Why isn't Amtrak copying Brightline?

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Re: Why isn't Amtrak copying Brightline?

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Sat Jan 20, 2018 4:40 pm

SouthernRailway wrote: Isn't Amtrak supposed to be "for-profit", though?

That's what the language says, Mr. SRY, but be it assured all concerned that another bureaucracy was being born. The language was there to mollify President Nixon who would have been loath to have a new bureaucracy formed during his presidency (of course we conveniently forget the EPA).

I was in the industry ("not ecactly" high up) during the formation of Amtrak. The "for profit" stuff was good for a joke.
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Re: Why isn't Amtrak copying Brightline?

Postby DutchRailnut » Sat Jan 20, 2018 6:03 pm

only thing that language said was for Amtrak to operate as if it were a for profit agency, vs being a federal agency.
If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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Re: Why isn't Amtrak copying Brightline?

Postby Tadman » Sat Jan 20, 2018 7:04 pm

Gilbert B Norman wrote:
SouthernRailway wrote: Isn't Amtrak supposed to be "for-profit", though?

That's what the language says, Mr. SRY, but be it assured all concerned that another bureaucracy was being born. The language was there to mollify President Nixon who would have been loath to have a new bureaucracy formed during his presidency (of course we conveniently forget the EPA).

I was in the industry ("not ecactly" high up) during the formation of Amtrak. The "for profit" stuff was good for a joke.


The identity crisis here is the root of the problem at Amtrak. Is it for-profit? Is it a public service? To what degree should it be either assuming there is a spectrum and no exigent factors that affect the service-versus-profit tradeoff.

Given the extreme identity crisis the carrier has seen over 45 years and the complete unpredictability of who the friends will be - certainly has not been along party lines - it's very hard to evaluate the company for doing anything other than staying alive and running trains. It doesn't surprise me that they're afraid to clearly define a strategy (either profit or public good) as they'd lose either the public backing and NEC profits or both.

I have long maintained that the concept of franchising out a few operations is sound practice, as these new for-profit operators have no political baggage and freedom to take risk and innovate. If the risk fails, our tax dollars aren't wasted. If the risk succeeds, Amtrak can adopt the innovation.

For example:

1. Iowa Pacific banked on deluxe food service to increase passenger loads and thus revenues. It didn't work (although the revenue share w/ CSX is an exigency there) so Amtrak hasn't gone back to traditional food service.

2. Auto Train Corp took a risk and proved that, in at least the eastern market, people were willing to do the car-on-train concept. Although they went under due to overexpansion and some accidents, the concept proved sound and Amtrak adopted it without having to take much of a risk.

3. With Brightline - Amtrak risked a lot on this new multi-level, and after the failure, wound up with a deal for Siemens cars that were already being delivered and certainly had passed crash tests. The fallback itself (after dust settled from their latest disaster) cost them little.

Perhaps selecting franchise operators for at/near profit corridor services would be the smart move with a healthy revenue split for all.
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Re: Why isn't Amtrak copying Brightline?

Postby Noel Weaver » Sat Jan 20, 2018 7:31 pm

Amtrak is not Brightline and Brightline is not Amtrak. They can not be the same. Brightline has different operating practices than Amtrak has. Brightline has the advantage of a receptive freight railroad the Florida East Coast. Brightline has the advantage of running their trains their way with the people they consider they need and without anybody who they don't need. Amtrak does not have these advantages. Brightline is still putting their systems together and they have not finished their preparations as yet. In the beginning (now) they probably have more folks than they will need for day to day operation but they will absorb the people who appear now to be excess when they expand to Miami this year and to Orlando in two or three years. Brightline is owned by the same company that has huge real estate holdings in Miami and other parts of Florida and Amtrak never had those kind of holdings on the same basis as Brightline. On Brightline the same person might check your ticket, get you to your seat, assist you with your baggage and bring you a snack or your drink. On Amtrak it would probably requre a separate person for each of the named functions. On Brightline every passenger is treated as a guest without exception, Amtrak on the other hand has not found a way to be consistent in that policy. Brightline personnel have been trained in multi tasks probably to a greater degree than Amtrak have. Brightline will eventually run a profitable passenger service at least in the state of Florida, I am very convinced of that from what I have head, seen and witnessed at least so far. Brightline will be a model for all passenger services in the US to follow down the road. Brightline's specialty appears to be corridor type services of 100 to maybe 400 miles like Miami - Orlando, Miami - Jacksonville, Tampa - Jacksonville and in this type operation a passenger train service has its best potential. If Brightline sticks to this policy I think they will excel at everything they do especially if they have cooperation from the states and in some cases the freight railroads as well. If handled properly the future is very bright and I think Brightline will handle it very well, they have some real brains in their leadership.
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Re: Why isn't Amtrak copying Brightline?

Postby Alex M » Sat Jan 20, 2018 7:48 pm

Not to mention that many in Brightline's management ranks hail from the hospitality industry. An important consideration in a state where tourism is very important.
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Re: Why isn't Amtrak copying Brightline?

Postby SouthernRailway » Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:05 pm

Sounds like Amtrak needs to form some subsidiaries and let those subsidiaries do whatever they want to be creative in finding was to add and improve service and financing sources, free from whatever shackles are holding Amtrak back. The explanations above are helpful in that I see why Amtrak hasn't done something as dramatic as Brightline, but it's infuriating that so many parts of the US could have great rail service, but don't, due to Amtrak's inertia or whatever the reason is.

Wouldn’t Amtrak senior management be so sick of having to beg for money from Congress that they would do anything to find new revenue sources?

Thank goodness for the private sector.
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Re: Why isn't Amtrak copying Brightline?

Postby David Benton » Sun Jan 21, 2018 3:56 am

Is Brightline a "Union" operation , and do the onboard jobs differ from Amtrak in that respect?
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Re: Why isn't Amtrak copying Brightline?

Postby adamj023 » Sun Jan 21, 2018 7:47 am

While the Brightline team has been very competent as it is a private sector project, there is no real profit in high speed trains.

Assuming Brightline was completed and went from Orlando to Miami, they will find out passenger yields would be much lower than expected.

People like to drive or use ridesharing, and can use airplane or even bus which is the cheaper alternative. Also growth in Orlando Florida is non existant. A need does exist for Commuter rail like Tri Rail for instance. But a need does not exist for Newer Brightline stops including Miami, West Palm Beach, Ft Lauderdale and Cocoa and Orlando. The We build it and they will come model won’t work here.

The high speed rail model won’t work for much of the USA and Florida is one of them. In the Brightline model I do believe MiamiCentral station that is bein built is the only bright spot which is sustainable but by commuter rail like Tri Rail and not Brightline. The stations of West Palm Beach and FT Lauderdale could be used by Trirail for new stations on the FEC corridor in addition to more commuter rail stations on the line.

Brightline essentially fronted the costs of the upgrades on the line and new station construction. But when funds run dry, a lower cost operator like Tri Rail with additional stations added which are needed to sustain revenue will take over. I am certain of it. I would never have invested in Brightline as a company because there will be no profit and substantial unrecoverable losses.

It is 50/50 if they will be even able to build out Orlando and Cocoa which may never get built out. I do not believe they will get further than Orlando if it even happens to get built out however. I don’t see a buildout happen to Jacksonville at all.
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Re: Why isn't Amtrak copying Brightline?

Postby Nasadowsk » Sun Jan 21, 2018 9:14 am

adamj023 wrote:The high speed rail model won’t work for much of the USA and Florida is one of them.


Since when was 79mph 'high speed'? Sure, the later segments are supposed to be 125mph, but that's still not exactly high speed.

In any case, Brightline seems to be faster than driving, which is key. Speed sells.

Off the Corridor, Amtrak is slower than just about anything but walking. It has no advantages to attract ridership.
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Re: Why isn't Amtrak copying Brightline?

Postby electricron » Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:52 am

Nasadowsk wrote:
adamj023 wrote:The high speed rail model won’t work for much of the USA and Florida is one of them.


Since when was 79mph 'high speed'? Sure, the later segments are supposed to be 125mph, but that's still not exactly high speed.

In any case, Brightline seems to be faster than driving, which is key. Speed sells.

Off the Corridor, Amtrak is slower than just about anything but walking. It has no advantages to attract ridership.


Brightline trains will not be going 79 mph most of the way. They promised 60 mph max speeds between Miami and Fort Lauderdale (29 miles), 79 mph max between Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach (47 miles), 110 mph max between Palm Beach and Cocoa (136 miles), and 125 mph max between Cocoa and Orlando (46 miles). Weighed per mile, the average max speed between Miami and Orlando would be 101.4 mph. That is 22 mph higher than 79 mph.
Math:
(60x29) + (79x47) + (110x136) + (125x46) = 1740 + 3713 + 14960 + 5750 = 26163
29 + 47 + 136 + 46 = 258
26163 / 258 = 101.4

For what it is worth, they promised elapse times around 3 hours between Miami and Orlando. Therefore the average speed of the train would be 86 mph.
Math:
258 / 3 = 86 mph

If it were as you suggested, with just 79 mph max speeds between Palm Beach and Cocoa, the weighted average max speed would be mph.
Math
1740 + 3713 + (79x126) + 5750 = 16157
16157 / 258 = 62.6 mph.

Please explain to me how a train can achieve a higher average speed (86 mph) than its weighted average max speed (62.6 mph)?

Therefore, max train speeds between West Palm Beach and Cocoa will have to be higher than 79 mph - or they will have to drop their promised 3 hour elapse time between Miami and Orlando.

FYI, the counties north of Palm Beach fighting the Brightline trains are worried about 110 mph train speeds just as much as they are about an increase in the number of trains. Please don't forget that.
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Re: Why isn't Amtrak copying Brightline?

Postby Nasadowsk » Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:59 am

I meant the initial segment was 79mph. I knew the later ones were 125mph.
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Re: Why isn't Amtrak copying Brightline?

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Sun Jan 21, 2018 12:54 pm

David Benton wrote:Is Brightline a "Union" operation , and do the onboard jobs differ from Amtrak in that respect?


A most interesting point, Mr. Benton.

Apparently at this time, Brightline employees are not covered by Agreement. By contrast, FEC employees are covered by craft with Agreements between the major rail labor organizations.

During the Strike, FEC operated with Non-Agreement employees, but did as time went on the employees formed a "company union". How and when they came to be represented (presumably the major Unions won Elections) is not clear to me.

Having "Union" and "Non-Union" employees operating trains over the same road escapes me. I doubt if this "scab" situation will remain for long - and I can only hope AAF's business plan reflects wages and benefits for employees covered by Agreement.
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Re: Why isn't Amtrak copying Brightline?

Postby dowlingm » Sun Jan 21, 2018 1:18 pm

Gilbert B Norman wrote:Having "Union" and "Non-Union" employees operating trains over the same road escapes me. I doubt if this "scab" situation will remain for long - and I can only hope AAF's business plan reflects wages and benefits for employees covered by Agreement.
is this because you regard FEC and Brightline as materially the same entity at present, or you would think that even if Brightline was, say, an Iowa Pacific venture buying access from FEC? If the latter, that - to an extent - freezes the development of rail passenger ventures in a way airlines and road services are not.
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Re: Why isn't Amtrak copying Brightline?

Postby mtuandrew » Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:11 pm

A reminder to all: the last time Amtrak dug heavily into competing in the private sector was the Glidepath era complete with new trains and poor business decisions. Their relationship with freight railroads is still suffering, and they’re just clawing their way back to a state of good repair.
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Re: Why isn't Amtrak copying Brightline?

Postby David Benton » Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:36 pm

I was reflecting more on Noel Weaver's observation, that the same employee seemed to perform multiple tasks, vs Amtrak, where say , you wouldn't expect the assistant conductor to serve you a cup of coffee. i think this difference is way more important than difference in wages, for customer perception more than anything. I.e , why is that employee sitting in the cafe car doing "nothing", while I'm waiting for my cup of coffee. Also gives the impression of a team effort, to serve you .
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