Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

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east point
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by east point »

Ny friends and myself think that service twice a day with intervals from 8 - 16 hours apart would bring in the most additional traffic. That way many stations that are presently only at night get a day train. There will of course be passengers that can only have a leg that will be beginning or ending at night but that would be much better than what is present at this time. We suspect that the present end of route times would lessen end point to end point ridership but there will be more east XYZ to west UVW traffic.

Arborwayfan
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by Arborwayfan »

The >750 miles rule is only from 2011 (-12?). It might not be much harder to build a political consensus to change it so that Amtrak could become an operator of federally subsidized regional trains (again) than to build a political consensus to let Amtrak eliminate several LD trains. When I see what Anderson says, I find myself thinking that one logical interpretation or extrapolation of his views would be that Amtrak should be able to use federal funds to provide corridor service, because such service would be a more efficient use of federal money, helping more people, reducing more congestion, etc., and costing less per passenger mile because those services are cheaper to run and more competitive in the market. Doing so would certainly make a meaningful impact in many congressional districts, get more non-railfans on board (pun intended), and be more fair; it would also allow better service. Why should it be easier for a federal agency -- who by definition exist to do things that cut across states -- to run a train from Chicago to Carbondale than from Chicago to Cincinnati or Louisville? And yet it is, because the law now bans that agency from using federal funds for an interstate route just because it's too short, so service depends on funding, and neither Indiana nor Illinois wants to pay for a two-state train (also the available route is lousy and uncompetitive, but the point is there).

The other day I said maaaybe a direct Overland Route train to move people from Den to Slc could break even, and maaaaybe it should be studied. I think that was a much wackier idea than saying -- as I believe -- that the 750-mile rule in PRIAA should be repealed. :-D

CVRA7
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by CVRA7 »

"Replacing LD with regional/corridor" - Many have thought that Ohio and Indiana would be ideal areas to establish corridors - but if the states don't have the will to contribute it won't happen. Better to keep what you have now. That's all you probably will ever have in those states.

mtuandrew
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by mtuandrew »

Maybe the answer is a proportional funding system. Currently it’s 750 miles or bust; maybe we should instead have a 100-too 1000 mile category. For a 100 mile train, Amtrak pays 10% of operational cost per train-mile and the states 90% per mile within their state. For a 750 mile train, Amtrak pays 75% of operational costs, the states pay 25%; for a 1000 mile or longer train, Amtrak pays all of the operational costs and only asks for station maintenance from the on-line states (which can pass the cost to communities or organizations.)

The formula would need tweaking of course. Any state whose stations make up the bulk of traffic would have to pay more; any state where most of its station stops are in the middle of the night (Ohio for instance) would pay proportionally less. If a train is used largely for equipment shuttle service like the Hoosier State was, Amtrak would again pay proportionally more (charge states less) per mile. I could see there being a sleeper and first-class-service surcharge as well, which would target the western states that otherwise wouldn’t be paying much at all (Montana for instance.)

Thoughts?

Arborwayfan
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by Arborwayfan »

Maybe, Mtuandrew. It'd be a start.

Question: If Amtrak can break even on a 100-mile corridor without needing state money -- ie ticket revenues cover operating costs -- does PRIAA allow Amtrak to run that line without charging the states anything? I realize that the current drop in the operating deficit is partly because a larger proportion of trains are state funded, but I suppose it could be possible to break even on a given route other than the NEC, given enough service and passengers and good capital investment (which can be passed by Congress and I assume isn't part of PRIAA restrictions).

electricron
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by electricron »

On regional routes subsidized by states, the states only pay to make up for Amtrak loses.
Example 1,
the NEC regional trains extended to Lynchburg, Va. = $3 million profits, Virginia pays nothing. The distance between DC and Lynchburg is 173 rail miles.
Example 2,
the Heartland Flyer between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City, = $5 million loses, Oklahoma pays $3.5 million while Texas pays $1,5 million. The distance between FW and OKC is 206 rail miles.

Amtrak basically pays the same labor and fuel bills for both trains - at least per mile - there is just 33 miles difference in the routes. The Flyer had 67,000 passengers in FY2018, averaging 184 riders per day, 92 passengers per train.
The Lynchburg extension had 185,000 passengers in FY 2012, averaging 506 riders per day, 253 passengers per train.

Somewhere between 92 passengers per train and 253 passengers per train Amtrak fares matches expenses. We could estimate using averages and ratios, as follows
(92 + 253)/3 - 5 = 344/-2 = 172
Assuming the fares are based the same, on train-miles or passenger-miles, around 172 passengers per train is where Amtrak breaks even.
Sources https://www.star-telegram.com/news/traf ... 40668.html
http://www.opportunitylynchburg.com/lyn ... t-in-2011/

An interesting youtube posted today worth watching:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSw7fWCrDk0
At the time of me posting this link, it has already had over 300,000 views. Wendover productions has over 2.3 million subscribers, more subscribers than the 2.2 million for MSNBC on youtube.

lordsigma12345
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by lordsigma12345 »

It seems that Virginia is very careful with its train schedule to avoid big subsidies - they have found a sweet spot in terms of ridership and costs by running just the right amount of daily trains to avoid the subsidies and they also have the benefit of having additional service to a number of the stations with the long distance trains that pass through - a good example of a state where the long distance trains and added corridor service complement each other well. However if they wanted to run a corridor like The Empire Service or the surf liner with very frequent service it would most certainly require hefty state contributions. Richmond - Washington though is a pretty decent corridor with the combination of state supported and long distance trains that serve it.

rcthompson04
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by rcthompson04 »

lordsigma12345 wrote:
Wed Dec 04, 2019 6:55 am
It seems that Virginia is very careful with its train schedule to avoid big subsidies - they have found a sweet spot in terms of ridership and costs by running just the right amount of daily trains to avoid the subsidies and they also have the benefit of having additional service to a number of the stations with the long distance trains that pass through - a good example of a state where the long distance trains and added corridor service complement each other well. However if they wanted to run a corridor like The Empire Service or the surf liner with very frequent service it would most certainly require hefty state contributions. Richmond - Washington though is a pretty decent corridor with the combination of state supported and long distance trains that serve it.
I wonder how much of the long distance revenue and passengers are tied to corridor style passengers riding on long distance trains in Virginia.

I would not be shocked if it was substantial. I looked at the Pennsylvanian’s stats a few months back and the bulk of its ridership was actually in territory served by the Keystone Service. Revenue was not as lopsided as the Pennsylvanian has a lot of full trip passengers.

Arborwayfan
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by Arborwayfan »

Lordsigma, why is it most certain that if VA wanted very frequent service it would require big subsidies? Do you think VA has found the point at which additional trains would not generate enough additional riders to cover their costs?

Electricon, thanks for the explanation.

lordsigma12345
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Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2017 1:05 pm

Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by lordsigma12345 »

I think the amount of trains they have now, combined with the fact that their schedule is complemented by the long distance trains that cover a lot of the stations and the fact that all their trains are extensions from the NEC contribute to the fact that they don't have to make an operational subsidy. If they ran say a 10 round trip per day corridor between Washington and Newport News that required dedicated equipment they'd likely need to subsidize it as the costs would be much higher and not all of your train times are going to get tons of ridership, but you run them anyway to make the corridor more useful to more people. Services like the Virginia corridors, the Carolinian, and the Vermonter get all of their ridership on just one round trip or a couple and since you have fewer choices those few trains are going to run full more often. Once you spread that ridership around a bunch of trains (with a whole heck of a lot more costs) you're going to need to subsidize it. Just about every state supported service that breaks even or more is a train that runs as an extension of the Northeast Corridor and also carries NEC riders so they have the benefit of shared costs with the NEC and are daily or just a couple round trips per day. Most of the stand alone corridors that don't extend from the NEC require subsidies and the ones with loads of frequency require a big one.... 17.3 million for the Surfliner, 13.7 million for the Empire Service.....but this is Amtrak. Just because the state has to subsidize the train doesn't mean it's unsuccessful. And once again Virginia has the benefit of having extra frequencies they don't have to pay for with the LD trains that run on the same corridor which benefits their services. I think from the perspective of wanting the trains to not cost the state a bunch, they are running the right amount of trains given the demand in their markets, but if they really wanted to boost ridership and get more people off the interstates by adding a bunch of additional round trips they may have to foot some of the bill.

mtuandrew
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by mtuandrew »

Were Virginia to add more frequencies - and as a resident I’d like to see that - I think we would see another Norfolk train and a Lynchburg-Danville-Charlotte train with NCRR kicking in a few bucks. Those both seem like winners in terms of Virginia not needing to pay a lot, because it doesn’t seem like those travel markets are saturated yet.

Also, Virginia has such good ridership not only because of the Corridor endpoints, but because I-95 is horrid at all times of day. I-66 beyond the Beltway isn’t as bad amazingly, either for private cars or public buses, so I don’t see a future in which Front Royal gets a train in the next ten years.

Tadman
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by Tadman »

Some really good discussion here. To reiterate or clarify, the premise is this:

Amtrak spends $X on non-corridor/regional services, and the public secret is that a big reason behind that $X expenditure is to keep the $Y coming for the NEC. If that $X has to be spent on less-dense areas than NEC and certain corridors like California, Cascade, and Midwest, why not find a model that allows more passenger-miles (public good) from the same $X and still covers the necessary less-dense states? I ask this because the long-distance network is a bit of a joke, with less than 1% of intercity traffic. The US is currently #23 in passenger train usage, near Argentina, which runs 1x/week long distance trains. Can more be done with the same money? Yes.

The major constraints now are PRIIA, equipment, and host railroads.

Because PRIIA is legislation, it can be replaced by the same process it came to be - vote of congress and executive signature.

Equipment is a bit tougher, but we are facing a future surplus of Amfleet and Horizon cars, and removing the LD trains would free up quite a lot of long-distance cars to be reconfigured into denser coaches.

Host roads might be the toughest issue, but not insurmountable. There could be tax incentives for running more passenger trains, and traffic is not quite as robust as it once was due to PSR, reduction in coal traffic, and a Chinese trade war. Finally, the poor deal made with UP in Illinois could be used as a roadmap for what to avoid, as the 110mph Saint Louis program was not so great.
Dig the new rr.net Instagram account: @railroad_dot_net

lordsigma12345
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by lordsigma12345 »

Tadman wrote:
Wed Dec 04, 2019 10:11 am
Equipment is a bit tougher, but we are facing a future surplus of Amfleet and Horizon cars, and removing the LD trains would free up quite a lot of long-distance cars to be reconfigured into denser coaches.
The talk seems to be removing/reconfiguring some but not all of the long distance routes. If you say, removed the sunset limited and cardinal (as he seems to really be talking down the thrice weekly routes) how much equipment would that really free up? I think more likely they cut the routes they want to eliminate the most and give that long distance equipment to the ones they still want to run, and then look for new equipment for any desired corridors.

trainviews
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by trainviews »

electricron wrote:
Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:06 am
On regional routes subsidized by states, the states only pay to make up for Amtrak loses.
Example 1,
the NEC regional trains extended to Lynchburg, Va. = $3 million profits, Virginia pays nothing. The distance between DC and Lynchburg is 173 rail miles.
Example 2,
the Heartland Flyer between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City, = $5 million loses, Oklahoma pays $3.5 million while Texas pays $1,5 million. The distance between FW and OKC is 206 rail miles.

Amtrak basically pays the same labor and fuel bills for both trains - at least per mile - there is just 33 miles difference in the routes. The Flyer had 67,000 passengers in FY2018, averaging 184 riders per day, 92 passengers per train.
The Lynchburg extension had 185,000 passengers in FY 2012, averaging 506 riders per day, 253 passengers per train.

Somewhere between 92 passengers per train and 253 passengers per train Amtrak fares matches expenses. We could estimate using averages and ratios, as follows
(92 + 253)/3 - 5 = 344/-2 = 172
Assuming the fares are based the same, on train-miles or passenger-miles, around 172 passengers per train is where Amtrak breaks even.
Sources https://www.star-telegram.com/news/traf ... 40668.html
http://www.opportunitylynchburg.com/lyn ... t-in-2011/

An interesting youtube posted today worth watching:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSw7fWCrDk0
At the time of me posting this link, it has already had over 300,000 views. Wendover productions has over 2.3 million subscribers, more subscribers than the 2.2 million for MSNBC on youtube.
I think that calculation is way too primitive. For a range of reasons Virginia has lower costs per train mile and possibly higher revenue per passenger mile.

First, their trains are basically extended NEC trains, which would otherwise sit idle in Washington. So only incremental costs will have to be paid, as the trainsets are already there. From previous discussions I understand that these are the costs that Amtrak is billing to the Virginia lines, not what the state would be paying if it was a stand alone corridor.

Second, there is no need to keep a separate maintenance facility for the Virginia trains - Ivy City takes care of that. The Heartland Flyer has to keep one in Forth Worth.

Third, the Virginia trains share most of their stations with long distance trains and thus also shares the bill for running and maintaining these stations.

Fourth it is my understanding that Virginia acutally gets a share of the NEC revenue from the passengers they deliver onto the corridor continuing on past Washington as this is extra revenue to Amtrak. This means extra income without extra costs that non NEC-connected corridors can't make.

Finally I wonder if Virginia is able to keep up fares on par with the NEC, which has higher fares per passenger mile than many corridors. Many of the other states have opted to prioritize ridership over revenue and deliberately kept prices affordable (California comes to mind and the same goes for several Midwest services I guess).

Another discussion which seems to be totally forgotten in this thread is capital costs. While Virginia does not provide any subsidy, it has had a consistent investment programme, enabling a gradual expansion of the network (which I think is much more sized after what the state has been able to afford in investments so far than after any potential ridership)

And that is pretty much where this whole discussion loses it tracks. Who pays the operating subsidy is probably the smaller hurdle. Who pays the needed track and capacity upgrades for expanded corridor service is a much bigger question. In some present Long Distance routes the one slot can probably be changed into a corridor slot if desired, but one train does not really make a useable corridor service in most places.

And for parts of LD routes where there is no corridor service ready when the LD goes away - say hello to a multi million dollar bill from the host railroads to get just one passenger train running again. All experience shows that starting corridor service is much easier in routes that already has LD service. There is often already a ridership/advocacy base, the costs of investing in stations and possibly maintenance facilities are much lower and in some instances there already is a reasonable working relationship with the host railroad. There are exceptions but most of the corridor services that were not grandfathered into the original network have grown out over routes that already has LD service.

In most intances the whole premise that the LD's are an obstacle to a long term growth of the corridor network is wrong. If anything they could facilitate it, but much of that is up to Congress in order to change the framework for starting and running new corridors. And to Amtrak and train advocates to not being complacent with the status quo.

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