Cardinal discussion

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Cardinal discussion

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Mar 05, 2013 2:29 pm

In another thread talking about Virginia rail projects, Jersey Mike had mentioned the frustration with the Cardinal's ex-C&O routing north of Charlottesville. (I've copied his post below.) In trying to respond, I found no Cardinal-specific thread, so here's one, since there is plenty to discuss - the Buckingham Branch reconstruction, the Cardinal's former life as a Superliner train, the Chicago access issues and proposals, and the proposals to take the train daily and/or cut it back to extended corridor service.

Jersey_Mike wrote:One would think with all that new funding they would build the connection and get the Cardinal off the damn Washington Sub. They could save 30 minutes off the trip time and abandon all the expensive signaling as well.

I don't see the issue either. It would be a ticklish move, from the BBRR across (and fouling) one main to get to the other platform, but not impossible.
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Re: Cardinal discussion

Postby Woody » Tue Mar 05, 2013 6:27 pm

I figured half the problem with the Cardinal would be gone when
we get twice as many trains a week.

Making the Cardinal a daily train seems like a simple upgrade and
fix to the problem. Just as soon as Amtrak gets more equipment,
and just a little bitty bit more money, it can do that.

The PRIIA study seemed to show that a daily Cardinal would have
a loss-per-passenger about half the embarrassing current figure.
And the fare-box recovery rate of a daily Cardinal would move it
into the [bottom of the] pack with the other long distance trains.
All that while picking up about 125,000 more passengers a year.
What's not to like?

The additional sleepers, diners, crew dorms, and baggage cars
could come out of the current order for 130 new single-level cars
due to (or overdue to) come into the fleet starting next year, or
from an order exercising the option for another 70 such cars.

The additional locomotives could come in a few years when
the new "quick-accelerating" Next Gen diesels start arriving for
the Midwest corridor services, setting off a cascade of their used
stuff to other routes, like the Cardinal. Last summer they got
as far as a Request for Information, and a Request for Proposals
was said to be near, and that would allow an order to be placed,
why, by about this time.

Now I fear that until the Great Sequester Circus wraps up its
Washington appearance, no useful spending will be announced
for any project. So the Next Gen diesels will arrive late and
any cascading will be delayed. The poor Cardinal with its
disproportionate losses will remain a poster child for the
Amtrak haters.
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Re: Cardinal discussion

Postby Suburban Station » Tue Mar 05, 2013 6:31 pm

what's the condition of the track between pittsburgh and columbus? perhaps it could be rerouted from cincy to pittsburgh (and onto ny) via columbus.
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Re: Cardinal discussion

Postby Tadman » Tue Mar 05, 2013 11:39 pm

I can't speak to today's political climate. But originally, the Cardinal was one of the best examples of the LD's=votes theory of Amtrak funding. It was the only LD through West Virginia, where Senator Byrd was an elected official. The Cardinal was a Byrd-pleaser. If you were to cancel it back then, Senator Byrd would shift his serious pull in the Senate away from Amtrak.

Today? Who knows, Byrd is wherever career politicians go.
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Re: Cardinal discussion

Postby David Benton » Tue Mar 05, 2013 11:56 pm

I am sure the plan was to upgrade the buckingham branch , and eventually move the crescent there as well . i quess the lynchburg train would now move as well .
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Re: Cardinal discussion

Postby Woody » Wed Mar 06, 2013 12:24 am

Suburban Station wrote:what's the condition of the track between pittsburgh and columbus?
perhaps it could be rerouted from cincy to pittsburgh (and onto ny) via columbus.


The big problem is to the west -- Cincinnati-Indianapolis-Chicago.

A PRIIA study looked at alternative routings and stayed with the one they've got.

The point is, Cincinnati-Chicago and then Indianapolis-Chicago on top of that should
make for heavy passenger loads.

But the Cardinal leaves Cincinnati at 1:23 a.m., an ungodly hour that kills patronage
right there. It covers 120 miles to arrive in Indianapolis by 5 a.m. Then an hour of
schedule padding or sitting in the station, I guess waiting for a slightly less ungodly
hour of 6 a.m. to depart Indiana's capital city. After 200 miles, and 5 hours of travel
it arrives in Chicago. Averaging less than 40 mph isn't gonna win riders.

Rebuilding the tracks from Cincinnati-Indianapolis-Chicago will cost a few billion
at a minimum. By comparison, the upgrades St Louis-Chicago are gonna total
a few billion before they finish, and that's work on a busy route that was already
well-maintained.

So for good reason this potential project was passed over in the stimulus. Indiana
had never seriously planned for any such effort, unlike Michigan, Wisconsin, and
Illinois. The state didn't have the will or the plan to fix this problem.
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Re: Cardinal discussion

Postby Arlington » Thu Aug 01, 2013 2:08 pm

Let's begin by noting that the Cardinal takes 28 hours from NYP to CHI. Clearly it is not being operated for the convenience of New York to Chicago travel, which is better handled by either the Lake Shore Limited (19 hours), or even connections (Pennsylvanian + Capitol Ltd) or (NEC + Capitol Limited) which run in the 20 to 22 hour time range. In addition to being slow, it is "small", representing just 17% of Amtrak's capacity between New York and Chicago (3 out of 17 itineraries) and about 30% of capacity between Washington and Chicago (3 out of 10 trains).

The first thing, then, to conclude, is that the Cardinal is being operated for the convenience of all the people between Staunton VA (just beyond Charottesville) and Connersville IN (just before Indy) for whom it is, perhaps, their sole means of moving conveniently from "home" to "the Big City"

But also, given the really lousy timing at Cincinnati (1am westbound and 3am eastbound), you'd have to say that the Cardinal "works" for everyone along the way except Cincinnati (pop 2.2m), in the same way that the Pennsylvanian and Capitol Limited do a bad job of serving Pittsburgh (pop 2.6m) but serve everyone else pretty well.

I look at that and say the Hoosier State would probably do much better if it were extended to CIN, even without Ohio's help (same as the Downeaster depends on New Hampshire and Maryland's MARC trains go into West Virginia...the fare money pays for it, even though NH/WV "freeload"). Plenty of Indianans would benefit too: not just Connersville, but also the 3 counties in Indiana that are part of the CIN metro area.

There's got to be a better way to serve the Cardinal's route. Going daily seems to just repeat the flaws of the current route and schedule.
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Re: Cardinal discussion

Postby Woody » Fri Aug 02, 2013 3:16 pm

Arlington wrote:Let's begin by noting that the Cardinal takes 28 hours
from NYP to CHI. Clearly it is not being operated for
the convenience of New York to Chicago travel...


Correct. The long distance trains are not operated for
the benefit of end-to-end travelers. There aren't any.
On the Empire Builder, for one good example, Chicago-
Seattle/Portland riders make up barely 8% of the total.
The high may be the Capitol Ltd, with about a third of
the passengers going D.C.-Chicago. (My outdated but
best available source is for 2008, the NARP Fact Sheets.)
http://www.narprail.org/cms/images/uplo ... ains08.pdf

Arlington wrote:But also, given the really lousy timing at Cincinnati
(1am westbound and 3am eastbound), you'd have to say that
the Cardinal "works" for everyone along the way except
Cincinnati (pop 2.2m), in the same way that the Pennsylvanian
and Capitol Limited do a bad job of serving Pittsburgh (pop 2.6m)
but serve everyone else pretty well.


The Capitol Ltd, and the Lake Shore Ltd, do a really lousy job of
serving Cleveland, too, always after midnight but before dawn.

Arlington wrote:There's got to be a better way to serve the Cardinal's route.


Upgrading the tracks between Chicago-Cleveland/Pittsburgh
to 110 mph would probably fix the lousy arrival and departure
times in those cities, even if the remainder of the routes
remained unchanged. (And actually, NYC-Albany-Buffalo is
high on some lists for upgrades to 110 mph.)

But sadly, there's very little going on right now with those
notions. Maybe if we slip back into recession -- and given
the fools on D.C. that could happen -- and then more
stimulus will be needed ...

Arlington wrote: ... the Hoosier State would probably do much better
if it were extended to CIN.


Wait a minute. The Hoosier State runs Chicago-Indianapolis
only on the days that the Cardinal does not run. Extending it
to Cincinnati is probably not the first thing to do with it.
First, make the Cardinal daily. Second, make the Hoosier State
a second run on the western end of the Cardinal's route,
so there'd be a morning train and an evening train to Indy.
After that gets up and going, extend that second run to Cincy.

And as I said before, upgrading Cincinnati-Indianapolis-Chicago
to 110 mph would transform the Cardinal from a lonely loser
wandering thru the boondocks to another train on a busy corridor.
But no time soon.

Arlington wrote:Going daily seems to just repeat the flaws of
the current route and schedule.


Not exactly. The current three-day-a-week service pattern
wastes a lot of money on crew costs. Crew members have to be
accommodated in NYC, and paid "away pay." Pure waste. If
the train ran daily, some part of the additional crew would be
"paid for" with the savings on NYC hotel rooms and the away pay.

Here's the problem. Let's say the Cardinal loses $100 a day
running 3 days a week. Total weekly loss is $300. Then running
7 days a week, let's say the Cardinal's loss is cut to $50 a day.
That's great. But 7 times $50 means a weekly loss of $350.

Losses go down but losses go up! Amtrak can't win for losing!

And I dare not get into the demands for track upgrades that
the freight roads would insist upon.

Still, there's all sorts of soft reasons for the Cardinal to go daily
(and then the Hoosier State as well) -- at least doubling the total
passengers, more convenience for current customers, better
corridor-type service D.C.-Charlottesville, more passengers
connecting to other Amtrak trains in Chicago, Charlottesville,
and D.C., and more. But fact is, a daily Cardinal will lose
more money, not a lot more, but more.

Whether that's worth it ... is for Congress to decide. And may
God have mercy on the Cardinal ... and us all.
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Re: Cardinal discussion

Postby Woody » Fri Aug 02, 2013 3:55 pm

I was more than a bit confused when I posted much, much earlier, was it in March?

A daily Cardinal can't come out of the 130-car order with CAF for Viewliner II diners, sleepers, crew dorms, and baggage cars. For these heritage diners and baggage cars that spend some time on the NEC, there'll be a simple one-for-one replacement of the old equipment. For several good reasons Amtrak will not be patching up the old stuff to keep using some beside the new equipment. No no no.

The heritage diners are a motley assortment from a number of different pre-Amtrak passenger railroads. Servicing, maintaining, repairing 20 or 30 one-of-a-kind cars is inefficient to downright difficult and costly. Using a standardized model is expected to cut costs nicely. I think the same applies to the sleepers. And like the heritage baggage cars, the old diners and sleepers rattle along the NEC at 'Watch Out! Be Careful!' speeds. So they often slow down Acelas and Regionals behind them. The whole bunch will have to go.

Even with the 70-car option, it's not clear there'd be enuff new equipment to take the Cardinal daily. After all, more cars are needed on almost all of the East Coast trains.

I'm hopeful that if Amtrak can get beyond the current budget-slashing sequester madness, it could probably make a nice deal with CAF for still another option. That way it could get enuff cars to extend all the current consists, to push a long distance train down the Florida East Coast route Jacksonville-Orlando-Canaveral-West Palm Beach-Ft Lauderdale-Miami, and take the Cardinal daily. But the daily Cardinal will have to wait.

And we'll sure need a multi-year order for hundreds of Next Gen coaches as well.

Whew. So much good work to be done ... but all just beyond our reach.
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Re: Cardinal discussion

Postby afiggatt » Fri Aug 02, 2013 4:24 pm

Arlington wrote:The first thing, then, to conclude, is that the Cardinal is being operated for the convenience of all the people between Staunton VA (just beyond Charottesville) and Connersville IN (just before Indy) for whom it is, perhaps, their sole means of moving conveniently from "home" to "the Big City"
...
I look at that and say the Hoosier State would probably do much better if it were extended to CIN, even without Ohio's help (same as the Downeaster depends on New Hampshire and Maryland's MARC trains go into West Virginia...the fare money pays for it, even though NH/WV "freeload"). Plenty of Indianans would benefit too: not just Connersville, but also the 3 counties in Indiana that are part of the CIN metro area.

There's got to be a better way to serve the Cardinal's route. Going daily seems to just repeat the flaws of the current route and schedule.

The Draft 2013 Virginia State Rail Plan has been released and is worth reading for the data and info on the Amtrak services and plans. There are some in-depth numbers in it on ridership by station and train. I'm still reading it, but it is apparent that the draft plan schedules and timeframes for passenger service expansion do not incorporate the additional annual funding VA DRPT is now getting from the state sales tax (expected to be $44 million in FY2014, grow to $57 million by FY2019).

First, the Cardinal is being operated for the convenience of the Charlottesville market with 19,853 boardings and alightings at CVS for the Cardinal in FY2013. Almost as many as the daily Crescent with 22,200 at CVS (with the Crescent ticket prices of course pushing people to take the Regional). A daily Cardinal would do very good business at CVS even with bumped up LD train prices. Other Cardinal stats are 2,998 passengers had both endpoints in VA; 31,703 had one endpoint in VA and the other out of the state. Not bad numbers for a 3 day a week train with poor on-time performance much of the year.

As for the route, Virginia is putting a fair amount of money into fixing up the Buckingham Branch RR tracks and signal system. About $25 million total IIRC, spread over the past several years and into FY2015. Once the track maintenance and tie replacement work is done and the $7 million allocated in FY14 & FY15 for a new long siding is spent, the Cardinal should have better time-keeping and trip times over the BBRR.

On the Chicago end, one CREATE project was completed last fall that appeared to help with the Cardinal OTP until this past spring. Other CREATE projects should help the Cardinal get in and out of CHI more reliably. it is the in-between to Indianapolis and Cincinnati to WV that is the problem. IN and OH are not exactly pro-passenger rail states at the present, so no prospects for corridor service projects to Indianapolis and Cincinnati that would also help the Cardinal.

Still the Cardinal gets good passenger numbers for 3 day week service with 116K passengers in FY12. Project that to daily service, even with no growth, 116K x 7/3 = 271K which is more passengers than the CONO or CL.
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Re: Cardinal discussion

Postby afiggatt » Fri Aug 02, 2013 4:45 pm

Woody wrote:I was more than a bit confused when I posted much, much earlier, was it in March?

A daily Cardinal can't come out of the 130-car order with CAF for Viewliner II diners, sleepers, crew dorms, and baggage cars. For these heritage diners and baggage cars that spend some time on the NEC, there'll be a simple one-for-one replacement of the old equipment. For several good reasons Amtrak will not be patching up the old stuff to keep using some beside the new equipment. No no no.

The heritage diners are a motley assortment from a number of different pre-Amtrak passenger railroads. Servicing, maintaining, repairing 20 or 30 one-of-a-kind cars is inefficient to downright difficult and costly. Using a standardized model is expected to cut costs nicely. I think the same applies to the sleepers. And like the heritage baggage cars, the old diners and sleepers rattle along the NEC at 'Watch Out! Be Careful!' speeds. So they often slow down Acelas and Regionals behind them. The whole bunch will have to go.

No, there are more than enough diner cars, baggage-dorms and sleepers in the current CAF order to support a daily Cardinal. It may be the Amfleet II coach cars that will be the tight inventory issue. The order is for 25 diners, 25 baggage-dorms, 25 sleepers. Amtrak has 20 Heritage diner cars plus the 8400 with 15 diner cars needed to supply the Crescent, LSL, Silvers on a daily basis with 5 spares. So the order is expanding the equipment base.

There are 2 Cardinal consists for 3 day a week service, daily will take 3 consists. So with 25 new diners and 25 baggage-dorms, Amtrak can support 18 consists with a bag-dorm and diner with 7 spares. There may be an issue with enough sleeper cars with the plans for a pass-through sleeper car on the Pennsylvanian and if #66/#67 were to each get a sleeper, but the Cardinal would getting a big boost in capacity if it were to get 2 sleeper cars plus bag-dorm on each consist.
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Re: Cardinal discussion

Postby Arlington » Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:21 am

Are there enough unused slots on CSX's Long Bridge (into DC) to support a Daily Cardinal? Everyone knows they're close to all spoken for, but I, for one, lost track of the "end game". Last I heard, it was so tight that Virginia was allowing Amtrak to use a VRE slot, implying that Amtrak had none of its own.

If you're Virginia (who seems to take the lead on CSX-wrangling & paying along the old RF&P), is a Daily Cardinal the best use of that rare and expensive slot?

And if it is about getting Charlottesville another frequency (on the Cardinal's off-days, or just because it is a booming market) can we actually squeeze a triangular routing WAS-RSM-CVS-WAS over the Buckingham Branch Railroad (without needing a new Long Bridge slot)
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Re: Cardinal discussion

Postby Woodcrest295 » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:16 am

Arent almost all of the slots on long bridge daily? If the Cardinal runs some days and not others, who/what is using the Cardinal slot when it is not running?
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Re: Cardinal discussion

Postby Greg Moore » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:19 am

Woodcrest295 wrote:Arent almost all of the slots on long bridge daily? If the Cardinal runs some days and not others, who/what is using the Cardinal slot when it is not running?


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Re: Cardinal discussion

Postby Arlington » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:50 am

Woodcrest295 wrote:Arent almost all of the slots on long bridge daily? If the Cardinal runs some days and not others, who/what is using the Cardinal slot when it is not running?

I believe the slots are bi-directional (1 movement, regardless of direction), and for all I know there's an odd number (although I don't think so) The Cardinal uses the bridge 1 time per day six days a week (3 in each direction). It would seem that on Sa/Su with Zero VREs running that slots (of any kind or number) are not a constraining problem then. This could leave just an odd few weekday slots.
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