Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

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

Post by Tadman »

Assuming for a minute that the "flyover" states required long distance service in order to secure their support votes in Congress for Amtrak, how many states have some sort of corridor potential (ignoring PRIIA rules) that could "replace" the LD train and continue to secure support from a non-coastal congressman?

Current corridors cover:
ME, NH, VT, NY, CT, RI, PA, NJ, DE, MD, VA, IL, MI, WI, MO, CA, OR, WA

Regional trains cover:
NC SC GA (Palmetto) TX OK (Flyer)

So left there is OH, WV, KY, IN, MN, ND, SD, WY, MT, ID, CO, UT, NV, AZ, NM, KS, TN, AL, MS, FL, LA, IA, NE

I think we can slide FL over into regional as the Stars don't seem to be going anywhere. FL also has Sunrail, which could be beefed up with some federal funding.

That leads to UT, NM, and TN, which have smaller commuter operations which could be beefed up with federal funding into mini-corridors.

LA, AL, MS are on track for a gulf regional service. Also NOLA-HOU is a great corridor.

The cardinal could be split into two daily day trains (cinci split) with no sleeper to cover IN, OH, WV, KY.

A second Hiawatha to MN could cover MN and WI.

The River Runner could be extended to Topeka to cover KS.

A Tucson-Phoenix train is dearly needed. Covers AZ

Perhaps LA-Las Vegas? - Covers NV

Colorado should have a front range train Springs-Denver-Boulder.

ID and Montana are open, but perhaps Spokane-CDA-Glacier?

AK, HI, SD, and WY already have no Amtrak (and AK has ARR which is great)

Thoughts? Do these services provide better service than the current trains?
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mtuandrew
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by mtuandrew »

I’m not sure if it quite fits the bill as a daylight train or sub-750 miles (it’s almost 19 hours! The Palmetto only takes 15 and change), but a long corridor CHI-OMA-DEN has some value. That checks IA and NE off the list, with current service levels and without the BNSF/UP handoff. Would be better if the stakeholders could shave off a few hours for a Denver Zephyr, but that’s tough to achieve on an already-fast service.

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

Post by John_Perkowski »

WRT LA to Las Vegas

Southwest alone does a ton of flights from every airport in LA area. For Amtrak to succeed, it will need

- multiple runs
- multiple origins (Chatsworth, San Juan Capistrano, Union Station)
- bar cars with GOOD bartenders
- at least one 11 Double Bedroom car of the Pullman era ( who wants to **** in a section, and let’s be honest, some people go to Vegas to ****)
- 360 salable seats in coach (6 cars)
So, we are talking 8 cars behind the locomotive.

The train would need a Nevada State gaming license (start gambling as you enter the cars), with concurrence from California

The trains would have to run on about a 3 hour schedule, thus be faster than car or mega bus.

Remember, Union Pacific proved in the 50s/60s vitamin service (One a Day) doesn’t cut it on this route.

Disclaimer... long IRA positions in UNP and LUV.
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John_Perkowski
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by John_Perkowski »

mtuandrew wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 12:05 pm
I’m not sure if it quite fits the bill as a daylight train or sub-750 miles (it’s almost 19 hours! The Palmetto only takes 15 and change), but a long corridor CHI-OMA-DEN has some value. That checks IA and NE off the list, with current service levels and without the BNSF/UP handoff. Would be better if the stakeholders could shave off a few hours for a Denver Zephyr, but that’s tough to achieve on an already-fast service.
Andrew,
What’s the air and ground traffic analysis CHI...Denver and CHI...Omaha?
The market need drives the requirement.
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Westernstar1
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by Westernstar1 »

Interesting post, Mr. Tadman.

I often wonder what would happen if Amtrak would delete most or all of its long distance trains. I don't think bus subs would do the trick. I doubt if anyone would wish to ride a bus over the long distances left void by a deleted LD train.

A few years ago, one of the US senators, from Montana, was asked if the state of Montana pick up the cost of the portion of the Empire Builder that runs across the state. The senator's definite statement was the Montana couldn't absorb such a cost. But, is that so? I wonder if Montana could impose a modest gasoline tax to help cover the cost? I know that there is the danger that such as gas tax could be used for other purposes. However, with the many auto tourists to Montana at least during the summer months, out-of-state travelers would be picking up some of that tax.

Regarding the expansion of regional trains to help fill a void for a departed long distance train, there has been some discussion about expanding the Amtrak Cascades east to Spokane. One problem would be that, most likely, BNSF would not be overjoyed by the idea. However, it might be possible to run the train over the less crowded Stampede Pass. One advantage of a Cascade train to Spokane would be a much more practical arrival time, in comparison to the arrival time for the Builder.

Western Star

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

Post by Arborwayfan »

Tadman, good question and a good idea. In general I think many of your suggestions would improve attract more passengers, more passenger miles, and more total ticket revenue than the current system. They would make many of us railfans sad or angry, but they could actually make passenger train service relevant, useful for reducing congestion, sustaining urban cores, making denser development pleasant to live in, etc. Political imponderables:
Day trains might get more reliable/energetic congressional support in places like Nebraska (the "sleep-through" states?) than the current night trains do, and they would get a lot more passengers between intermediate station (althought the Chi-Den route might lose a lot of passengers too, because it probably gets so many passengers partly because it's overnight so it actually doesn't take much more waking time than flying does).

Mr. Perkowski, I can't tell you the air-ground numbers Chi-Den and return, but I can say that personal experience, backed up by a 2010 Amtrak report cited by electricon in the CZ schedule thread, shows many people ride between Denver and someplace in Illinois, even more between Denver and someplace from Omaha eastward. It is dramatic to watch the train empty out at Denver. It does a thousand miles between 2:30 pm and 8-ish am, so it is faster than any sane person (IMHO) can drive the distance.

A few quibbles: MA is also covered by The Corridor :-D . Also, can we count count Alaska in the corridor column? I seem to remember that federal funding for the Alaska RR is more or less part of the deal when the AK delegation votes for Amtrak (which is perfectly fair). Michigan trains stop in NW Indiana, but I assume you're figuring that that's not enough to get IN congressional support? Columbus or Cincinnatti-Indy-StL might be an easier route than Indy-Chi with its multiple host RRs.

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

Post by lordsigma12345 »

Some of these corridor ideas sound interesting, but I don’t think the CZ is going anywhere though that doesn’t mean some corridor expansion along its route isn’t possible. Richard Anderson has recently stated that the three night trains are where he is most interested in making his case. The sunset limited route seems to be the area he is most interested in (which I guess includes the NOL-MOB corridor.) I think Anderson probably acknowledges that it makes sense for Amtrak to still be able to connect all the major regions of the system together with some overnight trains - but he’s probably asking do we really need four central to west trains? The Zephyr and the builder are the ones he wants to keep but now that he’s been told to stay away from the Chief, the sunset is going to be his target. I’d look out for things like LA - Palm Springs, NOL- San Antonio, etc. he’s going to go where congressman and senators are willing to entertain it and stay away from
The routes where he knows he’s going to get a bloody nose.

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

Post by charlesriverbranch »

Long distance runs make a lot more sense than corridors, I think, in relatively sparsely populated states. You run fewer sets of equipment and only need maintenance facilities at the endpoints. If the issue is Cleveland not getting service in daylight hours, then run a second NYC - Chicago frequency that crosses Ohio in the daytime.

ThirdRail7
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by ThirdRail7 »

Tadman wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 10:25 am
Thoughts? Do these services provide better service than the current trains?
Leaving out the operational realities, anytime you have multiple frequencies that stay close to a base, it will provide better service. However, I'm not sure if you are asking the right question. In some cases, I think adding additional service to the existing train to provide multiple frequencies may work out better than outright replacement.

An example is the Crescent. They both have picked up local ridership in Virginia since they added a regional train into the mix. It gives the cities more options and if 20 was more reliable, they could move the regional back.

While you could probably cut the Crescent into a NYP-CLT train or a NYP-ATL train, BHM performs reasonably well. Image another BHM train and another train to ATL from NYP. It would feed the Crescent.

That being said, you just serviced from NY to AL.
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Alex M
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by Alex M »

When talking about Florida, you might want to include Virgin/Brightline in the regional mix.

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

Post by mtuandrew »

John_Perkowski wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 12:24 pm
Andrew,
What’s the air and ground traffic analysis CHI...Denver and CHI...Omaha?
The market need drives the requirement.
Sure. For a partial assessment, on an average Monday (December 9, 2019) CHI-DEN has 16 nonstop flight pairs daily from O’Hare (with several one-stops from both O’Hare and Midway.) Not sure on the plane size but betting it’s between 100-150 seats per flight. CHI-OMA has 10 nonstop flight pairs and OMA-DEN has 6 pairs, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they have smaller jets.

I’m not sure where to find the overall number of travelers per year per city pair, sorry.

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

Post by David Benton »

You would not be aiming to convert a large portion of the air market, so its not really as relevant as it might seem.Bus and Auto traffic would be more of a pointer.
Somebody posted a traffic map, bu I can't remember which forum or subject it was in .
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GWoodle
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by GWoodle »

Don't mix the We Go (Music City) TN Star into the NM UT or other state with a commuter system. The only way it could work would be to bring back the Ky Cardinal or the Floridian. Nashville is about 200 miles from Memphis via I-40. TN is a bit of an odd state railroad wise with several north/south RR's in an east/west world. There is no east/west RR in TN. If they built it would take billions of dollars in the hilly plateau terrain.

What TN does have is the City of New Orleans to Memphis & Dyersburg. Maybe if TN put in a few dollars for the 100 miles or so of track or money to help upkeep of the 2 stations. For a time TN had a rural thruway bus that could stop at different gas stations from Nashville to Memphis to provide a sort of rural bus transit. It did not last very long. Amtrak may be experimenting to partner with Greyhound that could provide a connection to St Louis or Indy train stations if you want to travel that way.

Seems to me there will always be a need to provide some LD service to keep up a national passenger railroad system. We probably pay enough in federal income tax to get some Amtrak service in return.
Glenn Woodle

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

Post by David Benton »

I would have thought a Thruway bus from Carbondale would make more sense to Nashville.
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electricron
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Re: Replacing LD with regional/corridor - how many states?

Post by electricron »

Amtrak is in the business of subsidizing long distance (>750 miles) trains, and subsidizing the NEC. Amtrak may run regional (<750 miles) trains elsewhere, but it does not subsidize them, those subsidies are paid by various states.
If states or private enterprise wish to perform feasibility and environmental studies to eventually subsidize more regional trains, nothing is stopping them. Virgin, Texas Central, and various states are doing so today. It is not Amtrak's responsibility to do so.
In almost every case, if the planners are suggesting running these new regional trains over freight railroads own tracks, it is most likely Amtrak will be asked to run these trains. If the planners are suggesting running these new regional trains over brand new rail corridors and tracks, Amtrak may not be asked to run them.
Virgin runs its trains on its own tracks, Virgin will be running on its own trains Victorville to Las Vegas too, Texas Central will have Ave run its trains, North Carolina has Amtrak running its trains over its own tracks.
Amtrak only has the ability under the existing law to demand to run trains over tracks on trains which were in operations at the time it was legislated. For Amtrak to run new trains over tracks that had no passenger trains when it was legislated into existence, it has to negotiate with the track owners for access for the new trains. It can not force it. If the track owners reply no, there is little Amtrak can do.

Amtrak will have to maintain just enough long distance trains to form one interconnected network, if only to move rolling stock around to its maintenance facilities behind its own trains. Paying freight railroads to move them regularly, or paying third parties to do the maintenance can get very expensive very quickly. That does not mean a network of as many trains that exists today, but at least one transcontinental unbroken backbone that all other Amtrak trains meet or cross.

At a minimum, I can see a z or h pattern of long distance trains across the lower 48 states, Seattle to California, west coast to east coast via Chicago, and Maine to Florida. Both coasts have huge populations centers, and transcontinental via Chicago linking the coast together.
The transcontinental backbone, as well as the coasts, can have regional spurs branching off it, to Minneapolis, Dallas, Atlanta, Harrisburg, etc. The passengers on these regional trains should be able to transfer to everywhere Amtrak runs trains. I can't imagine any airline not getting any passenger from any airport they visit to another they visit. That's another reason why to have an unbroken national network.

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