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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » What happens if Amtrak "Goes Away"

   
Author Topic: What happens if Amtrak "Goes Away"
DesertSpirit
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Not that I think it will or hope it will but what exactly would happen if Amtrak were no more? Would it be the end of passenger rail for good or would something else come along and takes it place?
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Gilbert B Norman
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The NorthEast Corridor services would be operated by another Federal agency; simple as that.

The California Corridor services would also continue; they are essentially disconnected from Amtrak insofar as marketing is concerned. "AC" - Amtrak California could quite easily become "IC" - Intercity California with a couple of decals placed in strategic locations. The State would simply contract with another operator just as has been done with the LA area Metrolink service.

Regarding Midwest Corridors, I simply cannot hold the same optimism as I can for the NE and California.

Lastly the LD's: the Adios drumheads would be broken out.

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DesertSpirit
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So in state service in some areas would probably stay intact but long distance routes would probably be no more?
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tarheelman
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quote:
Originally posted by DesertSpirit:
So in state service in some areas would probably stay intact but long distance routes would probably be no more?

That pretty much sums it up. [Frown]

I agree with Mr. Norman's assessment. I'd also like to add that the corridor service in the southeast, what little of it there is (the 'Carolinian' and the 'Piedmont'), would most likely suffer the same fate as the corridor service in the midwest (i.e., not contracted out to a private operator).

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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by DesertSpirit:
So in state service in some areas would probably stay intact but long distance routes would probably be no more?

That would roundly be the case as in your opening scenario, the only agency holding a mandate to operate a National system has folded. This would mean that away from the Corridor, there would have to be a strong local initiative for service - and the only locality in which I note such is in "auto loving' California.

Had Amtrak never been, continued service in the NECorridor would have been provided for as a provision of the Conrail enabling legislation - the RRR'73. While that legislation as enacted says "no passenger', it could have just as easily said "and passenger".

After all, how many of those 535 critters REALLY know what they are voting for?

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delvyrails
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Most of 'em know what they're voting for most of the time, except when (excuse the pun) something is railroaded through. That's one of the tasks of the Congressional staffpeople--read the legislation with any eye to the M/C's positions.

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John Pawson

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palmland
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I'm a little more optimistic. I suspect Auto Train might survive with a private operator (Colorado Raicar?) as that might be marginally profitable. This could well be the only sleeper service left.

Also possible the California portion of the Starlight might live on as the Coast Daylight.

NC and VA might work together to retain the Piedmont and Carolinian service as these two states have shown they don't mind spending money on rail passenger service. Same for some level of service on Illinois trains.

Let's hope we never have to find out.

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Mr. Toy
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The answers given thus far take into account economic forces, but not political realities. There is no way that Amtrak could just "POOF" go away. Amtrak has plenty of supporters in Congress on both sides of the aisle. Should some overzealous future POTUS manage to find a way to dissolve Amtrak with the stroke of a pen, the political thunder would be heard from sea to shining sea.

Thus Mr. Norman's assessment regarding the services in the NEC and California doesn't ring true. His oft used phrase "no Yuma no Moolah" signifies that there are not enough votes in Congress to keep the NEC funded if nobody else is getting service. California, on the other hand, which is largely state funded, would keep on rolling. However, the states that would lose service would certainly put up a huge fuss which would be politically damaging, if not fatal, to those who tried to dissolve Amtrak in the first place.

So as I see it, the only way Amtrak would ever go away would be if somebody finally designed a better way to run a national rail system. But given the current political climate wherein nothing gets done, that ain't gonna happen either.

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Liberty Limited
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Hmm, a doomsday scenario, eh?

Sad thing is, I seem to be more optimistic that most of you guys.

I can quite naturally see the NEC and Amtrak California surviving.

From there, I could actually see some other services surviving with some modification.

1 - A Day Train from Atlanta to Washington via Charlotte, Raleigh, and Richmond, with NC possibly keeping its own service as well.

2 - One East to Midwest link, probably a train following the Broadway's route but via Cleveland.

3 - One midwest to West Coast link, either the Zephyr or Chief.

4 - Retention of the Hiawatha and Lincoln service corridors through bi-state agreements.

5 - Retention of the Cascades services as a bi-state compact.

6 - Retention of the Keystone Corridor under SEPTA.

7 - The Coast Daylight scenario as advanced by palmland.

--------------------
History of Baltimore and Baltimore Transit - Visit http://www.btco.net !

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Gilbert B Norman
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What is being overlooked, Mr. Liberty, is that the scenario calls for Amtrak, the only government agency holding a mandate to operate a national rail passenger system and the only agency holding "right of access" to the Class I ROW's, to "disappear" and asks what would be left?

Without such mandate and "rights", I'm at a loss to know how any interstate, save the Corridor which is free of any "access" issues and its already publicly owned ROW, services such as outlined in your points 1), 2), and 3) could survive.

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Amtrak207
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This thread is a doomsday-inclusive version of "Privatization or Bust" which nearly played out a few years ago. One of David Gunn's "Myth" debunkings was that the people who do the work (crews, et cetera) were just waiting out union jobs, and that privatizing the system would lead to some huge influx of talent for less money. That's pure dren. Even if Amtrak itself is dissolved or spun off or otherwise lobotomized, the people running Virgin US Rail or whatever you want to call it are just going to be Amtrak people wearing different uniforms because they're the only rail-skilled workforce in the country.

Back to the original supposition, though, what would happen?
More traffic jams. Of course, since I'll be riding by on my bike this will turn into a point-and-laugh-like-Nelson-Muntz episode for me.
People will suddenly wonder what happened to intercity bus routes.
Everyone will hearken back to the days of spending "only three hours in the airport."
Lots of social demonstrations, petitions, protests, pollution, and other activities not necessarily beginning with P
And after it all blows over, if it remains unresolved,
I move to Canada.

Fortunately, I agree with those saying it would be political suicide to shut the system down. See also Mineta Vs. Sanity, 2003.

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Mr. Toy
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By thinking outside the box and looking beyond Amtrak itself, and for injecting a some good humor, Amtrak207 wins best post of the month.
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George Harris
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It is likely that some / most of the long distance trains would die. I would aslo go for surviving corridor service. The railroads might think they could give them all the boot, and even do so for a while, but live to regret it. I think they would soon realize that getting on the wrong side of the tax collectors of their property taxes, that is the various states, would be a MAJOR MISTAKE. Think of the game CN tried to play for a Very Short While and then dropped with the state of Illinois on the additional trains.
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DesertSpirit
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So would specific states be in charge of local routes or would those be auctioned off to the highest bidders? Assuming of course there are any bidders that is.
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Gilbert B Norman
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The only Federally funded Corridor out there is the Northeast, and its appendages comprising NH-Spfld, NY-Alb, and Wash-Richmond. Any other Corridor services out there have Local support.

The Federally funded Long Distance network has remained essentially stable over Amtrak's 37 year life. Although the intent was to provide for a five or so year (it's not in the law, folks, but I was in the industry on A-Day) phase out of the selected historical routes, the system remains substantially in place today with the only notable losses being Indy-Jax and Pgh-St Louis - any other losses are covered by reroutes, i.e. Eagle for the Lone Star.

Now that the political realities have evolved so that the LD system is the catalyst for Federal funding of the Corridor, what remains is safe and need not seek Local funding to survive. Such remains an appendage costing the taxpayers some $300M per year and the Class I industry an undetermined amount in opportunity costs (wouldn't that "Z train' waybilled at maybe $250K put a bit more 'copper in the hopper' that the $15K that maybe the Sunset puts UP's each journey?), but if there is the essential NEC and its $1.1B funding (1.4-0.3), that is what the taxpayers and the Class I industry, because they signed that "Faustian pact with the Devil" under duress (you had to be there to appreciate how desperate the industry I had just hired on with was during the late '60's), must be prepared to pay.

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PullmanCo
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Mr. DS,

No, some set of regional authorities (read Interstate Compacts) would have to be created. They would then have to employ (or outsource) crews, procure rolling stock, employ (or outsource) institutional support, and engage the Class 1 railroads for right of access.

That last is vital, and would require statutory change to existing DOT law. Right now, Amtrak is the only corporation who can go to a railroad and demand good-faith negotiations for passenger railroad service access. Everyone else, including GL/AOE/CRC, needs to bring really big checkbooks!

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

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delvyrails
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As part of the NEC complex, don't forget the Philadelphia-Harrisburg line. It's only the trains that carry predominently commuters that PennDOT pays for.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Even though Phl-Hbg is an important appendage to the Corridor, it was deliberately omitted, Mr. Pawson, insomuch as it is clearly Locally (PennDOT) funded.

BTW, when I note Local as I often do at postings, that means any jurisdiction lower than Federal.

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tarheelman
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Realistically, unless a network of track is built by each state that sponsors corridor service (except for states in the NEC, of course), I don't see how such services could continue if Amtrak went away. After all, as Mr. Norman reminds us, only Amtrak has federally mandated access to the Class I railroad ROWs.

The only exception to this that I know of is the route of the 'Piedmont', which is entirely on track owned by a state-controlled railroad. AFAIK, all other non-NEC corridor routes are on Class I track.

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HillsideStation
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Whathappens if Amtrak goes away?
Airlines will begin(?)demanding extensive and expensive national government funding...after all they will be the ONLY game in town, ie the country.
New entrants may "cherry pick" Amtraks profitable city pairs, increasing the number of flights scheduled at peak hours, if the current carriers leave any possible space available.
Possibly some new over the road carriers will take a cue from Fung Wah, Lucky Star, etc in the NEC and operate vehicles which may have acceptable safety records.
The interstates that are aleady saturated with truck and commuter traffic will be further stressed with individually operated autos
The infrastructure that is badly in need of repair,(need I mention the I-35 bridge) will cause massive tie ups when/if repairs are made and the additional busses and cars are forced to detour through local roads.
AND that's not even taking holiday travel into consideration.

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MetSox
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Here's what'll happen. For openers, the federal budget will be balanced immediately. Secondly, the freight railroads will no longer be burdened with those pesky Amtrak trains interfering with their operations. All airlines will instantly turn a profit because of the the influx of those selfish former Amtrak passengers who will finally be traveling with completely unsubsidized carriers. Both the automotive and airline industries will also see vast improvements to their bottom lines because they will be able to reduce their political contributions for the effort to eliminate something that no longer exists.

Finally, the American public will have the satisfaction of knowing that we are living in a true democracy, rather than those Communist dictatorships in western Europe and Japan, who insist on throwing money away on passenger rail.

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tarheelman
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quote:
Originally posted by MetSox:
Here's what'll happen. For openers, the federal budget will be balanced immediately. Secondly, the freight railroads will no longer be burdened with those pesky Amtrak trains interfering with their operations. All airlines will instantly turn a profit because of the the influx of those selfish former Amtrak passengers who will finally be traveling with completely unsubsidized carriers. Both the automotive and airline industries will also see vast improvements to their bottom lines because they will be able to reduce their political contributions for the effort to eliminate something that no longer exists.

Finally, the American public will have the satisfaction of knowing that we are living in a true democracy, rather than those Communist dictatorships in western Europe and Japan, who insist on throwing money away on passenger rail.

Great example of illustrating absurdity with absurdity, MetSox!

Unfortunately, in the minds of some passenger rail critics, your illustration is exactly what they really and truly believe will happen. [Frown]

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irishchieftain
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I don't see any qualifiers for sarcasm in MetSox's post, nor do I see the date 4/1/07 on it either.

Communist dictatorships in western Europe? That's what I lived in when I was a kid? MetSox ought to "get a clue", as the vernacular states. What was that thingy called the Iron Curtain that lasted into the late 80s, I wonder? What was all that US cultural influence I was surrounded by?
quote:
Had Amtrak never been, continued service in the NECorridor would have been provided for as a provision of the Conrail enabling legislation - the RRR'73
That begs the question as to what kind of service.

I envision no CCCT for Philadelphia, and their entire Reading commuter rail division de-wired, as a result of Conrail control under that scenario, for a single example. I also see the death of cab signaling on the former PRR, as well as a severe curtailing of off-peak commuter rail service for all metro areas. Conrail would not even attempt to compete with the air shuttles along the corridor(s) between Boston and Washington. Tracks would start disappearing; certainly, there would not be six tracks between Elmora and Union interlockings (in New Jersey); Conrail, instead of re-electrifying NJ Transit's Hoboken Division, would insist on de-electrifying it, setting it back to pre-1930 operations ("why bother keeping the wires if the trains are not going to Manhattan" would be the reasoning).

Remember; the average speeds on LD trains were 10 mph faster when trains were being hauled by 4-4-2s. This is our government's doing (not Amtrak's).

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zephyr
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quote:
Originally posted by irishchieftain:
I don't see any qualifiers for sarcasm in MetSox's post...MetSox ought to "get a clue"...

I think someone needs a hug.

And as for the clueless MetSox, I think most around here got it.

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