LD-to-LD in Chicago

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Re: LD-to-LD in Chicago

Postby mtuandrew » Thu Mar 14, 2019 10:36 am

I once sprinted to make the connection between a very late Capitol Limited and an Empire Builder held half an hour for us, so I appreciate the guaranteed connection. This sounds like a job for more LDs per route and better in¢entive$ to NS and CSX in particular.

Though Amtrak would do well to offer discounted hotel accommodations as an integral part of the booking process, once the Union Station hotel is complete.
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Re: LD-to-LD in Chicago

Postby John_Perkowski » Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:59 pm

Gilbert B Norman wrote:Several thoughts come to mind reviewing this topic.

Regarding Col. Perkowski's, report, those transcontinental Pullman lines through Chicago originated "after The War", and all had the Adios drumhead hanging during a 1958 timetable change.


As I recall, that’s about the time the NYC left the Pullman Company in its entirety. It seems to have carried the majority of the nationwide traffic.

Even so, Amtrak was able to do this back in 1973, with the National Limited/Southwest Limited combination traversing Kansas City. I know, I was booked on an ex Pennsy Budd 10-6 that went hot as soon as it was hooked up to the train.
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Re: LD-to-LD in Chicago

Postby Tadman » Thu Mar 14, 2019 4:44 pm

So I did the research today. According to a source here in town, there is 500 people or 5% of daily boardings are transfers. That includes LD-to-LD, LD-to-corridor, and corridor-to-LD, but not between Amtrak and Metra. If the proportion of connections between LD and corridor is the same as the proportion of overall LD to corridor riders, that means something like 40-50 riders per day connect LD-to-LD.

Regarding an in-house sleeping arrangement for misconnects, that is indeed done. Usually two sleepers are parked on 24 for just this purpose. I'm not sure if this is financially feasible given the cleaning and crewing requirements. Does this require car attendants, conductor, or honeywagon to empty the toilets?

Arborwayfan wrote:It doesn't make sense to plan as though everyone rode LDs end to end. Cleveland to Denver is about 24 hours. Being willing to take that time does not equal being willing to take 48 hours. Elkhart to Omaha? Pittsburgh to Burlington? Indianapolis to Ft. Morgan?


Some of those examples has a far more reliable corridor train alternative. The Elkhart passenger can either wait for a 1x/day Late For Sure Limited or drive fifteen minutes to Niles and have 4 trains Michigan trains/day into Chicago. The Indy passenger can take the Hoosier if they choose the right day and not have to wait for another dog of a train to get in. Why would either of those passengers want to sit at Indy or Elkhart (both awful stations) for any number of hours when a far more predictable corridor train is available?
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Re: LD-to-LD in Chicago

Postby bratkinson » Fri Mar 15, 2019 12:34 am

Several years ago in Trains magazine, there was an article about the 'ins and outs' of Amtrak LD scheduling.

The most critical point being the ability to 'make connections' in Chicago. That's why trains from the east (29, 49, 51) arrive in the morning and departing trains to the west (3,5,7) leave in the early/mid afternoon, which leaves the terminal sort of empty for the arrival of trains from the west (4,6,8,22/422) for even departures eastbound (28,48,50). Breaking those connections would wipe out many connecting passengers. A couple years ago, on a 3 hr late #6, about 15 passengers including me were offloaded at Galesburg and bused to Indianapolis to board #50. From my limited experience, I would guess there's 20 or more passengers connecting from each arriving westbound train to each departing westbound train and vice versa eastbound. In round numbers, if all the connections were broken, I estimate there'd be 100 passengers PER DAY that would either put themselves up in a hotel ($150+) or abandon Amtrak altogether. If you want to kill LD trains, break all the connections in CHI. Game over in 12-24 months.

Think of it this way...how many non-railfan/non-Amtrak savvy passengers would fail to notice the loss of a day in Chicago when booking online if same-day connections were broken? And having to first FIND, then travel to/from a hotel with an available room for the night 'on their own' would EVER travel Amtrak again? Try booking El Paso TX to Atlanta GA on your puny-sized screen cell phone...unless you read the microscopic 'arrival date and time' and 'departure date and time' at New Orleans, you're in for a rude awakening when you arrive at NOL Passengers are only concerned with times at their start and end points (ELP & ATL), not where they have to switch trains. And how many AIRLINE passengers have to spend a night to make a connection?
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Re: LD-to-LD in Chicago

Postby Arborwayfan » Fri Mar 15, 2019 10:07 am

So, Tadman, you say Amtrak should not allow (or at least not guarantee) connections between LD trains at Chicago, but should allow connections between LD and corridor trains? Isn't it more complicated than that? For starters, connecting _to_ an LD train is not a problem; LD trains are not going to leave early and neither are corridor trains. The problem is the late arriving LD trains, which arrive late a lot more than corridor trains. So would you say that Amtrak should not guarantee connections between from LD trains to any other trains, or do you really only mean LD to LD connections?

For example, say you want to go west from Champaign-Urbana or Effingham: CZ to Illini is currently risky but allowed; if CZ is late pax get put onto the City of New Orleans, four hours after the Illini. Often I book via the City and then, if the CZ is on time or early (both happen) I can often change my ticket (I don't know if the new fare rules would allow that or not). Going the other way City of New Orleans to CZ is allowed and not risky because there are 5.5 hours between scheduled arrival and scheduled departure and the City is usually within an hour or two; Saluki to CZ is not allowed because there is only an hour between scheduled arrival and scheduled departure, which probably makes sense but is annoying because you get up crazy early to catch the City northbound and then the Saluki comes in while you're in the waiting room.

Maybe Amtrak should have more nuanced rules: they have arrival data, and it wouldn't be hard to figure out exactly which connections are really risky and specifically not allow those particular connections. I don't know what percentage of connecting pax miss their connections. Do you? Anyway, Amtrak could figure out which connections work more than 90% of the time, or 95%, or unless there is severe weather or a major derailment or some other unusual situation, and guarantee those connections, and not guarantee the others.
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Re: LD-to-LD in Chicago

Postby Tadman » Fri Mar 15, 2019 10:59 am

Because the LD trains are much riskier in timekeeping than corridor trains, I advocate for not guaranteeing same day connection from one LD to another. Connections between LD and corridor are much less risky because inbound corridor trains are more likely to be on time due to the shorter trip and delays are less (it's hard to delay a Detroit train by 12-14 hours...). The reverse is also less risky because if an LD is late inbound, there is a chance of another corridor train given that most Chicago corridors are 3x or 5x.

We've heard a lot of people saying "It would never work" and "you'd lose passengers" but the evidence says otherwise.

1. Via has gained passengers rather than lost them after requesting passengers on 1/2 don't make same-day flights home in Vancouver or Toronto.

2. According to numbers at Wikipedia and sources at Amtrak, there are maybe 500 transfer passengers/day total in Chicago, leading me to believe there are 50-ish LD-to-LD transfers (given the proportion of LD seats and corridor seats into the city every day). Of that, some have the tolerance for the new rule, some wouldn't. Assume half don't, and Amtrak loses them.

Now that there are 25 lost ticket sales, that has to be balanced with the money lost from putting people up at night and feeding them (even spare sleepers on 24 have a cost), and the bad PR from misconnects. How many passengers say "never again" after a misconnect?

That number also has to be balanced with the concept of peak travel. Amtrak has quiet periods in winter and weekdays, and peaks in summer and weekend. Casual use of the ticketing app on the homepage indicates that summer and weekend trains are usually near capacity. What's to say that peak-period 25/day passengers lost wouldn't immediately have their slot bought by more flexible travelers? Given the behavior of passengers, I suspect that there are probably plenty more lined up with cash in hand for peak trips.

For off-peak trips? You can't lose passengers you don't have.

So this is a money saving idea that works well because it fits passenger behavior patterns and railroad operational patterns. Clearly nobody likes it. This is ironic given that this board witnesses a monthly "why don't we have a new LD train from Chicago-New Orleans-Tampa" or "extend the sunset" thread, neither of which have any basis in passenger behavior or railroad operations.

Herewith, I propose a twice-daily 26-car all-sleeper matching lightweight streamliner from Pocatello to Winnipeg via Jacksonville and the Sunset East route powered by the retired Acela power cars when they become available. It will not go through Chicago in order to circumvent any connecting issues.
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Re: LD-to-LD in Chicago

Postby Arborwayfan » Fri Mar 15, 2019 3:10 pm

But sometimes the last corridor train of the day leaves not long after a particular LD train gets in (thinking specifically of the CZ's mid-afternoon scheduled arrival). Sometimes the corridor train is too early to be safe but the LD train that leaves later is usually safe. If your goal is to eliminate situations in which people miss the last available train out of Chicago because their arriving LD is late -- not necessarily an bad idea -- why not look at the actual trains, not general categories? It's not a hard information problem and Amtrak has all the data.

Making sure that no one misses a connection when their train is 12-14 hours late seems a bit extreme. How often is any train 12-14 hours late outside of blizzards, when everyone understands that transportation will have big delays? Are there really that many derailments etc. that block up the tracks? My sense of the LDs is that they are on time at the final station 50-75% of the time and that most of the delays are 1-4 hours. Trying to stop people from depending on connections within those few hours seems a lot more reasonable than essentially planning the schedule to suit blizzards and major freight wrecks.

Finally, you've said two things that are a little contradictory: you've estimated that only 50 people a day try to make the transfers you want to prohibit, and that that makes it OK to ban them. But you've also said that this is a huge problem costing Amtrak all kinds of money and goodwill. Which is it? Amtrak probably has a pretty good deal with whatever hotel it uses -- not free but less that you or I would pay walking up to the desk. How many people are missing their connections and what is it actually costing? Are there any routings where someone has a 50% chance of missing the connection? A 25% chance of missing the connection? How much of a problem are we actually talking about? (Railroad analysts might call what I'm asking for a p-make analysis of connections at Chicago: https://pubsonline.informs.org/doi/abs/10.1287/trsc.16.4.476?journalCode=trsc). I am most experienced with CZ-Illini/CONO and CZ-LSL, and mostly a few years ago, so I may not have the right experience. (Back in 1988 we missed our LSL-Builder connections in both directions, but I have never been stranded since then and I don't know which is typical these days.) So, sure, lots of us love trains and have starry-eyed, kind of impractical hopes for what the train system could be, but just pointing that out doesn't make your suggestion a good idea. Do you have some numbers to give us an idea of what we're looking at?
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Re: LD-to-LD in Chicago

Postby mtuandrew » Fri Mar 15, 2019 5:04 pm

What about corridor-length trips served by LD? Let’s say I want to go from Toledo to somewhere west - KCY, MSP, OMA - which should be corridor trains but aren’t yet. I could fly if prices aren’t exorbitant, I could take Megabus for part of the trip (which is rather unpleasant), I could drive the twelve hours in which case I might want to rest overnight anyway, I could drive to Dearborn I guess?? (Edit: if Amtrak would guarantee a connection from the early Wolverine), or I could let Amtrak do the driving - but now I have to cool my heels until I can leave the second afternoon.

Until there is reasonable corridor service on the CHI-CLE trunk in particular, connections can’t realistically be broken if Amtrak wants to be a relevant transportation provider. Imagine the outcry at O’Hare were this to happen.
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Re: LD-to-LD in Chicago

Postby ryanch » Fri Mar 15, 2019 10:41 pm

>>Oh, the things Amtrak is too inept to do anymore.

>all had the Adios drumhead hanging during a 1958 timetable change

I guess the railroads of 1958 were just "too inept."

Or maybe some are too quick to hurl insults.
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Re: LD-to-LD in Chicago

Postby ryanov » Fri Mar 15, 2019 11:59 pm

I read this forum and sometimes wonder who these posters think is using Amtrak and what it's for.

Every time I've taken the train past Chicago westbound, I've made a same day connection and would not have been interested in spending an extra day (in my case, it's typically been NWK to STL ultimately, whatever route I ultimately took). You think I want to spend another ~24 hours in Chicago to go the last 6-8 hours or whatever it is? One already makes compromises to take the train that would be unheard of for other travel modes.

Of course, these days this doesn't really affect me as I'm not planning on taking another trip from Newark to Chicago while the current food "service" is in place -- my next trips via train from Chicago will be connections from Delta.
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Re: LD-to-LD in Chicago

Postby Ken W2KB » Sat Mar 16, 2019 8:36 pm

GWoodle wrote:There seems to be so many new hotels built in & near airport terminals to suggest. Why not have Amtrak partner with Holiday Inn or another hotel company to build a CUS Amtrak Holiday Inn. Have a place to place secure baggage, not in a locker. For the passenger, have a place to get a shower & a meal before continuing the journey. Partner with Amtrak Vacations to have a 1-2 nite stay with some vouchers to explore downtown Chicago. No more walking 4 blocks to the Palmer House or the Midland or some other fancy hotel.


One of the less expensive Holiday Inns in Chicago, close to Union Station has the less expensive advance booking non-refundable rate most nights in June as:
1 Night
1 Guest
1 Room
1 KING BED LEISURE NONSMOKING
Book Early & Save - Advance Purchase
Total Price for Stay:
354.55 USD

Other Holiday Inn properties in the City were a couple hundred more. The extra time and cost would dissuade many passengers from taking the train,
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Re: LD-to-LD in Chicago

Postby Greg Moore » Sun Mar 17, 2019 10:25 am

So if we're to believe Tadman's numbers, maybe 50 passengers a day are connecting.
Now the question is: How often are trains held to "clean up" for late arriving LD trains from the West?

My understanding is that while it happens, it's not all that often and most can find accommodations on the LSL. (which I believe is the method Amtrak uses the most).

It seems to me that in part this may be an effort to solve a problem that doesn't really exist.

And if it's an issue, I think the better solution is to continue to work towards more Eastern LD trains. 3 a day instead of 2.5 certainly strikes me as a viable and quite honestly, Chicago to points east, at various times strikes me as one of the routes where an overnight train is actually often a viable alternative.

Years ago I'd take the LSL to Toledo to get to Ann Arbor since it meant about the same amount of sleep as flying out to Detroit the first thing in the morning and it was more comfortable. The LSL was certainly a business solution to me.
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Re: LD-to-LD in Chicago

Postby mtuandrew » Sun Mar 17, 2019 10:46 am

Same with Mr. Moore, I sometimes used the Cap end-to-end, other times MSP-CHI-PGH and return. It is a long day, but doable.

I’m going to continue advocating for Amtrak to own or have a good deal of control over its own CHI-CLE spine. CHI-FTW-TOL is ready and waiting for the national investment anyway, starting as a 79 mph single-track-with-many-sidings route and upgrading eventually to 125 mph and beyond.
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Re: LD-to-LD in Chicago

Postby Tadman » Sun Mar 17, 2019 3:50 pm

Greg Moore wrote:So if we're to believe Tadman's numbers.


You're going to have to believe them. They're real. Source holds an Amtrak ID card and is very expert at the passenger flow through the station, he's not a conductor or janitor.
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Re: LD-to-LD in Chicago

Postby Tadman » Sun Mar 17, 2019 3:52 pm

Ken W2KB wrote:
One of the less expensive Holiday Inns in Chicago...
Total Price for Stay:
354.55 USD

Other Holiday Inn properties in the City were a couple hundred more. The extra time and cost would dissuade many passengers from taking the train,


You've made a really good point here. Because we can't expect some fraction of passengers to write this $354 check, Amtrak should write this check? How much of the ticket revenue does that wipe out?
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