Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby jonnhrr » Thu Nov 15, 2018 4:55 pm

A few thoughts

1. My own opinion is that autonomous cars are overhyped and aren't going to be here anytime soon, maybe never. Sure they work in carefully controlled settings in places like Southern California with no bad weather. OTOH there has been a definite trend in improvements to safety features such as detection of cars ahead and automatic braking. Perhaps we might see it in a more controlled environment such as rural limited access highways.

2. Even if we had autonomous cars it doesn't really help in moving x number of people quickly and efficiently as you still have the same square footage of highway occupied by an auto. The necessary safety considerations may slow things down even more than today's drivers - for example it would likely enforce the spacing between cars that on current freeways gets compressed as people tend to tailgate.

3. And there is the question of comfort for long trips. Even if it were autonomous you are still stuck in a car and can't move around freely.

So for reasons 1, 2, and 3 I am not worried about autonomous cars putting Amtrak (or commuter rail for that matter) out of business.

4. Don't we really already have a de facto set of unconnected corridors? The current LD system mostly one a day or less, with arrival time reliability such that you almost always need to have several hours or even an overnight at a connecting city between trains. Corridors of 200 - 500 miles is where the train shines and where Amtrak's focus should be. If we need to serve the small towns along the current LD routes, buses would be a lot more economical and probably faster. Maybe we need an Ambus system! (yes I know heresy).
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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby Amtrak706 » Thu Nov 15, 2018 9:26 pm

Suburban Station wrote:
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

I agree with you about the lack of vision but I would still prefer that over what we have now where everything is under threat with no good replacement in mind. As far as the accident streak goes, only 188 was during the Boardman years. The Cascades wrecks, Cayce, the Acela separation, Chester, and the NYP derailments were all under Moorman/Anderson (although I’m definitely not trying to say there is any correlation between those two and the accidents, that would be far too brief of a period for a culture shift). It’s entirely possible that something Boardman’s administration did set the stage for some of those incidents, but I don’t really know what that would be.
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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby Tadman » Thu Nov 15, 2018 9:54 pm

Suburban Station wrote:
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


Good point. Remember how Don Phillips insisted the sky was falling virtually every month in his column? He couldn’t get enough of Boardman bashing. It was the end of time as far as he was concerned.

Guess what?

It was not the end of time or the end of Amtrak, and the future is a lot more ambiguous now under the new Chief than it was under Boardman.
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Re: Embattled Amtrak-Can It Survive?

Postby eolesen » Fri Nov 16, 2018 12:16 am

Oh, the clutching of pearls and wringing of hands over Amtrak...

I tire of the narrative often repeated here that Republicans have it in for Amtrak. Joe Boardman was a Republican appointee, and compared to other contemporary CEO's of Amtrak, he was pretty successful at doing fleet renewals. But, he also pissed away at least two years of meeting the mandates from PRIAA 2014 regarding food service losses. Wick Moorman didn't do anything about it either.

Now Anderson is the guy sitting at the two minute warning with no time outs left. Hate the moves he's made if you want, but right now he's Amtrak's best chance for survival. There isn't enough time to bring in another CEO and still be in compliance with PRIAA 2014. Certainly, with a divided Congress, there won't be any changes in Congress's ability to move the goalposts between now and 2020.
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