Amtrak which is a government corporation and people are arguing that Amtrak isn't cost effective and requires government subsidies (implying that airline travel is this entity that runs entirely without subsidies and makes billions), then yes, it is valid. If you are going to compare the need for something, you need to look at the reality of both the things being compared, not the image people have. Few businesses in this country, put it this way, operate without some kind of government subsidy or support, as hidden as some of it likely is. Can range from something like road use taxes on trucks, where the truck doesn't pay the total cost of them using the roads (trucks beat the tar, literally, out of road surfaces), to things like depreciation on equipment and other deductions (not saying we shouldn't be doing that, it is in theory how you get businesses to invest in new equipment, the reality is more murky), to a number of other things. 

I don't think there are easy answers with train service, about deciding whether it is worth it or not, but it should be done with facts and figures and what the goal is, not with soundbites or "everyone knows' kind of arguments, that is what people are talking about.

I agree, this has been very civil.

My only point has been, if I am paying tax dollars to subsidize the passenger rail service, then I absolutely want better passenger rail service.

With regards to the air industry, with the LOTS of money that was pumped in during covid and in general (I didn't start that thread!), I don't want to be a sardine either!!!

Agree totally. Personally I think the same thing should be applied with the airline industry, which has been allowed to turn air travel into a flying cattle car, where they are planning to stuff more people into the cabin with even less space and to be able to charge for almost anything, including carry on baggage. One of the reasons they were able to create rules around airlines having to recompense people for being stuck on the tarmac for prolonged periods was because the airlines knew if they balked congress could pull subsidies and the like (one of the reasons that was happening in the first place was airlines scheduled so many flights out of/into an airport that it was at the edge of capacity, any little thing went wrong, boom..might generate a ton of revenue, and if passengers were inconvenienced or stuck on a plane for hours, so what? Money is money).

We have discussed this a lot and it will be interesting to see in the post covid world how all this plays out. Where does rail travel make sense? With the current level of rail technology in the US (which quite frankly stinks, in terms of passenger rail travel) does it make sense? Is something like hyperloop ever going to be a reality, if so then standard rail passenger trail, especially long distance, may be made obsolete (and hyperloop at this point is still science fiction; but if you have something that can deliver people at speeds comparable to an aircraft, it could be viable, assuming it isn't vaporware like fusion power currently is).

And the answer is we don't know. Right now airline travel is really, really heavy, not surprisingly. But long term, is business travel going to be what it was before the pandemic? Business travel was a huge part of their revenue stream, in the day and age of zoom and webex, will that still be used? Business travel is expensive....so will the corporate execs decide it is still needed, that you need to go and talk to customers and the like, or will it be mostly eliminated, saving a lot of cost?

If remote work becomes the norm (I have my doubts in the panacea some claim), you might need high speed rail so remove workers when they do come in can do so efficiently (I am talking more exurbs to population centers, not NY to Chicago).

One of the real problems is that in the US we do a really bad job of trying to plan for tomorrow, we always seem to be planning for the day before yesterday (there was an old statement that is very true, that the military always seems to start out fighting the last war, in WWII they were thinking trench warfare and poison gas, for example). Right now I could make the argument many are, that long distance rail travel makes no sense, but that may not apply to the future. Not just what post covid will bring, but also things like how the heat waves and drought out west potentially could change feelings about climate change (to make this non political, I am not saying anything about Climate change itself, talking perceptions). Will people seeing what we have seen start believing we are in a crisis, and if so, will jet airplanes come under fire for their potential role in what is going on?  Keep in mind that perceptions often matter more than reality, you see what is going on in the world and you see how powerful that is.



rail travel can be a lot 'greener' than airplane travel on a number of reasons, in theory diesel train engines can operate on biodiesel that is co2 neutral, something airliners cannot, or electric engines, even with fossil fuel based power plants, have a much lower co2 signature then airliners or diesel engines running diesel fuel.  Will that play into this?

The car culture is changing, too. Most of us on this board tend to be cranky, older baby boom, maybe some gen x, and older generations where the car was this gee whiz piece of freedom. That isn't true among younger people, that culture isn't there (it is bad enough the car magazines have had more than a few pieces on it). How will that play out in the future, will rail travel be more like Europe? (and again, guys, these are just questions, I offer no answers).

One thing I do know is you can't look at current Amtrak and make any kind of predictions for the future. To be blunt, Amtrak has been kept limping along the way you keep that old clunker car going. You can't say how effective rail travel would be when the way Amtrak operates itself is a mess. It came out of a rail plant that was a disaster (basically private railroads, themselves awash in red ink, chucked it away). In many places it operates over track it doesn't own and often has the priority of a troop train in WWII on the rails (read accounts of WWII vets who traveled on troop trains.....). Its equipment can be state of the art running on track and with signalling systems from the dark ages, or track suited for freight traffic, not high speed passenger.

Honestly Amtrak has never had a mission formalized, it is just like 'keep the trains running'. Some politicians, who are vocal about Amtrak being a waste, are the same politicians when they want to cut out routes, scream bloody murder if it is in their domain. Others who are supportive or claim to be, don't put their money with their mouth is. As others have pointed out, people who talk about high speed rail, point to China as to the way it can be done, are the same people who are fighting creation of high speed rail routes, who say "not in my town".

What is needed is rational analysis that isn't based on perceptions but reality and that is the hard part. We have those who still see the automobile as king of the hill and refuse to see that it may not be king any more, that spending money expanding roads that end up clogged with more traffic might not work. Then we have those who romanticize train travel and think it is the solution to everything, when it isn't. We have those who claim airline travel because it is a 'private' business is superior because it is, and leave out the tangle between it and government entities that help make it viable.  Not to mention there is airline service right now that is mandated that makes absolutely no sense, flying to places with little air travel because they get something out of flying there, not unlike having long distance rail stops in rural west virginia happen. 

I don't expect this all to happen, mind you, like most things if change happens it will be because it is forced, either popular perceptions or because of government mandate. For years, the auto industry in the US claimed people didn't care about quality or safety on cars other than 'eggheads' (you know, people who bought volvos and the like because they promoted safety), said it 'didn't sell'...and it nearly put them out of business because when people saw that cars could have quality, didn't need to fall apart at 30k miles, it became important. People became aware of the number of people dying on the roads, the numbers, and that caused a change in perception and the political will to mandate seat belts and later safety feature.

My guess would be that the perceptions around climate change are going to hit home eventually and that is going to change things. Will rail travel be part of that? Unknown but I wouldn't write it off, either.

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