Anderson possible changes: Dismantling LD, Corridor, Etc.

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AC4619
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Re: Anderson changes: Dismantling LD, Corridor, Etc.

Post by AC4619 » Tue Apr 24, 2018 8:12 pm

Jeff Smith wrote:http://railpac.org/2018/04/21/amtrak-ce ... corridors/
Report – Richard Anderson, Amtrak CEO – Remarks to California Rail Summit and Questions and Answers

19th April 2018

Richard Anderson, CEO of Amtrak, gave a keynote address to about 150 passenger rail officials and industry professionals, plus a handful of advocates. I have the feeling he had not counted on there being any advocates in the audience. To the best of my knowledge there was no audio or video recording of the meeting, which is most unfortunate. I have done my best to give a reasonably concise account from my notes and from memory and have conferred with others who were there. I am reasonably certain that I have captured both the tone and overall content of his remarks and replies. I wish I had had the presence of mind to turn on my I phone, at least to capture my own question. I have used quotation marks when I have recalled actual words used, otherwise it is my best recollection.

Anderson had some positive items to report about reforms and initiatives he has undertaken. These include:

...
Oops. Welp, serves me right for writing a diatribe without doing actual research first. Still, agree with others...and my un-educated last-night self...this would be a political problem, though.
Matt Johnson wrote:
35dtmrs92 wrote:
Matt Johnson wrote:If you're not trying to grow and improve, you're dying. I think the current trajectory for long distance services = death spiral, and I believe that's by design.

Grow what? The LD network on the Gulf Coast and the West which are some of the sparsest places of the nation? If there is anywhere Amtrak should grow, it would be the Northeast Corridor, the Hiawatha, the San Joaquin, just about everywhere else besides that.
I would like to see restoration of the Gulf Coast Sunset, the Pioneer, and the Desert Wind. But at the very least, I'd like to draw a line in the sand and say no more cuts, while improving on the services that remain. Long term, on this planet of 7.5 billion people of which 300 million or so reside in the States, population growth trends will likely continue to require more sustainable transportation models which include rail, unless we desire a complete social and environmental disaster.
.
As an environmental scientist....I can say that while rail is certainly part of a sustainable future for our climate in the face of a rising population and climate change, LD rail is not necessarily. LD rail in the US is not significantly cutting GHG emissions, because 250 people is not significant on the routes in question. What IS needed, is a strong network of frequent, mid-distance high-speed rail service (that is as fast as possible--> maglev, partial vac train, etc), that is as thoroughly connected as the current interstate highway system is. That happening is not something I'm holding my breath over. Also, research indicates that environmentally, things are already and will continue to be a "disaster"... socially and environmentally...it's really just a question of "how bad" it's going to get, at this point. The continuation or discontinuation of contemporary Amtrak LDs is a political and economics question. How much does Amtrak save by cutting them, vs how much do they lose by cutting? It certainly helps "bridge the gap" though, as far as future corridor and eventual HSR service is concerned. No LDs--> Even less thought about trains as valid mode of travel--> less likely to see good service.
mtuandrew wrote:If Anderson cuts the Amtrak deficit to essentially zero, he has the ability to Corridor-chop service like the Cardinal without Congress needing to be involved. WV gets daily service NYP-CHW, Ohio gets daily service CHI-CIN, and he cuts some losses. Arizona, NM and Texas keep a Texas Eagle CHI-FTW and a Sunset Limited LAX-FTW, Houston gets a daily Regional train from either San Antonio or Ft. Worth, and again, he cuts a few more losses. BOS-ALB gets a Regional, etc. So on, and so on, and so on.

I don’t like it, but I see the business sense.
Corridor service enhancements could be a boon for Amtrak if they can get more than daily service. CA, WA, PA, NY, Midwest, etc have all shown that when you increase frequency and speed, ridership increases exponentially. They've also shown how hard it is to get that type of service, especially when Amtk doesn't own the trackage.

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Re: Anderson changes: Dismantling LD, Corridor, Etc.

Post by Philly Amtrak Fan » Wed Apr 25, 2018 6:15 am

mtuandrew wrote:If Anderson cuts the Amtrak deficit to essentially zero, he has the ability to Corridor-chop service like the Cardinal without Congress needing to be involved. WV gets daily service NYP-CHW, Ohio gets daily service CHI-CIN, and he cuts some losses. Arizona, NM and Texas keep a Texas Eagle CHI-FTW and a Sunset Limited LAX-FTW, Houston gets a daily Regional train from either San Antonio or Ft. Worth, and again, he cuts a few more losses. BOS-ALB gets a Regional, etc. So on, and so on, and so on.

I don’t like it, but I see the business sense.
I don't know what your entire plan is but in the case of the Cardinal, Cincinnati passengers would no longer be able to go to the East Coast but would be able to take a daily train to Chicago (and Indianapolis). I'm not sure if that's a negative. Houston would trade a 3x/week SL for a daily Regional to SA or Ft. Worth. I think they make that trade, especially if it's Ft. Worth and it includes Dallas along the way (Dallas is further east). I don't know how practical these changes would be but they don't all seem bad.

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Re: The dismantling of LDT are near.

Post by Philly Amtrak Fan » Wed Apr 25, 2018 6:38 am

AC4619 wrote:The dismantling of LDTs are not near. If they are, Anderson's dismantling is also near. Amtrak is a political organization as much as anything else. I fully believe Anderson is considering these moves, but, it'd be a mistake. Part of how Amtrak got 2 billion in funding this year, is by getting support from congress-roaches who can say "I have a train running through my state's small towns". If you get rid of that, you lose congressional support, and with it, your money. Anderson may WANT to cut LDs. Because, yeah, on paper they DO lose money. But as others have articulated...food service on trains also loses money. That's looking at it from a pure profit/loss perspective. It discounts the value the passengers placed on that amenity being part of the train. Same with LDs. All of Amtrak's most prolific and successful leaders have advocated for the LDs, even expanding them. They lose money, but they are what makes Amtrak a NATIONAL corporation. Anderson needs to get it through his head that he is not running a profitable private airline. He's running a public--owned by taxpayers. So, he may well try to cut a bunch of LDs to 3x a week. And we can then all look forward to the myriad news stories, and congresspeople making a big show of it. I mean, some even went after Amtrak for the private car ban (tourism rev)--imagine what they'd do if service stopped entirely! This is a don't bite the hand that feeds you situation. If you cut off the "losing" things (LDs), you'll find your funding for your cash cow (NEC/corridor services), also dries up. Now, if the NEC was truly self sufficient (it is not, it only makes an operational profit), Anderson would have stronger legs to stand on. Also *cough* gateway, *cough*. Gosh I need to see someone about this cough.

AC
Amtrak is national? Tell people in Las Vegas, Nashville, Columbus, Louisville, etc. that Amtrak is national. You probably will get people in those cities who probably haven't even heard of Amtrak. When I was young in Wilkes Barre, PA I don't think I remember Amtrak because we didn't have it either. So the idea that Amtrak is "national" is a myth. I'm not saying it doesn't serve a lot of people, but a lot of people don't have it too. Plus you have the Cleveland's and Cincinnati's who only have graveyard service and the Cincinnati's and Houston's that only have 3x/week service.

There's two ways to go here, either make an attempt to truly make Amtrak national and expand Amtrak to areas where there isn't rail service or try to "make it profitable" and reduce taxpayer expense so people in Las Vegas and Columbus aren't paying taxes so people in Thurmond, West Virginia can take trains that they in Vegas can't. Amtrak will never and shouldn't be expected to be profitable as no transportation system including airlines truly is. Amtrak's own standard is "cost recovery", defined as "the percent of its operating costs with ticket sales and other revenues". Last fiscal year, that percentage was 94.7%. a record: https://media.amtrak.com/2017/11/amtrak ... s-records/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;. The goal should be to get that to 100%. Then essentially the LD trains are "paid for".

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Matt Johnson
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Re: Anderson changes: Dismantling LD, Corridor, Etc.

Post by Matt Johnson » Wed Apr 25, 2018 11:18 am

The only other point I'll make at this time is that calling this clear downgrade an "enhancement" and describing it in corporate doublespeak says to me not to trust anything coming from the present leadership and to learn to read between the lines.

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Re: Anderson changes: Dismantling LD, Corridor, Etc.

Post by gprimr1 » Wed Apr 25, 2018 1:17 pm

I don't agree that the cold meals is a good thing. I can understand looking for ways to save money, but serving cold meals to premium passengers isn't smart.

That said, I think Anderson has exposed a real split between supporters of Amtrak. For many years I've read and participated here, and many times people have suggested that Amtrak needs to offer a basic economy class on the NEC. Something that can be economically compete with MegaBus fares. Well that gets suggested, and then come the angry cries of "We can't give up our leg room."

The same thing is coming up with the corridors. For a lot of people, Amtrak is not a viable way to travel. I live in Baltimore, I like to visit Texas and California. I need to devote 10 days round trip if I wanted to take the train to California. It's 4 days round trip traveling to Texas. On the flip side, I can take off work at 3pm, and by in either state by midnight on a plane. I think that as time goes on, people don't have the money and time to take off 10 days to travel plus another 10 for vacation.

But tomorrrow I'm going to New York City, and what is my first thought; "Amtrak!" Amtrak is an efficient way to get to NYC. When I visit California, I think "what's an efficient way to go between LA and San Diego?" "Amtrak!" I even thought Amtrak when I looked at going from Baltimore to North Carolina.

I looked at Japan, and Japan has 1 remaining overnight train, and that makes me wonder. If one of the countries in the world best known for train transport isn't really doing overnight trains, is it really the best investment of resources to continue to provide 3 day long train rides when that money could be invested into rail corridors across the United States? And I say across the United States because there are plenty of viable places for investment. Chicago area, Florida, Texas, California, Pacific Northwest, Arizona,

I just think it's food for thought, is it time for Amtrak to evolve into something new?
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ryanov
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Re: Anderson changes: Dismantling LD, Corridor, Etc.

Post by ryanov » Thu Apr 26, 2018 2:29 am

You seem to be glossing over the fact that the countries that have eliminated overnight trains are doing something else instead. They’re not just eliminating train service.

Spare me the line that people in other states don’t want to pay for trains they can’t use. I’ve ridden plenty of trains that do not start or end where I live, and if other states want to complain, fine, let me get back the rest of my tax money that NJ donates to many southern states that put in less than they get out. It’s one country, and my taxes pay for all sorts of stuff I am against, to the tune of well more than what one pays to receive Amtrak service with edible food.
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Re: Anderson changes: Dismantling LD, Corridor, Etc.

Post by gprimr1 » Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:09 pm

Not glossing over it at all. In fact, in my post I quoted several examples of where Amtrak worked well, continues to work well and can expand.
But tomorrrow I'm going to New York City, and what is my first thought; "Amtrak!" Amtrak is an efficient way to get to NYC. When I visit California, I think "what's an efficient way to go between LA and San Diego?" "Amtrak!" I even thought Amtrak when I looked at going from Baltimore to North Carolina.
I also never said get rid of trains, I said:
is it time for Amtrak to evolve into something new?
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Re: Anderson changes: Dismantling LD, Corridor, Etc.

Post by bdawe » Thu Apr 26, 2018 2:22 pm

Amtrak isn't a terribly efficient way to get from San Diego to Los Angeles though. That it has high numbers for Amtrak is more a function of the vastness of the population surrounding the corridor and erratic reliability of it's roadways than any advantage conferred by the service itself, with it's 50% time penalty over driving.
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Re: Anderson changes: Dismantling LD, Corridor, Etc.

Post by R&DB » Thu Apr 26, 2018 8:03 pm

I've been following this thread and made some observations:
Some think the "National Network" should be taken apart. (ie. remove LD trains)
Some think "corridors" are a great idea.
Some love the LD trains.
Some think trains are too slow.

About passengers:
Some don't fly. (for various reasons)
Some don't or don't want to drive.
Some would never ride a bus for more than a few hours.
Some love trains. (for various reasons)
Some are business travelers. (short or medium distance)
Some are tourists.

Now some thoughts about Amtrak and it's management:
Amtrak was flawed at the moment of it's inception. The government creation was intended to maintain a mode of travel that the private railroads were losing money operating. The mistake was making it a corporation that was supposed to turn a profit. (And in some areas it does) Amtrak should have been set up as an agency within the Dept. of Transportation, charging fees for usage.
The current management is trying to make a profit any way it can because they see it as running a business. If this means cutting non-profitable routes or services, they feel they must do so. They must compete with buses and airlines for customers, price and speed of travel.

Considering the above, here's some ideas:
Set up more Regionals where they make sense. Get funding from states that rely on the LD trains for travel or get them to create Regionals.
Keep the LDs with fewer stops. Improve services for First Class/Sleeper passengers and charge more for this premium service. (diners, etc.)
Create scenery tourist trains and charge a premium for them. (What does Disney charge for 1 day in the Kingdom?)
Charge more for all fares. (10%)
Charge for checked baggage,(but less than airline bags) but do not change the carry on limits. (make baggage cars profitable)
Actively approach host railroads to jointly invest in infrastructure improvements to limit delays.
Get Congress involved in host railroad abuse of Congress's mandated Amtrak priority in dispatching.
Identify and prioritize choke points and fund infrastructure investments on priority basis. (Gateway, Long Bridge, etc.)
Harry

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Re: Anderson changes: Dismantling LD, Corridor, Etc.

Post by benboston » Thu Apr 26, 2018 8:36 pm

bdawe wrote:Amtrak isn't a terribly efficient way to get from San Diego to Los Angeles though. That it has high numbers for Amtrak is more a function of the vastness of the population surrounding the corridor and erratic reliability of it's roadways than any advantage conferred by the service itself, with it's 50% time penalty over driving.
It's pretty good as long as you have a car in Los Angeles, in San Diego a car isn't a necessity.

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Re: Anderson changes: Dismantling LD, Corridor, Etc.

Post by ryanov » Thu Apr 26, 2018 11:46 pm

You didn’t say eliminate trains, but you implied eliminating a way to get between endpoints by chopping up routes.
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Re: Anderson changes: Dismantling LD, Corridor, Etc.

Post by Tadman » Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:53 am

Matt Johnson wrote:If you're not trying to grow and improve, you're dying. I think the current trajectory for long distance services = death spiral, and I believe that's by design.
Tell that to the Penn Central. Literally every facet of the railroad had to be shrunk to fix it under Conrail. Track miles, route miles, crew size, fleet size, passenger routes, commuter routes, yard count, locomotive count, car count...

Now imagine if the brass cut the Cardinal and Sunset what you could do with that equipment:
-2x/day to WV
-2x/day to Cinci
-2x/day LA-Tucson
-2x/day NOLA-Houston
-2x/day Houston-San Antonio

No sleepers needed, no diners, no checked baggage. Just run predictable trains that can be used by travelers, especially those at midpoints. And how many states lost service? Zero.
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Re: The dismantling of LDT are near.

Post by Jeff Smith » Fri Apr 27, 2018 8:21 am

Philly Amtrak Fan wrote:
... You probably will get people in those cities who probably haven't even heard of Amtrak.
Point well taken. I live near Savannah, and there are people around here that don't realize you can take the train from there, much less six of them (both directions). Meanwhile, Atlanta only has two.

That said, some LD's may be likely to go, but some still make sense.
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Re: Anderson changes: Dismantling LD, Corridor, Etc.

Post by SouthernRailway » Fri Apr 27, 2018 9:38 am

For my own knowledge:

What is Amtrak's rationale for providing only cold meals for lunch and dinner, and not heating them? Cafe cars, the Acela and airplanes all have ovens to heat up pre-prepared meals. Why wouldn't Amtrak do that for sleeping car passengers?

I can't imagine that anyone at Amtrak thinks that cold meals only are appetizing.

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Re: Anderson changes: Dismantling LD, Corridor, Etc.

Post by NRGeep » Fri Apr 27, 2018 11:52 am

(Tin foil hat on) Could be part of a strategy to diminish ridership via discouraging folks from considering utilizing sleeping cars and when the customer base dwindles to then eliminate the whole thing?

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