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Author Topic: NARP's Manifesto, Comrades
Gilbert B Norman
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NARP is celebrating its 40th anniversary by proclaiming its manifesto for passenger rail in the US. Details are at the NARP web site:

www.narprail.org

When will NARP kindly realize that 21st century rail passenger service is all about regionals (commuter) and corridors?

They were no different back in '67 when I first started to read their propagenda (and maybe even considered joining). But when I realized they were of "we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender" against any train-off, even if providing needless service, anywhere, I decided they were not for me.

DPM had it right back in April '59. Evidently NARP could not be bothered with his wisdom.

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wayne72145
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I prefer long distance trains to flying, and I've read arguements pro and con and I'm still confused. The airlines get lots of federal money and so does Amtrak. We all pay a huge gas tax for transportation. So I wonder where profit means more than being able to get around. Nearly all metro areas have public supported transportation. Would the airlines makes a profit if they had to pay the FAA and TSA and pay for the airports? Just asking.
I detest the airlines so much I even gave Greyhound a try in March. When the long distance trains go I guess I'll just have to start driving again.

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TwinStarRocket
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Pardon my ignorance, Mr. Norman, but what does DPM stand for.

I have often heard the claim that NARP is pro-NEC and anti-LD, mostly from our local Association of RR Passengers (which is aligned with URPA). All these different points of view intrigue me. URPA (unitedrail.org) makes a credible case that it is the LD's, not corridors, that are passenger rails greatest opportunity.

example

By the way, I met Vicki and Art at the MSP station last night when they were waiting for the almost 2 hour late EB to Essex. They were, as you say, a delightful couple, and they enjoyed getting together with you immensely.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Twin Star, DPM refers to David P. Morgan, Editor TRAINS 1953-1989 or thereabouts. April '59 refers to April 1959 TRAINS where Morgan published "Who Shot the Passenger Train'; likely the most comprehensive study regarding the economics and outlook for the passenger train ever to appear in the popular press.

Lastly, regarding Miss Vickie and Mr. Art; the feeling is indeed mutual.

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Mr. Toy
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quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:

When will NARP kindly realize that 21st century rail passenger service is all about regionals (commuter) and corridors?

If NARP ever takes that position I will immediately withdraw my membership! I firmly believe this country needs a strong NATIONAL rail network, not a hodge-podge of disconnected corridors. Long distance and corridor trains are much stronger as a unit that either would be separately. In essence, the more destinations the customers can choose from, the more customers there will be.

While I have the utmost respect for you personally, Mr. Norman, I feel your position here is short-sighted - based more on public behavior patterns of the last 30 years rather than those that I expect to emerge over the next 30. Energy supplies and costs are going to be a big issue over the next couple of decades, as will be the need to minimize environmental problems. These will affect people's travel habits. I also suspect that as the Boomer generation gets older they will be less interested in speed than in comfort.

The key to the success of rail is not in limiting the distances traveled, but in providing clean, modern, comfortable trains that run on time. Yes, it will cost money, and the states are for the most part ready to get "on board" but they lack the necessary financial commitment and coordination that must come from Washington. The pressure on Washington is growing slowly, so sooner or later it will happen.

NARP's vision may seem overly ambitious, but I see nothing wrong with thinking big. It is certainly preferable to thinking too small.

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musicfan
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I can understand why this issue fires people up.
Sometimes I think it is almost a "dualism" tendency.
That is, some people seem to be unable to support one thing without being against another.

From my perspective, in the specific issue area of passenger rail, the two top priorities that deserve the most funding and most support of all concerned are local light rail projects and regional corridors.
The two secondary priorities are commuter rail and Long-distance service. In my opinion these still deserve support, but I think there should be a recognition among all involved in the issue of the order of priority.
1. light-rail-subway etc.
2. regional corridors (Amtrak NEC type etc....)
3. commuter rail
4. Long-distance service.

Why do believe this?
1. I think the local light rail lines and subways are the clearest and biggest help to the economy and the development of the best culture and societies in our cities.
These trains can be used by people of all classes, from rich to poor, old to young.
They also primarily serve the people who are making the city their home and workplace.
They help people in bettering their lives every day and it makes the country a better place.
Even if these are the most expensive things to build, I think what you get back is multiplied over and over.
2. Regional corridor trains.
Why is it many passenger rail people in other parts of the country hate and loathe the NEC??
Because it makes the most sense and is the most successful and most important passenger rail network in the country.
I don't mean it's financially efficient or run right. Amtrak should run it better.
But we should create more Northeast Corridors throughout the country, or perhaps more realistically "Keystone" type corridors.
I think the only reason for antagonism to the NEC or anti-corridor thinking is a natural human tendency to hate those things which are more successful than you.
Like hating the Yankees or a girl hating the prettiest girl in school, or hating the guy who lives in the mansion on the hill just because he lives on the mansion on the hill.
3. commuter rail.
The names of all these modes can get kind of confusing and blend together. If commuter lines are fully implemented like Metra in Chicago or Metro North, LIRR, NJ Transit, etc..etc.. and you have trains at least every hour or two, then I think it is vitally important thing and worth supporting.
But I have become more wary of commuter start-ups in smaller markets where they only have morning in, evening out schedules.
I think these operations are of marginal value, and support a very narrow range demographic, in many cases an upper-class bedroom community one at that.
I think much of the money spent on these would be better suited to more light-rail lines in the central part of cities which run every few minutes or at the outside 15 to 30 minutes.
I think many smaller and mid-size cities could support light rail more than commuter rail, if they could only find the money and be built in the first place.
4: Long Distance service.
First off, the definition and break point between "corridor" and LD is worth discussing.
I do disagree with acting like anything over 200 miles is worthy of derision and stupid insults like "we can't go back in time"
I think a substantial amount of people will travel 5 to 10 hours on a train if the service was frequent and good.
Prioritizing slightly below that, I think the 500 to 1000 mile or 1000-1500 one night train could do pretty well if properly invested in.
Chicago to the east coast, NYC to Florida, and similar markets could be much more successful if run correctly in my opinion.
Beyond that, and although I love them all dearly and think it is one of the most special experiences one can have, the two-night or more cross country Long Distance Train trip, will in my opinion, while worthy of support,always be a niche market.

Why can't all those who support passenger rail agree on a basic outline of those priorities???

Why the corridor people always talk and threaten to take away the LD's, I have no idea.
They are worthy of support, and should have good equipment and daily service at least.
Why the LD' people seem to view serving every last town and line with marginal service is of more importance than creating high-frequency corridors, I have no idea.
Why the "big train" and "real train" people don't throw every last ounce of support and energy behind the great idea and source of economic development and culture that is light-rail and the subway, I have no idea.
In the end I am just sick of talking and studying, I support things that have the best chance to actually be operationally improved in frequencies or service in the shortest amount of time
I certainly support maintaining the existing Long Distance Routes,and actually think a 2 train a day minimum is best.
However, I firmly believe that the corridors are the present and future and am totally mystified by the infighting within the community of people who should be all on the same page.
Also, I do not understand this counterproductive idea that all cities and regions are equal and deserve the same investment just to keep everyone happy.
I'm from the Twin Cities area, and would like nothing more than several trains a day to Chicago and back. That is my personal highest priority in this small sphere of interest of my daily life.
But I'm fully aware that as a whole, I have to think New York City, Chicago, and L.A.(and other areas in descending priority) deserve more investment and a higher priority than where I live for the health of the national economy and to serve the most people.

Via's "Canadian" is NOT the ideal in my view.
If people want luxury long-trips they can book the Grand Luxe.

I want trains that regular working people can make quick plans and get on tomorrow or next week. Something where if you miss the train, the next train is this afternoon in a couple of hours, not 24 hours later.
That's what would be most useful most of the time to most of the people.

Each citizen has equal rights under the law, but equal distribution of tax funds is not a right.
Ideally taxes(if they are used at all) should be used to to promote the widest possible opportunity and public welfare, not to serve a small interest group, however deserving they are.

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TwinStarRocket
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Musicfan and Mr. Toy, I am 100% in agreement with what you both said. Being pro-LD should not necessarily be anti-NEC. But personally I feel a 125mph train is not worth the bucks if it costs twice as much as a 90mph train. I would rather see the money spent on service quality, and more and better equipment.

To me the theory of increasing the possible number of city pair destinations, and the frequency of trains, to increase revenues at a greater rate than costs deserves to be tested.

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Tanner929
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Long and Mid Range Train Trips did not lose their dominance with plane travel, trains began to lose there appeal with the Model T The Federal Hiway system was the final nail. Perhaps if the old Railroad Co's had put there money into their commuter lines instead of the Streamline locomotives those lines may not have become the laughing stock they turned into. As far as the "older generations". Judging by my parents and older relatives, in their late sixties and seventies, They drive long distances or fly. I don't see many baby boomers suddendly thinking a long distance train trip is the way to go. The plane can get you their faster, the car offers you the ability to make sight see and tour. Baby Boomers and todays younger train travelers know commuter trains. Many of these trains especially on the New Haven Line on the Metro North system are old cramped and rather dirty. If people do not enjoy the train from Westport CT to Manhattan, I don't see them seeing a trip from Westport to Manhattan KS.
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notelvis
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Count me in the pro-long-distance category. Mr. Norman and I have respectfully disagreed on this topic before.....

I would like to see the present long-distance system survive intact. Beyond that, I would like to see 'a few' additional long-distance trains return. Again, what constitutes 'a few' can be debated. I'd say 5 or 6 routes is 'a few'. Others may say 2 or 3......or none.

TwinStar, you may be pleased to note that one of my handful of 'new' services I would like to see would be a Twin Cities to Kansas City day train making connections with 3 and 4 at KCY. Not sure if I'd like to see it continue overnight to Texas but since we're dreaming, why not?

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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TwinStarRocket
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A Twin Cities to KC train could also connect to the 5/6 on that schedule, as well as the 3/4. Movements are afoot to promote a northern extension of the Heartland Flyer to Newton, and in Texas to connect Dallas-Houston. Even an 8-10 hour layover in KC with a partnership deal with a hotel might work. Whether it was one train MN-TX or connecting trains, it increases the possible numbers of city pairs exponentially. The critical issues of course would be buying equipment and running somewhere near on time.

Rapidly expanding populations of families with Midwest-Southwest connections could result in a lot of people who would take trains who reluctantly fly or drive.

But even more important than a Twin Star Rocket is to get Phoenix and Las Vegas on the Amtrak map and a CHI-Florida connection.

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wayne72145
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I'm a boomer who had never been on a train until I retired in 2002 and now I travel coast to coast 4 times a year on LD's. What I see on these trips are people like myself who have time and dont like to fly. I've watched tax dollars go for a lot less. As long as there are LD's I'll be on them and I think thats the best way keep them. RIDE them.
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Mr. Toy
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Musicfan, that was a thoughtful post, and I agree with it for the most part. However I would quibble with this statement:

quote:
Originally posted by musicfan:

Why is it many passenger rail people in other parts of the country hate and loathe the NEC??....I think the only reason for antagonism to the NEC or anti-corridor thinking is a natural human tendency to hate those things which are more successful than you.

I must respectfully disagree that there exists any substantial dislike for the NEC itself. I think we all recognize that it is a vital transportation artery for that part of the nation. The antagonism has more to do with funding inequities.

The NEC is almost 100% federally funded (through Amtrak subsidies), while the states put up virtually nothing except for costs related to their own transit services that happen to use the NEC.

Outside the NEC there is virtually NO federal funding for corridors, so the states have to put up 100% themselves. California generates more Amtrak riders than any state in the union. California's ridership is spread among four long distance trains and three corridors. The former are federally funded, but the latter receive no federal money whatsoever. Yet California taxpayers are helping to pay for NEC states that are getting a free ride.

There needs to be a funding formula similar to that available for highways, which is currently 80% federal and 20% state. That same formula should be applied across the board for rail as well. NEC states need to start putting in their 20%, and we out west could work wonders with that 80% match. I think perhaps the states would also be more willing to help pay for long distance trains if such a formula was in place.

----

P.S. I just noticed, this is my 2,300th post! [Eek!]

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musicfan
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Mr. Toy, I certainly agree that the way Amtrak is funded is an exercise in inequality.
There is no doubt California pays more than their fair share for their services, while the Northeastern states get a free ride.

As far as your suggestion for a funding stream of the 80/20 variety, like is done with many other things, my thoughts are a bit of a contradiction.
On the one hand, the passenger rail part of me knows this suggestion would result in more trains.
I would support that.
On the other hand, that kind of thing drives the rational part of me kind of nuts, in that, since we pay both state and federal taxes it shouldn't make any difference to the average taxpayer where it comes from.
But because of the way the political system works, states will do more things, since people seem to view federal grants as "free" money.
I realize that were probably not going to change the screwed up nature of government by fighting this fight in the issue of passenger rail, so I support joining all the other transportation modes in getting a predictable funding source for passenger rail.
My big worry about that is that it leads to some poor planning, and sometimes immense delays in waiting for the illusive golden parachute to arrive.
If states just have the guts to go it alone and do things themselves, they can get things done quicker.
Look at California, they have a right to complain about funding, but while their doing the complaining, at least they have the trains running.
Where I live in Wisconsin, instead of spending a relatively minor amount of state money to add a frequency or two to the Twin Cities,(and then complain about it) our Governor and politicians are making grand statements about high-speed rail, but not doing a thing.
They are waiting for the federal funding to do anything.
Meanwhile, we have one train a day.
I can't remember the exact quote right now, but I remember in one of the C.S. Lewis books I read, the character who is showing you around Heaven tells the recently arrived soul something to the effect of.
"It's best just to get over it, you just had the whole thing wrong. if you admit that you had the wrong idea while on earth and start afresh, it works out much better up here"
So I try to keep that in mind.
As much as I think I can see every angle of an issue and reach the right conclusion, in the end, half of what I'm thinking and can comprehend in my tiny little mortal mind will probably be total foolishness when I can see the big picture.

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TwinStarRocket
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Musicfan: "our Governor and politicians are making grand statements about high-speed rail, but not doing a thing."

Hear! Hear! Why is the focus not on incrementally improving or building on what we have.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Now that this topic is diverging from a strict discussion of NARP related issues, I was waiting for someone to play the "California v. Corridor" card, and no surprise California resident Mr. Toy did just that.

I sincerely respect the position, and residents of "Tax Hell California" have every right to ask "why must we pay for our trains with State tax $$$ while those in the Northeast do not?".

They have a point!!!, and it is indeed commendable that the California corridors have developed from nothing on A-Day (OK, 'two a day" LA-SD) to a reasonably comprehensive and reasonably well patronized system through the Southern tier of the State.

But the flip side is what Mr. Music Fan noted, while everyone must pay US Taxes, there is no law stating the benefits from the taxes paid must be equally distributed. The distribution relies on the political process of a democratic republic.

But the fact of the matter is that California is a nation state with a GNP of size to displace a sitting G-8 member. One legislative process from "Girlie Man to Hummah", is all that is needed for the people to have a rail passenger system determined at local level i.e. right down to the livery of the equipment and the on-board food and beverage selections.

To what extent the folk gathering under the dome in Sacramento must fend off the "where's our train' from the folks up in Eureka, I should best defer to the local knowledge indigenous to this forum.

The Northeast Corridor of course is in a different environment. While of course if a land mass the size of California were placed in the Northeast with roundly Sacramento atop New York, we would be talking about an economy with GNP likely greater than that of China or Japan. The fact is the Corridor traverses nine states with nine different agendas. Evidently those in the White House got off the peyote and gave their stash to Tony Soprano (#83) when they wisely backed away from any initiative to have the States run the Corridor services. The Administration realized that the only way there is to be a Corridor is with Federal level funding.

Again deferring to the 'cradle of this forum" regarding to what extent California legislators have been addressed by Northern constituents with "they have their trains we want ours" and successfully fended off such, we certainly know that at Federal level, there has been no such success. The result of course is the LD system - alive if not well long after it was to have been dead and buried.

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delvyrails
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Wow! That NARP "manifesto" did create a furor.
Mention is made of DPM's Trains issue 48 years ago, but many things have changed since then. The LD train failed to expire by 1960 as predicted by ICC. It should be obvious that many other factors are working to produce a different world than DPM and ICC foresaw.

We have looming environmental issues and energy issues, and we have capacity issues on that 1959-wondrous I-highway system. We have a much larger population of which at least 25% don't fly and probably as many don't drive long distances.

On the other hand, we have a railroad system today designed for long distance traffic that doesn't have capacity for lots of corridor trains. Indeed, much of the population of urban regions lives far away from the downtown stations which the high-speed corridor trains are supposed to connect.

It would seem therefore that the LD train has a more secure future--if it is usually limited to about one per day. connects all major points, and is made universally connective--than a plethora of corridors.

The route structure on the NARP map in particular is far too ambitious. It would appear to triple the Amtrak route mileage. For credibility, we need a booststraps network-building approach somewhat like that advocated by the late Byron Nordberg and Adrian Hertzog. We need to use better technology like VIARail's J-train for quickly joining and separating modular trains to multiple desinations.

I suggest that all of the 50 largest long-distance markets which NARP identified in its website could be well-served by about 5500-6000 (or 30%) additional route miles, beginning with Jacksonville-New Orleans, Dallas-Houston, and Toledo-Dearborn. A multitude of smaller station-to-station markets less subject to cheapie-airline service would be served by these added routes to stop at a new total of 400 to 500 stations.

Necessary discipline would be introduced by postulating eight main regional network hubs: Northeast, Florida, Chicago, North Texas, South Texas, Southern California, Bay Area, and Pacific Northwest. Most routes would connect these eight hubs, often two or more completely different routes between the same hubs (we actually have three between the Northeast and Chicago today). There would be universal connections scheduled among arriving and departing trains at each hub to allow daytime transfers and no overnight stays.

Each hub would include an auto-train ramp to bring aboard the vast numbers of long distance drivers. Only a relatively small shift from driven cars to cars aboard trains would double Amtrak's passenger miles and triple its passenger revenue.

These things could be done incrementally as the network builds.

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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by delvyrails:
The LD train failed to expire by 1960 as predicted by ICC.

Mr. Pawson, the "Hosmer Report" called for LD extinction by 1970 vice '60.

But your point is undiminished; the LD was to be extinct "a long time ago".

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TwinStarRocket
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So if we provide no new equipment, run consistently late, reduce checked baggage service, make the food worse, and retain a grumpy onboard staff, the LD's will eventually run empty, right? Oops.
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DesertSpirit
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Im new to the discussion so pardon my ignorance, but why get rid of the LD routes at all? Is it because as is so often mentioned, that they are unprofittable or is it because no one rides them? Is unprofittability determined by numbers of passengers or overall cost/expense to maintain equipment/infrastructure?
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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Desert--

My admittedly "anti LD" thoughts:

1) LD's likely chew up far less of Amtrak's appropriation than does the NECorridor. In short, they are less unprofitable. Further, they serve the purpose of being the catalyst to garnering Federal level funding for the only operation Amtrak has that really counts - and that is the NECorridor.

2) Despite abominable on-time performance and lackluster on-board service, people DO ride them; their ridership numbers remain quite stable.

3) Cost to maintain infrastructure: the reason I am anti-LD (even though I enjoy riding them when they are convenient to my travel needs) is simply because they are taking resources from the major railroads and not paying for them - and hinder the Class I's from their mission of moving freight! The contract payments, including performance payments, received from Amtrak are simply of no consequence and accordingly Amtrak gets what they pay for - moved over the road when they can be moved.

Disclaimer: author hold positions in BNI and NSC.

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TwinStarRocket
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DesertSpirit, all passenger rail in the US is unprofitable. So is the interstate highway system. Most major airlines have not turned a net profit over the last few decades.

The method by which costs are assigned to each route in the Amtrak system has often been questioned. Some actually believe the LD's are performing better than the NEC. That is not the prevailing opinion. Most of us on this forum are biased toward the LD system, but statistics can be selectively interpreted to support differing points of view.

The LD's eat up about 3-400 million of the 1.2 billion Amtrak annual subsidy. That's a few bucks per US citizen. They run pretty near full over the summer, and also run at a higher percent of capacity than the NEC. But due to less frequent trips, they are considered an insignificant player in the total transportation picture.

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Mr. Toy
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In regards to the issue of funding, Musicfan and Mr. Norman seem to agree that an equitable funding mechanism would be preferable to the current scheme. However, if I read you correctly, you suggest that in the absence of funding equality, states should take the initiative and fund their own projects anyway. California has done this (largely due to the fact that we have very few places to put new highways) but not all states are in a position to do so.

States have limited transportation budgets, and they want their dollars to go as far as possible. Its not just a matter of a state rail department competing against the NEC, its also a state rail division competing against the state highway division. Say a state has a choice between a highway project and a rail project to serve the same market. If the state can get 80% federal funding for the highway but nothing for the railway, it doesn't take a traffic engineer to figure out which project will get built.

So not only does funding within Amtrak need to be more equitable, funding between modes must also be evened out. Then transportation planers will be able to select the project best suited to the public need rather than the one that can get funding.

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Tanner929
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I think more quality train service between places like Richmond to DC Albany to NYC Pittsburgh Harrisburg to Philly - feel free to add your on fellow forumers, then the snowbirds driving to Flordia. Recently I took a trip from High Point NC to Savannah GA. To take Amtrak I would have to drive to Fayetville NC 1/4 to Savannah or Selma NC bit out of the way. Then looking at the schedule the train takes longer then from High Point not counting delays and for two it costs more. While I was in Savannah we had lunch at the Whistle Stop Cafe an old Central of Georgia Dinning car located at the old Central of Georgia Train Depot saved from the wreckers ball now living as the Savannah visitors center, an old round about is a train museum. The beautiful old Union Station is now a Interstate 16 Ramp. Interesting story at the Tybee Island Museum about the old Tybee Island Beach train. The train stopped running in the 1920's because vacationers perfered to drive over the newly constructed hiway bridge.
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PullmanCo
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My general position:

My advocacy for Federal support of corridors depends on your advocacy of the long distance grid.

To me, the existing LD grid is a placeholder. No more, no less. From everything I see, within 10 years we will have a major, and regressive, carbon tax. I see a carbon tax hitting passenger air in a huge way. We will need a transportation alternative.

If passenger rail is gone, it will not come back.

I think I need to re-thing that position in LUV BTW.

Mr Norman and I have come to describe this as:
"No Yuma, no moolah." If the Corridor advocates want to dump the LD grid, I am ready and willing to write my Congresscritters and say "let the Corridors form interstate Compacts and zero out Federal funding of passenger rail."

--------------------
The City of Saint Louis (UP, 1967) is still my standard for passenger operations

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Mr. Toy
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If I may offer a footnote observation, I just realized than NARP, Sgt. Pepper, and the Monterey Pop Festival are all celebrating their 40th in the same month. Do you suppose there's a connection? [Roll Eyes]
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4021North
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I don't think NARP's vision is unrealistic at all. Restore Amtrak to 1970s levels (NARP had these maps on their site recently) and it would still be a small fraction of the overall transportation system. The train routes are few enough now that expanding them by three times should be well within possibility.

Instead of "us against them" between passenger rail supporters, we could recognize both long-distance trains and high-speed corridors as legitimate goals.
People don't realize that all passenger rail has a
place in the future: long-distance, commuter, high-speed/corridor, and urban. (Read Pell's Megalopolis Unbound.) None of these modes is a new idea or an excluding "better choice"; all have a long history in the U.S.

We need both Amtrak and the corridors, and this country has enough resources that that need not be a problem. Yes it will be difficult, and require financial decisions, but what will be the alternative? Who wants to see the system in total chaos? I will support trains in other states because I know that they will support mine.

-------------
"If you want war, that is your problem"
- Nikita S. Khrushchev

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delvyrails
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4020North,

My point:

The U.S. is a very different place, demographically, than it was in the 1970s; and travel markets have changed, too.

Since the funding available at federal level is likely to expand only slowly, any expansion becomes a matter of what produces the most return with the least expenditure with today's demography.

With that requirement, the short-distance segment with the greatest potential for both short-haul traffic and as a segment of long-distance markets likely is 260-mile Dallas-Houston. Getting Detroit/Dearborn reconnected with the Northeast with that 50-mile Dearborn-Toledo segment returned to service would appear to be another top priority. Would you agree that restoring New Orleans-Jacksonville is a third?

Just trying to be pragmatic. One thing at a time.

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TwinStarRocket
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In regards to demography, new 5th largest US city Phoenix service could compete for a top 3 spot, as discussed on another thread.
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Mr. Toy
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quote:
Originally posted by delvyrails:
Since the funding available at federal level is likely to expand only slowly, any expansion becomes a matter of what produces the most return with the least expenditure with today's demography....

Just trying to be pragmatic. One thing at a time.

Nothing wrong with being pragmatic. But having an ambitious long term vision can be a good thing, too. Taking one step at a time towards that vision is doable, and once the process begins it will gain momentum. To use the analogy of a train, it takes a lot of energy to get one moving, and it starts out very slowly, but once the thing gets rolling its hard to stop.

So its OK to start with the pragmatic, but don't limit your vision to that.

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delvyrails
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Actually, I have about 15 route segments, long and short, in mind. I just indicated my idea of the top-priority three. Is 15 a long enough vision?
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Mr. Toy
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Well. I don't think a proper vision should be based on one individual's viewpoint. I could probably pick out 15 potential routes myself, and they'd probably be at least partly different from yours. By contrast, NARP's plan is "based on Bureau of Transportation Statistics documentation of American travel patterns and the current pattern of existing rail lines or rail right of ways that would be logical routes...."

In other words, NARP based its route structure on actual, documented travel patterns. I think these plans need to be backed up with more detailed market studies to see which routes may actually draw riders, what sort of scheduling they would want, and what fares they would consider reasonable, etc., but its a start.

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delvyrails
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Mr. Toy,

The 15 route segments--they are not routes--are segments for the same 50 or so top long-distance inter-metro pairs that NARP has in its website data. About 30 of these markets are served reasonably well by Amtrak now; others, less so; a few, not at all except by the most hardened railfan.

For instance, major market New York-Detroit requires a difficult Amtrak journey. That's why I included that short Toledo-Dearborn segment as an early one for Amtrak to add, along with an implicit branching train over that track with through cars to cater to Northeast-Southeast Michigan traffic.

Suggest you look up that list of markets in the NARP website and compare these markets with the present Amtrak route network and with what NARP produced on its map. You'll find that the dream map goes far beyond the markets Amtrak now or should be serving.

Little Rock-Tulsa? Houston-Brownsville? That's state-level operation, not a "National Grid...Network" as the title implies. Prioritization has to be the name of the game.

Depicting all route segments with the same boldness-of-line value and giving all metro areas, however large or small, the same ranking are not credible. Nor is showing as one railroad line Tampa-Naples, which exists as two parallel lines.

Give them "A" for trying, but it's a premature effort that needs more sophistication to be convincing. Maps should come last in the research, not first.

--------------------
John Pawson

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Mr. Toy
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I note in NARP's "fact sheet" The Grid and the Gateway this statement right at the top: "There are currently 22,000 route miles of rail lines."

It should read "22,000 route miles of passenger rail lines." The total of rail lines is closer too 100,000 miles I think. 22,000 miles is what Amtrak covers, and 45,000 miles of passenger routes is NARP's stated goal. I sent NARP a message a week or two ago suggesting the change to make it more accurate (and thus make NARP more credible), but it hasn't been changed as of today.

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delvyrails
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The total U.S. railroad route mileage is about 160,000 now, IIRC.

--------------------
John Pawson

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delvyrails
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The total U.S. railroad route mileage is about 160,000 now, IIRC.

--------------------
John Pawson

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Gilbert B Norman
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Quire simply, is it NARP's agenda to have passenger service spread over wvery mile of rail about the land?

No wonder I have little use, if in fact any, for that outfit.

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musicfan
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One thing I do think is that Amtrak's inability to add or take away frequencies, or add or take away routes is by far far and away the only real important issue with them.
With the way it's setup, it's always someone else's responsibility. Nowadays, Amtrak won't even propose anything without state-support beforehand.
And most states don't want to do anything without getting a magical federal money parachute.
Amtrak could have proposed, and I have a feeling, by now have accomplished some route expansions and frequency additions if that had been what their leadership had been actively working for over the years.
Not that Warrington Network growth freight train junk of a couple of years back either.
I think they should pick a couple of their most important routes for expansion, and actively lobby for it.Maybe they wouldn't be successfull immediately, but if growth was truly their main company culture and goal, something would be accomplished over the years.
They could help themselves, be more of their own salesmen.
I like some of things I'm hearing from Kummant, but over the years I think most of what Amtrak management has traditionally done is "respond", not actively plan and look to the future.
I think it's important to keep in mind that however Amtrak struggles financially, or with funding, it is not and has never been the same type of struggle that happens in a true private business under bankruptcy.
They have a fully-functioning management, capable of initiative if they want to.
For those who would say, "they can do nothing of themselves because of the freight railroads or because the government holds the purse strings.",,
I have to disagree, if growth was their main management platform, and that's what they fought for every year, like much of private business does, some routes could be expanded and the money found some way or another.
But as long as they are in "response" mode and just trying to do other interests bidding, whether politicians or advocacy groups, they will struggle.
I'm somewhat encouraged by Kummant, I think he is their best leader probably since Claytor so far.
For me, Gunn, was unbelievably narrow minded.
He just didn't seem to be able to see a very-wide picture in my view.
I'm really not that concerned about the condition of cars or quality of operating or on-board Amtrak service or employees.
Most on-board employees have been pretty good that I've run it to anyway, certainly about an equal rate to the rest of society and public life anyway.
I do not think Amtrak's role should be to try to create the perfect service or try to create some magical once in a life-time trip every time.
Although of course they should generally try on those scores, if they did actually add routes and frequencies, it would be relevant enough to complain about!!
People complain about airline service, but they still use it because it takes them where they want to go.
People complain about gas prices and traffic, but they still drive because it takes them where they want to go.
If Amtrak expanded enough to take people where they want to go, it will be relevant enough to complain about!
As far as particular routes, I'm less concerned.
Just keep the ball rolling toward growth every year, if one corridor or route expansion doesn't work, get rid of it or the effort for it, and put the effort into one with more chance of success.
It's sort of like during a traditional front-line type war. You don't put your troops equally on the line at every point, you sense a weak-spot in the line, that's where you pour your forces. Pretty soon the "bulge" in the line becomes a "breakout" you can exploit and run with.
The rest of the front line can be surrounded and starved out or taken care of later.
But that first breakthrough it's what's important.
I hope Amtrak learns to actually work for route and frequency expansions where they can sense the most chance for actual quick implementation and pour all effort into those opportunities.

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Mr. Toy
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quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:
Quire simply, is it NARP's agenda to have passenger service spread over wvery mile of rail about the land?

No.

160,000 miles of rail in the US, according to delvyrails.

NARP's goal is 45,000 miles of passenger routes.

Thus NARP's agenda is to have passenger rail on 28% of the rails about the land instead of the current 14%.

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