Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

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Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby XC Tower » Wed Nov 14, 2018 4:08 pm

Since its inception Amtrak has always seemed to be in some sort of battle to survive. Now, some four decades plus beyond that, things seem no different (perhaps only more so now in an ominous way, creating a real bad feeling within me). I claim to be no expert on the subject of passenger rail travel, but in my opinion, it seems that the one thing Amtrak has become good at is just that....surviving. Years ago, I used to look for solutions. Now, it is seeking acceptance, just being happy about the train being available as a travel option. The best explanation on the subject was from an Amtrak conductor who I asked the question to while riding north on the Silver Meteor. His answer was "All passenger rail is political and all politics are local."
I value, as well as welcome, the viewpoints of others. Please share them.


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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby CarterB » Wed Nov 14, 2018 4:25 pm

Except for the NE corridor and where the states like NC and CA cofund operations, I think Amtrak is doomed to just dwindle away to a bunch of unconnected regional rail systems.
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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby Tadman » Wed Nov 14, 2018 5:36 pm

CarterB wrote:Except for the NE corridor and where the states like NC and CA cofund operations, I think Amtrak is doomed to just dwindle away to a bunch of unconnected regional rail systems.


Define “connected”. There are four regional systems linked by long distance trains that carry less than 1% of traffic on that route. Are the regions really connected when there’s only a 1x/day with 100-200 passengers aboard, not all endpoint traffic? That’s tenuous at best and a significant drain on resources at worst. How many off-regional cities like MSP or Tucson could have meaningful regional service with those resources?
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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby Amtrak706 » Wed Nov 14, 2018 7:28 pm

Nothing was really embattled until Anderson and the rest of Amtrak's current leadership created all these crises out of nothing. As recently as two years ago, everything was pretty much fine as far as the future of Amtrak - besides the usual BS of course. I don't think a topic like this would have been posted in the Boardman years.
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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby Matt Johnson » Wed Nov 14, 2018 9:46 pm

Amtrak706 wrote:Nothing was really embattled until Anderson and the rest of Amtrak's current leadership created all these crises out of nothing. As recently as two years ago, everything was pretty much fine as far as the future of Amtrak - besides the usual BS of course. I don't think a topic like this would have been posted in the Boardman years.


Or had Biden run and continued Obama's passenger rail friendly policies. (I maintain that Biden would have easily defeated Trump.)
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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby SouthernRailway » Thu Nov 15, 2018 5:44 am

The Republicans congress increased Amtrak’s funding. Doesn’t that indicate that it will be around for a long time?
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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby mtuandrew » Thu Nov 15, 2018 6:27 am

SouthernRailway wrote:The Republicans congress increased Amtrak’s funding. Doesn’t that indicate that it will be around for a long time?

No, it indicates that they are too focused on judgeships and general capitalist policies now to worry about small fish social projects like Amtrak. If they retake the House and retain the presidency in 2020 - whether under #45 or #46 - expect LD Amtrak to disappear within a budget cycle. Maybe they would sell the Silver Service franchise to Brightline under the guidance of freshman Senator-elect(?) Scott.
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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Thu Nov 15, 2018 10:45 am

This event is "ancient history" and the next election cycle is two years away, but I had not seen this clip before:

https://www.c-span.org/video/?422286-1/ ... hington-dc

Let's "be discrete" about any political comments, lest this and possibly the entire topic, get killed.
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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby frequentflyer » Thu Nov 15, 2018 11:09 am

mtuandrew wrote:
SouthernRailway wrote:The Republicans congress increased Amtrak’s funding. Doesn’t that indicate that it will be around for a long time?

No, it indicates that they are too focused on judgeships and general capitalist policies now to worry about small fish social projects like Amtrak. If they retake the House and retain the presidency in 2020 - whether under #45 or #46 - expect LD Amtrak to disappear within a budget cycle. Maybe they would sell the Silver Service franchise to Brightline under the guidance of freshman Senator-elect(?) Scott.


Truth be told Amtrak has not fared too well under Demacratic administrations either.

The future of passenger rail is not dependent on Amtrak as Brightline and state supported regional trains have shown (if the freight railroads can get the same liability deal with someone else other than Amtrak, then they would take it). And maybe that is for the best. Rail decisions should be made locally and not nationally. Regional, commuter and major airlines have evolved over the last 40 years and so have the host freight railroads Amtrak runs on. Its naive or unrealistic to think that Amtrak should or will look the same as when formed.
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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby Nasadowsk » Thu Nov 15, 2018 11:48 am

frequentflyer wrote:The future of passenger rail is not dependent on Amtrak as Brightline and state supported regional trains have shown


The future of passenger rail in the US is going to depend more on what happens in the coming years with autonomous (or semi autonomous) cars, and buses, plus an increasingly hybrid and electric automotive landscape.

Unless passenger rail brings something compelling to the table, ridership will evaporate.
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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby electricron » Thu Nov 15, 2018 12:05 pm

While it appears that Amtrak is becoming many regional railroads, I would argue it already is. Half of its ridership rides on the NEC alone (50%), half of the rest rides in California alone (25%), and half of the remainder rides in the Midwest alone (12%). LD trains connecting these regions makes up less than 10% of Amtrak’s total ridership. While I will admit the %%% I suggested earlier are generalizations, i’ll Leave it to others to research the exact data - which is always extremely difficult to find in what Amtrak publishes.
Ridership on the LD trains has been decreasing over recent years, and with the decreasing levels of services provided aboard, I expect decreasing ridership on LD trains to continue. At some point, nobody is going to miss eliminating them. At that point when LD trains are eliminated, Amtrak is no longer a national railroad and therefore loses any reason to exist. As long as LD trains survive interconnecting it’s regional train networks, then it keeps its national political charter to exist.
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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby Matt Johnson » Thu Nov 15, 2018 12:37 pm

Nasadowsk wrote:
Unless passenger rail brings something compelling to the table, ridership will evaporate.


Until I can get up, stretch my legs, walk to the diner or cafe for a bite to eat, a coffee, or a beer, at speeds over 100 mph, then I don't feel swayed by the prospect of autonomous cars. Rail is best when it's able to exploit its capability - i.e. not running 100+ mph capable equipment at 79 mph or less - but I think there's a future for passenger rail regardless of likely developments in transportation (and no, I don't consider hyperloop to be a likely viable solution - I'd sooner bet on maglev).
Last edited by Matt Johnson on Thu Nov 15, 2018 3:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby mtuandrew » Thu Nov 15, 2018 2:42 pm

Even 79mph Amtrak has value, though it’s obnoxious to see:
a) Megabus going 80+ mph from my Amtrak coach window
b) a miserable excuse for a cafe car
c) sidings, lots of sidings, for a half hour at a time
d) NYP generally

I’m looking forward to a day where Amtrak has its own eastern Chicago access and its own dedicated passenger bridge across the Potomac, and especially can’t wait for hundreds of miles of passenger-primary third track signaled for 90/110 mph. I think it can happen with a major sustained effort, unlike the piecemeal efforts it has taken for the scattered segments currently in service.
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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby Suburban Station » Thu Nov 15, 2018 2:57 pm

Amtrak706 wrote:Nothing was really embattled until Anderson and the rest of Amtrak's current leadership created all these crises out of nothing. As recently as two years ago, everything was pretty much fine as far as the future of Amtrak - besides the usual BS of course. I don't think a topic like this would have been posted in the Boardman years.

I disagree. the boardman years were marked by accidents and a lack of vision on where the company was going. the Anderson era has been more chaotic but someone needed to refocus on safety before Amtrak completely destroyed its brand
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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby CarterB » Thu Nov 15, 2018 3:51 pm

I still maintain that Amtrak will dissolve/continue to devolve..into a few unconnected regional networks.
Bring back the Slumbercoaches!!
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