Amtrak Operating Deficit Appears Likely to End

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Re: Amtrak Operating Deficit Appears Likely to End

Postby electricron » Sun Nov 26, 2017 3:41 am

David Benton wrote:By 2022, I think the question will be the ratio of Acela type equipment to regional type equipment. If Acela 2 is successful , I can't see why they wouldn't buy more of them, over more Amfleet replacements. One reason I can see , what to do with the ASC64's they have just brought , but a lashup between the 64's and a Acela type car would be possible.

They'll still be using the 64s on Long Distance and Regional trains the stray off the corridor - to Virginia, Vermont, Maine, Upstate NY, and to Harrisburg. The only reduction to Regional trains i see will be to those that don't stray away from the electric catenaries, and there aren't that many left anymore. Just check the NEC train schedules......
Limiting the trains to just weekdays and Southbound (Westbound Empire) to keep the list shorter.....Here's how I read it..........
67 extends to Newport News
151
111
*89 extends to Savanah
183
641 extends to Harrisburg
79 extends to Charolette
185
643 extends to Harrisburg
141 extends to Springfield
95 extends to Newport News
43 extends to Pittsburgh
*91 extends to Miami
125 extends to Norfolk
645 extends to Harrisburg
171 extends to Roanoke
609 extends to Harrisburg
133 Fr only
647 extends to Harrisburg
649 extends to Harrisburg
*19 extends to New Orleans
85 extends to Richmond
*97 extends to Miami
173
651 extends to Harrisburg
127
129
653 extends to Harrisburg
193
137
655 extends to Harrisburg
55 extends to Vermont
175
187
177
639 extends to Harrisburg
Empire Services
*49 extends to Chicago
63 extends to Toronto
69 extends to Montreal
291 extends to Vermont
233 extends to Albany
235 extends to Albany
255 Fr only, extends to Albany
281 extends to Niagara Falls
283 extends to Niagara Falls

Remember, this exercise only sums up trains running in just one direction......
Total non-Acela trains = 45
Long Distance trains = 5 (11%)
Trains extended beyond electric catenary = 33 (73.3%)
Trains running only under electric catenary = 12 (26.6%)
It's those 12 trains that run only under the electric catenary are the trains the new Acela train sets will probably make redundant. There will still be many trains that Amtrak will need to run those 64s on - like 73% of the existing non-Acela trains running on the corridor. .
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Re: Amtrak Operating Deficit Appears Likely to End

Postby jp1822 » Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:24 pm

Wow!!! This thread has really taken some twists and turns here... I am reminded of a glide path Amtrak once promoted.

Additional OPERATING revenue for necessary expansions as Acela II's are launched, replacement of the Amfleets, train sets that can contract and expand with demand but still be able to fit in the same size service "car barns," enough Acela II's running every half hour on the southern section and every hour on the northern section, the potential that NEC operations could even leverage a 5% fare discount, etc. Generating enough OPERATING revenue to service the debt and still yield a break even scenario..... Sounds good!

But be sure to keep a piggy bank for the CAPITAL cost requirements.

When the house of cards comes to a halt because Amtrak has NOT equally addressed the CAPITAL COST requirements of the infrastructure these trains run on (eg the crumbling NEC) what happens to the OPERATING revenue then? The NEC infrastructure is only going to endure more stress as additional trains and increased frequencies pound away at the rail bed. I take heed of David Gunn's comments too. Moreover, a successful launch of the Acela - delayed as it was - hinged on infrastructure improvements - some of which were never done. Are we heading for round 2 with Acela II, or how can this be mitigated, knowing capital improvements take years to complete?

The NEC requires a lot of capital so trains can currently operate on it, and it will only require more in the future, especially with increased frequencies and more cars pounding along on the rails to add even more stress to a stressed out system.

What's my point? Be careful with break even analysis and deficits going away. True, they may be operating deficits, but be sure to understand any operating benefits with capital cost requirements on the larger picture.
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Re: Amtrak Operating Deficit Appears Likely to End

Postby gokeefe » Sun Nov 26, 2017 2:13 pm

jp1822 wrote:What's my point? Be careful with break even analysis and deficits going away. True, they may be operating deficits, but be sure to understand any operating benefits with capital cost requirements on the larger picture.


Amtrak's operating budget and capital expenditures are two separate line items in the Congressional appropriation. Amtrak has no requirement (or ability) at the moment to self-fund capital upgrades to physical plant. They are in essence now funding capital upgrades to rolling stock (a fact which should not be looked upon lightly).

Consequently there is no linkage between improved operating results and requirements for capital upgrades (especially those to physical plant). For the time being I would expect this approach to continue. The things that could change all of this would be additional high speed service that captures market share and enhances Amtrak's revenues. For the moment the Southeast High Speed Rail (SEHSR) project would appear to be the most likely candidate but that is still several decades away from initiation of service.
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Re: Amtrak Operating Deficit Appears Likely to End

Postby jp1822 » Sun Nov 26, 2017 4:32 pm

gokeefe wrote:
jp1822 wrote:What's my point? Be careful with break even analysis and deficits going away. True, they may be operating deficits, but be sure to understand any operating benefits with capital cost requirements on the larger picture.


Amtrak's operating budget and capital expenditures are two separate line items in the Congressional appropriation. Amtrak has no requirement (or ability) at the moment to self-fund capital upgrades to physical plant. They are in essence now funding capital upgrades to rolling stock (a fact which should not be looked upon lightly).

Consequently there is no linkage between improved operating results and requirements for capital upgrades (especially those to physical plant). For the time being I would expect this approach to continue. The things that could change all of this would be additional high speed service that captures market share and enhances Amtrak's revenues. For the moment the Southeast High Speed Rail (SEHSR) project would appear to be the most likely candidate but that is still several decades away from initiation of service.


Be careul... There is a linkage between improved operating results and good infrastructure, which is funded by capital monies. Amtrak has an indirect (if not direct) responsibility on both (e.g. can't cast a blind eye). Acela II's have to be designed (and financial models built) based on a lackluster infrastructure to which they will operate on. Well aware of how Amtrak is funded and also how the Amfleet Refresh is being funded.
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Re: Amtrak Operating Deficit Appears Likely to End

Postby mtuandrew » Sun Nov 26, 2017 4:35 pm

It’s more likely that some in Congress tie Amtrak’s operational and capital expenditure budgets together and underfund both, whether out of duty to the free market or to airline & bus interests. I’m not too sanguine about Amtrak’s odds in this Congress even with its record profits, especially since there are only so many hills a pro-transit representative can figuratively die upon.
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Re: Amtrak Operating Deficit Appears Likely to End

Postby gokeefe » Fri Nov 16, 2018 7:42 pm

Another 13% knocked off the operating deficit. Would have been far more without two major derailments. Per Bloomberg.

All of these improvements are happening prior to deployment of the new Avelia Liberty trainsets.
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Re: Amtrak Operating Deficit Appears Likely to End

Postby Station Aficionado » Fri Nov 16, 2018 10:46 pm

At the risk of life and limb, I wonder how close they would be to break even (although, of course, not counting depreciation makes things so much easier) if they eliminated traditional dining car service across the system.
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Re: Amtrak Operating Deficit Appears Likely to End

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Sat Nov 17, 2018 10:15 am

While my reaction to Mr. O'Keefe's immediate is that Mr. Anderson is doing his job and the results are beginning to show, others evidently hold differing views - including this Railway Age columnist:

Open Content:

https://railwayage.com/passenger/interc ... l-records/

Fair Use:

Editor’s Notes (translating much of the euphemistic, corporate-speak nonsense language in Amtrak’s press release):
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Sat Nov 17, 2018 10:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Amtrak Operating Deficit Appears Likely to End

Postby Tom M » Sat Nov 17, 2018 10:20 am

Another possible cost reduction would be to eliminate baggage handling. Maybe even prohibit any baggage. The airlines could do this, too. Reduce the weight load, eliminate the staffing. Amtrak could even take out the seats, offering standing room only, resulting in increased capacity and easier cleaning at terminals. But... might the customers react negatively to the experience? Of course. Amenities are important. We aren't dealing with captive customers who have no other choice. As the airlines tell us every day, "We know you have a choice when traveling, and we appreciate that you chose..." Amtrak is a choice, too. Peeling away the amenities, the "comfort" features, that contribute to the experience, diminish the experience. The railroads did that abundantly in the fifties with great success, driving away passengers. Eliminating full food service across the system would produce short-term cost savings, but long-term customer dissatisfaction and defection.
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Re: Amtrak Operating Deficit Appears Likely to End

Postby Station Aficionado » Sat Nov 17, 2018 10:42 am

The Silver Star would appear to be evidence to the contrary. I don’t actually believe that break even food and beverage service is possible or desirable. But it seems clear that the traditional dining car is a money pit. Looking for new (and less expensive) ways is a good thing. Some won’t work, some will. Some older ways are better, some aren’t. Trying to maintain all 1950’s practices permanently, though, isn’t likely to end in a good place.
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Re: Amtrak Operating Deficit Appears Likely to End

Postby Rockingham Racer » Sat Nov 17, 2018 10:52 am

I am surprised they don't charge for baggage. And airlines have a tax on tickets. Why not Amtrak?

Okay, go ahead and fire away! :-D
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Re: Amtrak Operating Deficit Appears Likely to End

Postby Rockingham Racer » Sat Nov 17, 2018 10:57 am

Station Aficionado wrote:The Silver Star would appear to be evidence to the contrary. I don’t actually believe that break even food and beverage service is possible or desirable. But it seems clear that the traditional dining car is a money pit. Looking for new (and less expensive) ways is a good thing. Some won’t work, some will. Some older ways are better, some aren’t. Trying to maintain all 1950’s practices permanently, though, isn’t likely to end in a good place.


The railroads knew that dining cars were a money pit long before Amtrak came along. They saw them as an amenity that attracted more passengers, though. Then along came Southern Pacific in the late 60s. And here we are: déjà vu. Making long distance passenger train travel so lousy that numbers of passengers decline. That's the current plan, isn't it?
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Re: Amtrak Operating Deficit Appears Likely to End

Postby J.D. Lang » Sat Nov 17, 2018 11:28 am

Ok, Stepping out of the box a bit with a hypothetical; Would eliminating all long distance trains and keeping only the NEC and state sponsored regional services make Amtrak "profitable"?

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Re: Amtrak Operating Deficit Appears Likely to End

Postby oamundsen » Sat Nov 17, 2018 2:17 pm

As far as I know, Amtrak is supposed to be a National Passenger Railroad System, not a collection of fragments of short, uncoordinated trains. To simply chop a system to pieces, and cut your way to deficit free status is easy: keeping and expanding a true national system take a whole lot more brain power, conviction, courage and political savvy then is existent in the current Amtrak senior management.
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Re: Amtrak Operating Deficit Appears Likely to End

Postby Station Aficionado » Sat Nov 17, 2018 4:23 pm

The railroads knew that dining cars were a money pit long before Amtrak came along. They saw them as an amenity that attracted more passengers, though. Then along came Southern Pacific in the late 60s. And here we are: déjà vu. Making long distance passenger train travel so lousy that numbers of passengers decline. That's the current plan, isn't it?


True, but were they not looking at attracting business travel, particularly travel by their freight customers? They has a business reason to eat the cost that may not exist today.

I’m not sure how important dining service is to the modern train traveling public as compared to how important it is to the railfan community. Most LD passengers travel in coach and, at least in my experience, few coach passengers eat in the diner. LD ridership was indeed down in FY18. How much of that was due to fewer sleeper passengers unhappy with the dining service vs. the reasons Amtrak gives—weather, delays, annulled trains—vs. the decline just being statistical noise? I don’t know. We’ll need some more ridership numbers to try to tease that out.
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