North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian Service

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Re: North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian Service

Postby electricron » Mon Oct 09, 2017 6:55 pm

All this discussion going to other cities in or around North Carolina ignores a basic truth about North Carolina’s williness to subsidize trains. The truth being ignored is that it doesn’t subsidize any trains. The truth is that the NCRR subsidies all the trains and provides all the local matching funds needed for receiving Federal funds. Which means profits gained leasing the corridor to freight railroads funds all the passenger trains and all the track improvements. Not one penny is allocated by the State to fund these trains.
So, any realistic expansion discussion should be limited to NCRR owned corridors that NCRR can afford alone, or with Federal matching funds.
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Re: North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian Service

Postby Bob Roberts » Mon Oct 09, 2017 7:38 pm

electricron wrote: The truth is that the NCRR subsidies all the trains and provides all the local matching funds needed for receiving Federal funds. Which means profits gained leasing the corridor to freight railroads funds all the passenger trains and all the track improvements. Not one penny is allocated by the State to fund these trains.


I am not sure that is true (although I may be misunderstanding you). I was under the impression that all NCRR revenues were required by law to go towards the capital costs of improvements to the railroad. Operational subsidies to the Carolinian and the Piedmont come from the NCDOT budget IIRC.
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Re: North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian Service

Postby Bob Roberts » Mon Oct 09, 2017 7:43 pm

ignore -- sorry
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Re: North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian Service

Postby deestrains » Mon Oct 09, 2017 9:55 pm

Bob Roberts wrote:I am not sure that is true (although I may be misunderstanding you). I was under the impression that all NCRR revenues were required by law to go towards the capital costs of improvements to the railroad. Operational subsidies to the Carolinian and the Piedmont come from the NCDOT budget IIRC.


The assertion that the NCRR provides any subsidy for operations of passenger trains is quite incorrect. While Amtrak does not specify the source of funds on its timetable, other than to say 'State of North Carolina', documents by the NCRR and NCDOT make this at least somewhat clear.

Compare the NCRR's annual reports:
http://www.ncrr.com/about-ncrr/reports-studies/

With a recent NCDOT presentation such as this one:
http://www.ncleg.net/documentsites/committees/JointAppropriationsTransportation/2017_Session/3.22.17_RailDivision_NCRR/3.Worley_NCDOTRail_Division.pdf

Note the lack of 'payments to Amtrak' anywhere in the NCRR annual report documents. Page 19 of the 2016 report shows no expense except depreciation larger than $2.49 million; whereas the Piedmont and Carolinian cost much more than this; perhaps $17-$18 million per the NCDOT

Page 8 shows the state funds expended for the Carolinian and the Piedmont, well above anything on the NCRR's statement of operations.
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Re: North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian Service

Postby Alex M » Tue Oct 10, 2017 7:54 am

Reading through some of the Amtrak performance reports, particularly the financial section, it seems that the Carolinian is operationally in the black, while the Piedmonts are not too far from breaking even. As far as rolling stock for the piedmont service, could this fall under capital spending from the NCRR? With all of the stimulus funded outlays for capital improvements, would this free up NCRR profits to be spent elsewhere?
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Re: North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian Service

Postby electricron » Tue Oct 10, 2017 8:01 am

Alex M wrote:Reading through some of the Amtrak performance reports, particularly the financial section, it seems that the Carolinian is operationally in the black, while the Piedmonts are not too far from breaking even. As far as rolling stock for the piedmont service, could this fall under capital spending from the NCRR? With all of the stimulus funded outlays for capital improvements, would this free up NCRR profits to be spent elsewhere?

Yes it could. And presently NCRR owns the rail corridor towards Willmington from Raleigh. That's where NCRR will start to spend their own money next; along with upgrading a rail corridor towards Richmond from Raleigh (mostly Federal money).
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Re: North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian Service

Postby Arlington » Tue Oct 10, 2017 4:56 pm

Alex M wrote:Reading through some of the Amtrak performance reports, particularly the financial section, it seems that the Carolinian is operationally in the black, while the Piedmonts are not too far from breaking even.

Yes, it is quite impressive: the Carolinian seems to be running at Tickets=Direct Costs, but then it looks like NC pays an extra couple of millions that cover Amtrak's overhead (advertising & HQ) and a very small accounting profit. Good for both Amtrak and NC. (https://www.amtrak.com/content/dam/proj ... y-2017.pdf)

It'd be really nice if small, cumulative service improvements like Raleigh Union Station coming Jan-Feb 2018 could boost the train into not needing NC op subsidies

EDIT: Hey, how did I miss this fabulous overview of NC Trains? presentation from March, in which NCDOT proposes extending the Carolinian to HartfordCT, with the goal of attracting enough new one-seat NEC riders that the train would no longer need operating subsidy (makes sense: the Lynchburger is helped by beyond-NYP traffic)

And some great stats in that PDF about expenditures (the Carolinian costs are down to $4.4m/yr, Piedmont's are up to $11m/yr and they share another $1.5m, for a total budget of $17m/yr
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn
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Re: North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian Service

Postby gokeefe » Tue Nov 14, 2017 11:34 pm

Here's the latest highly detailed performance report from the Rail Division of NCDOT.
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Re: North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian Service

Postby Matt Johnson » Thu Jan 11, 2018 4:13 pm

Largest Program of Improvements to State’s Rail Infrastructure Complete

No mention of 90 mph speeds. Did plans to bump the speed up from 79 mph get dropped from the project?
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Re: North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian Service

Postby electricron » Thu Jan 11, 2018 11:12 pm

I don’t think NCRR or the NCDOT ever promised 90 mph maximum speeds with the Piedmont Improvement Program
http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/l ... 27148.html
What they have done with the Piedmont Improvement Program:
Using $545 million of federal funds awarded in 2010, the state Department of Transportation Rail Division expects to complete its $520 million Piedmont Improvement Program by October 2017, including:
▪ Two daily passenger train round-trips added between Raleigh and Charlotte with seven stops in between – bringing the daily schedule to five round trips
▪ Passenger stations renovated at Cary, Burlington, High Point and Kannapolis
▪ 12 bridges built to carry trains over or under automobile traffic at crossings
▪ 38 street-level rail crossings closed
▪ 31 miles of double track (between Greensboro and Charlotte) and passing sidings (between Raleigh and Greensboro) to carry more freight and passenger trains and reduce delays
▪ More miles of tracks realigned to straighten curves, allow faster train speeds and reduce trip times.

Per http://www.sehsr.org
There are various studies underway to implement higher speeds on the SEHSR corridor. The only study completed so far was the Piedmont Improvement Program. The other sections of the corridor may have higher speeds, but not the section between Raleigh and Charolette, as the implementation of that section of the earlier study is almost completed.

Improvements of speed of the trains on one section of the SEHSR corridor doesn’t mean speed improvements on all sections of the corridor. Don’t confuse the sections.
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Re: North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian Service

Postby Matt Johnson » Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:29 pm

http://yesweekly.com/North-Carolina-by-Train-a16339/

Currently, the highest speed passenger trains reach in the Charlotte-Raleigh corridor is 79 mph, and NC Rail Division Director Patrick Simmons said when the federal money is spent the maximum operating speed will be 90 mph.
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Re: North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian Service

Postby Woody » Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:24 pm

An interesting article, dated July 13, 2010. Looks like 90 mph was promised back then. But the current promises could vary. LOL.
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Re: North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian Service

Postby deestrains » Thu Jan 18, 2018 10:28 pm

While 90 MPH is in some ways 'feasible' there are 3 difficulties:

1) Implementing PTC - the eastern class 1's have been slower than their western brethren, so figure 2020-ish before NS and CSX can get this going
2) Maintenance expense - to increase M. A. S. from 79 mph to 90 mph requires an upgrade of all track from FRA Class IV to Class V. This cost would be entirely attributable to an NCDOT request and would require additional annual maintenance charges, a challenging thing in today's political climate in NC
3) Grade crossing upgrades - there is a general engineering consensus that increasing warning times for crossings impacted will lead to more violations where the new time is 'too much' for slower freights. This means a change out of all impacted crossing cabinets to 'smart' units with 'constant warning time' technology. Everyone trying to implement 'constant warning time' crossing behavior has at least stubbed a few toes or fallen on their face completely. See the CBOSS program at Caltrain or the Denver airport line's struggles to implement this technology.
https://www.denverpost.com/2017/04/09/denver-airport-train-one-year-in/

In Europe they are addressing the smart signal and train control network by deploying GSM-R on everything. Until the RRs get their 220 MHz network to that level of utility (or somehow abandon 220 MHz in favor of GSM-R or an LTE or 5G network) I am skeptical that this sort of VERY EXPENSIVE fussiness will ever cease.

tl;dr - not impossible, probably needs another pile of money not that different in size from the pile just disbursed from ARRA

If you had $500M to spend on a corridor service like this, would you spend it on saving minutes off the schedule or additional round trips?
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Re: North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian Service

Postby Bob Roberts » Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:17 pm

Rail is now down at the Charlotte maintenance facility (a couple of photos can be seen here: https://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/topi ... nt=1501399 ). The crew building has been complete for more than 6 months.

This is (one of) the last of the Piedmont Improvement Projects funded by the ARRA It looks to this uninformed observer that the facility can be complete by the end of next month (which is the current schedule).

Anyone know if we may see an extra coach on the Carolinian after the facility opens?

https://www.ncdot.gov/projects/charlotteRailMaint/
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Re: North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian Service

Postby Matt Johnson » Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:23 pm

Woody wrote:An interesting article, dated July 13, 2010. Looks like 90 mph was promised back then. But the current promises could vary. LOL.


I feel like the Obama era stimulus grants came with a lot of false promises though. (Chicago - St Louis 110 mph by 2015, North Carolina Piedmont 90 mph, Connecticut New Haven -Hartford corridor upgraded to 110 mph, just off the top of my head.)
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