North Coast Hiawatha Study

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

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, Amtrak67 of America, Tadman, gprimr1

neroden
Posts: 1175
Joined: Sun Nov 12, 2006 12:37 am
Location: Ithaca, NY

Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by neroden » Fri Dec 25, 2009 2:26 pm

Vincent wrote:Regarding the NCH proposal (and its billion dollar price tag), the study had times that connected Seattle and Spokane at hours that are almost identical to the current Empire Builder's inconvenient schedule, which won't drum up any new business for the Seattle to Spokane market.
I still don't understand this. Why didn't Amtrak study the "12 hours off" schedule option as well? It seems like the obvious choice. How much extra work could it have been?

jstolberg
Posts: 1303
Joined: Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:17 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA

Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by jstolberg » Fri Dec 25, 2009 3:32 pm

neroden wrote: Why didn't Amtrak study the "12 hours off" schedule option as well? It seems like the obvious choice. How much extra work could it have been?
The NCH has a running time about 3 hours 40 minutes longer than the EB. So a westbound departure time from Chicago 3 hours earlier puts both trains into Spokane at almost the same time. Eastbound, departing Seattle 40 minutes behind the Builder, the NCH would roll into Chicago at 8:33 pm. I don't know that I'd want to push the schedule much later than that.

But leaving Chicago 3 hours ahead of the Builder, the NCH would roll into Seattle 20 minutes behind. That doesn't create good options for the traveler. I would suggest a 8:15 am Chicago departure arriving in Seattle at 7:40 am. That would create a 4:30 pm arrival in St. Paul (vs 10:30 pm for the Builder) and a 9:40 pm arrival in Fargo (vs 3:35 am for the Builder). Pushing the NCH schedule to that 8:15 am Chicago departure would also bring the train into Spokane at 10:00 pm (vs 1:40 am for the Builder).

delvyrails
Posts: 564
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2007 12:47 pm

Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by delvyrails » Fri Dec 25, 2009 7:34 pm

All this may be quite true; but for a billion dollars, Amtrak would be duplicating the EB a couple hundred miles south on a route of some 2400 new route miles that would serve no new large cities.

For a similar distance (and cost?) across the South and Midwest, lots of large cities (and more Representatives' districts) could be put on Amtrak train routes.

H'mm, let's see: El Paso to Fort Worth=614 miles, Marshall to Meridian=355 miles, Atlanta to Jacksonville=248, Oklahoma City to Newton=199 miles....(still some 1000 miles to go to equal the 2400).
John Pawson

kmillard
Posts: 232
Joined: Mon Jun 19, 2006 11:26 pm
Location: Livonia MI

Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by kmillard » Sat Dec 26, 2009 12:34 pm

delvyrails wrote:All this may be quite true; but for a billion dollars, Amtrak would be duplicating the EB a couple hundred miles south on a route of some 2400 new route miles that would serve no new large cities.

For a similar distance (and cost?) across the South and Midwest, lots of large cities (and more Representatives' districts) could be put on Amtrak train routes.

H'mm, let's see: El Paso to Fort Worth=614 miles, Marshall to Meridian=355 miles, Atlanta to Jacksonville=248, Oklahoma City to Newton=199 miles....(still some 1000 miles to go to equal the 2400).
True dat. But let's assuming for a second (Yes, I know what ASSuming does, but it's just for a second), that Chicago - MInneapolis actually finally GETS their second train, and Washington State actually GETS a second Portland/Seatlle - Spokane train over Stampede Pass. Then what are we looking at to close the gap between MSP and Spokane??? True, the cities served aren't the biggest, but indications are that they WOULD patronize the train. And yes, it would part kind of "compete" with the Empire Builder, but the EB has long been Amtrak's most heavily patronized train and has long needed a capacity boost, especially in the summer months. I have long felt the EB needed a "Western Star" complement on the same ex-GN route or another "North Coast/Mainstreeter" to serve more southerly portions.

AFA gaps like El Paso to Forth Worth (Not to mention El PAso to Cheyenne along the Front Range), OKC to Newton, Marshall to Meridian (are you re-routing the Crescent to Dallas or creating another leg??) Atlanta to Jacksonville (not to mention Atlanta to Nashville, Atlanta to Cincinnati, and Atlanta to Washington via Raleigh and Richmond), why do you feel you have to choose one or the other?? Why not Fight for enhanced train service period?? (Besides Nashville, other large cities such as Columbus, Dayton , Cincinnati, Las Vegas, and Phoenix remain either without Amtrak service at all or are greatly underserved.)
"Government isn't the solution to our problems, government IS the problem."

Ronald Reagan

John_Perkowski
Posts: 4867
Joined: Wed Mar 17, 2004 5:12 pm
Location: Off the Q main near Parkville MO

Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by John_Perkowski » Sat Dec 26, 2009 1:47 pm

Mr Millard:

With what money?

Our Chinese bankers are going to call our notes, sooner or later. Obamacare, TARP, "Stimulus," GM/Chrysler, ad infinitum are all taking the debt higher.

"Lowering the deficit?" What a joke. All that means is the rate of increase is being backed off from vertical. Until we get to a zero deficit, the US is increasing its debt.

Maybe if we were to put environmental rules in place that made scheduled and executive air not viable, but only if we did that, would LD rail beyond 218 and 51 matter.

No, I cannot see a NCH.


(Usual disclaimers apply)
~John Perkowski: Moderator: General Discussion: Locomotives, Rolling Stock, and Equipment
Assistant Administrator: Railroad.net/forums
Jeff Smith & Greg Primrose now own railroad.net!

delvyrails
Posts: 564
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2007 12:47 pm

Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by delvyrails » Sat Dec 26, 2009 2:56 pm

Basically, improving Amtrak is:

1. About priorities. What improvement gives the most revenue for the investment and operating dollar?

2. About well-conceived plans, not slogans. Politicians can pull money levers for specific THINGS that lead to a desired result, but there's no lever for wishes like "better train service". Most times, someone has an idea. does a back-of-envelope calculation, and works with local politicians to get a study (like the Hiawatha and Pioneer studies) to firm up the numbers. Then politicians have something concrete to talk about.
John Pawson

vermontanan
Posts: 161
Joined: Sun Mar 29, 2009 4:38 pm

Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by vermontanan » Sat Dec 26, 2009 8:04 pm

neroden wrote:
I still don't understand this. Why didn't Amtrak study the "12 hours off" schedule option as well? It seems like the obvious choice. How much extra work could it have been?
That's a good question. The study should have done a lot of things it didn't.

The reason the proposed schedule shows going across Montana during the daytime is that Montana Senator Jon Tester is the one who got the study added to the bill, and Montanans are the main push for the train, so you can bet they'd want the train to run through there at decent hours.

Rather than publish a schedule 12 hours later or whatever (not hard to do, just add or subtract the same number of hours at each stop), what I think should have been done is show the relative costs if the train ran on a slower schedule. The amount of work that was put into this appears to be nearly zero. Except for the routing through Helena instead of Butte, scheduled running times are nearly the same as when the last trains operated. Given that most of the money required for the new service is for track infrastructure improvements, why not investigate a cost with a much slower schedule?

Interestingly, the cost for the new service includes six sets of equipment, but the rotation shown for the proposed schedule does it with five! Existing bus service along the route is just as fast or faster than when a passenger train last ran. West of Billings, Montana, the bus is much faster. Most of the stops have air service, and many have air service to multiple hubs. So, obviously, the train isn't going to be able to compete with the other modes anyway with regard to speed. Why not show a train on a schedule 6 or 8 hours longer than the Empire Builder? Many people choose to ride passenger train due to comfort and convenience, without regard to speed. It might have even kept the cost below the billion dollar mark.

One of the things that proves that this study was made without much effort was the stations. Basically, uniform station costs were assigned for everyplace, and the same station stops as in the past were projected (except Helena for Butte).
Why would the train stop at Paradise (about 200 people) instead of Plains or Thompson Falls? Why would there need to be stop at East Auburn, Washington when the new Sounder station in downtown Auburn would do very nicely? Since none of the stations are currently able to handle a passenger train, they were starting at scratch, so their copying previous stops without any variation to me only shows laziness.

The only reason I mention this is because so little effort was put into defining actual costs of different scenarios, I believe the whole study is of little value. I think the service has a zero percent chance of happening, but with a little more effort, maybe options with less sticker shock might have made the expenditure look a bit more palatable than it does right now.

wigwagfan
Posts: 3311
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2005 10:57 am
Location: Portland, Oregon

Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by wigwagfan » Sun Dec 27, 2009 9:33 pm

electricron wrote:If the NCH was restarted, I would have it terminate in Portland, and have the EB in Seattle, eliminating the need to switch cars in Spokane. This could easily save a half hour or more on the EB time. Passengers could just transfer trains in Spokane instead.
Given the virtual lack of on-route population on the Portland section of the EB route, and the relative short distance between Pasco and Portland - I have to wonder if replacing the Portland second with a three-car DMU consist that provides a baggage compartment, some type of food service (cafe counter? airline style cart service?) and coach seating might make more sense while sending the main train to Seattle via Yakima.

Yakima's population is close to 85,000; the Tri-Cities has over 240,000. Horizon Air cut Portland service to both of those cities in recent years when they retired the 37-seat Q200 craft from their fleet - and provided new Q400 service to Seattle; SkyWest (United Express and Delta Connection) doesn't offer PDX service to either city (despite continuing to fly ~34 seat EMB-120s); and startup SeaPort Airlines flies to Pendleton but not to Yakima or the Tri-Cities (despite flying even smaller aircraft - Pilatus PC-9). Greyhound offers three schedules - two of which however require a transfer (one via Seattle, and one via Stanfield, OR. at a Pilot Truck Stop just off of I-84 and U.S. 395.) Clearly that three airlines could service the route and chooses not to speaks volumes; that even Greyhound only sees fit to offer one daily schedule with a 55-seat bus (that also serves Hood River and The Dalles - neither of which are directly served by Amtrak.) It'd be interesting to see Amtrak's ridership numbers just for the Portland section - and whether or not much of the ridership would stay with Amtrak even if it required taking a Cascades train to Seattle for the connection. If I take the ridership numbers for the three stations solely served by the Portland section based from Amtrak's 2008 Washington State Fact Sheet, I get 31,920 annual boardings and alightings, or 86 passengers per day either getting on or off per day, or 43 per train per day. Of course that doesn't include how many people get on at Portland/Vancouver, or Spokane riders.
--------------------------------------------------
Erik Halstead - Portland, Oregon

wigwagfan
Posts: 3311
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2005 10:57 am
Location: Portland, Oregon

Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by wigwagfan » Sun Dec 27, 2009 9:47 pm

delvyrails wrote:All this may be quite true; but for a billion dollars, Amtrak would be duplicating the EB a couple hundred miles south on a route of some 2400 new route miles that would serve no new large cities.
By NYC standards, yes, there would be "no new large cities". But by Montana standards - the EB doesn't serve ANY of Montana's "large cities" but an NCH would serve virtually all of them.

The largest Amtrak station (by ridership) the EB serves is Whitefish, with its population of only 8,000. Fortunately, it's not too far away from Kalispell which finally hit 20,000 in population. Surrounding area's population (including Evergreen, Columbia Falls, and several smaller communities) is under 45,000.

Missoula's population, on the other hand, is about 70,000, plus the University of Montana campus (lots of students not counted in official population counts, currently about 12,000.) Add to that towns like Plains or Paradise or Thompson Falls, Deer Lodge, Butte, Bozeman (Montana State University, another 12,000 students), Livingston, Laurel, Billings (MSU-Billings Campus, another 4,000 students)... The EB's only on-line university is MSU-Northern.
--------------------------------------------------
Erik Halstead - Portland, Oregon

wigwagfan
Posts: 3311
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2005 10:57 am
Location: Portland, Oregon

Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by wigwagfan » Sun Dec 27, 2009 10:00 pm

vermontanan wrote:One of the things that proves that this study was made without much effort was the stations. Basically, uniform station costs were assigned for everyplace, and the same station stops as in the past were projected (except Helena for Butte).
What are the assumptions for the stations? My understanding was that it was assumed that each station would need an enclosed, heated waiting room (due to Montana's climate), plus a full ADA compliant platform, plus adequate parking, lighting...

Here in the Portland metro area we are spending $750,000 in "stimulus" funding to build...a restroom (and it'll have a small break room for WES operators and SMART bus drivers.) In Wilsonville at the WES station. And that is on land already owned by the transit agency (SMART), with no additional parking, electrical needs, etc. Of course, we also built the "Portland Loo" for $140,000 located just outside the Greyhound station. And the Chemult "warming hut" Amtrak station - is slated to be $600,000 including provisions for a restroom. And Leavenworth, Washington's Amtrak "station" (platform) cost $750,000 including a small wood shelter, and the requisite ADA compliant platform and a small parking area.
--------------------------------------------------
Erik Halstead - Portland, Oregon

mtuandrew
Posts: 6009
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:59 am
Location: the Manassas Gap Independent Line

Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by mtuandrew » Sun Dec 27, 2009 11:37 pm

I find it amusing that despite his normal, very practical, anti-LD stance, Mr. Halstead believes that the North Coast Hiawatha (coming to a neighborhood near him) is a transportation option worth investment AND a set of DMUs. :wink:

That said, I don't disagree with him.

However, I do think Amtrak was somewhat lazy in its study, and didn't suggest any less-costly, more likely alternative routes. Specifically, they didn't study a temporary through-routing Spokane - Cascade Tunnel - Seattle, as an alternative to the NP routing. Yes, it's not EXACTLY the same as the old NCH, nor does it serve Yakima or the Tri-Cities, but it'd be better for Washington State than no train at all. Let the service establish itself though Montana, then fund the reroute through Washington, and possibly another in Minnesota through Willmar and Minneapolis proper. Maybe they'll save a few hundred million dollars in the original proposal, eh?

EDIT: I'd forgotten the part in the study about BNSF limiting the number of trains through Stevens Pass. It still seems as though Amtrak could have investigated partial funding of a more effective ventilation system, or a routing from Spokane through Portland to Seattle. Roundabout, yes, but less work than rehabbing the entire Stampede Pass line.
Last edited by mtuandrew on Mon Dec 28, 2009 10:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

Gilbert B Norman
Posts: 14128
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 6:52 am
Location: Clarendon Hills, IL (BNSF Chicago Sub; MP 18.71)

Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Mon Dec 28, 2009 9:02 am

It seems as if there has been continual "musical chairs" within the Senate as to which Senator was going to be the "linchpin" in delivery of health care legislation acceptable to the President (and that their constituents could "live with'). First the "linchpin" appeared to be Sen. Snowe (R-ME) who I guess would have given the legislation a "tint" of bi-partisanship. She is reportedly "pro-rail' and just might have wanted a payback with enhanced DownEaster service, including extensions to Central Maine.

Next it looked as if Sen. Baucus (D-MT) was going to be "it". He has consistently been pro-rail through his career and fought a delaying action against the inevitable abandonment (and yes I am using THAT term here knowing full well its legal definition) of MILW Lines West. He might have wanted a North Coast Limited, or even The Mainstreeter as was proposed here. But the music played on.....

Finally the music stopped and Sen Nelson (D-NE) appears to be 'it'. He has already named his earmark reward (I think a new Veterans hospital), and it ain't a Kansas City-Omaha-Lincoln HSR system!

In short, Division B (PRIIA) of RSIA '08 has been complied with; the consultants chowed down at the trough, and otherwise the North Coast Limited initiative is over and out. The impetus for new services is short distance routes through densely populated regions better known as Corridors. The new enhanced security procedures will only make short distance air travel even less attractive and highways appear to be a quite "finite' infrastructure resource.

Well what else is out there?
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Mon Dec 28, 2009 11:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

kmillard
Posts: 232
Joined: Mon Jun 19, 2006 11:26 pm
Location: Livonia MI

Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by kmillard » Mon Dec 28, 2009 11:31 am

John_Perkowski wrote:Mr Millard:

With what money?

Our Chinese bankers are going to call our notes, sooner or later. Obamacare, TARP, "Stimulus," GM/Chrysler, ad infinitum are all taking the debt higher.

"Lowering the deficit?" What a joke. All that means is the rate of increase is being backed off from vertical. Until we get to a zero deficit, the US is increasing its debt.

Maybe if we were to put environmental rules in place that made scheduled and executive air not viable, but only if we did that, would LD rail beyond 218 and 51 matter.

No, I cannot see a NCH.


(Usual disclaimers apply)
I've railed (no pun intended) non-stop against the stimulus, Obamacare, Tarp, Copenhagen, GM/Chrysler, and cap and trade. Frankly, I feel Transportation infrastructure (and National Defense) is vastly more important than any of the rest of Barak Hussein Obama's (Mmm Mmm Mmm!!!) Bolshevik nonsense, but tyrants can't control the populace by improving our transportation infrastructure. They need to take control of our lives by taking over our health care and transferring our wealth to developing countries in the name of "environmental justice."
"Government isn't the solution to our problems, government IS the problem."

Ronald Reagan

kmillard
Posts: 232
Joined: Mon Jun 19, 2006 11:26 pm
Location: Livonia MI

Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by kmillard » Mon Dec 28, 2009 11:42 am

Gilbert B Norman wrote:It seems as if there has been continual "musical chairs" within the Senate as to which Senator was going to be the "linchpin" in delivery of legislation acceptable to the President (and that their constituents could "live with'). First the "linchpin" appeared to be Sen. Snowe (R-ME) who I guess would have given the legislation a "tint" of bi-partisanship. She is reportedly "pro-rail' and just might have wanted a payback with enhanced DownEaster service, including extensions to Central Maine.

Gil, it's more than just reports on Ms. Snowe. Her voting record is pretty much consistently pro-rail and she's been clamoring for that DownEaster extension for many years now. And much as I like to see enhanced rail service, I'm glad she didn't sell her vote on Obamacare for it, although Ben Nelson made it a moot point with his shameless sellout (a possibly unconstitutional agreement under the equal protection clause.)
"Government isn't the solution to our problems, government IS the problem."

Ronald Reagan

ne plus ultra
Posts: 803
Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2006 11:02 pm

Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by ne plus ultra » Mon Dec 28, 2009 12:36 pm

kmillard wrote: Frankly, I feel Transportation infrastructure (and National Defense) is vastly more important than any of the rest of Barak Hussein Obama's (Mmm Mmm Mmm!!!) Bolshevik nonsense, but tyrants can't control the populace by improving our transportation infrastructure.
Anyone reminded of those exercises where they ask school children basic questions about American history, and we're all surprised at what many of them aren't familiar with?

Seriously, write back when you've learned how to spell the President's name, and I'll be happy to read some of your interesting theories about how things that every western European nation has done for decades are "Bolshevik".

Return to “Amtrak”