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Author Topic: Replacement for Amtrak?
Doodlebug
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Does anyone know what to make of the announcement "New Vision for Intercity Rail Unveiled" on the North Carolina Department of Transportation Rail Division's website at www.bytrain.org?

The link at the top of the home page goes to a press release from an organization I have not heard of called the Passenger Rail Working Group and describes a proposal to spend $357.2 billion between now and 2050 to significantly upgrade passenger rail in the United States, but by building on the current system.

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amtraksupporter
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It sounds like a good idea to me.

It may be pie in the sky, but to advocate any goal you need a program of some sort with vision, even if it is pie in the sky.

I think NARP should have done something like this long ago.

The map NARP published in the July, 2007 newsletter, even if missing a few details, like service to Mount Rushmore and Harrisburg-Baltimore-DC, was a good first step but needs to be followed up on.

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notelvis
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What is most interesting to me is that the two lead authors on this are coming from two entirely different current state funded operations - the huge California Capitol Corridor linking Sacramento to the Bay Area and the decidedly more modest North Carolina DOT which sponsors two daily roundtrips (and hoping for a 3rd in 2008) bewtween Raleigh, Greensboro, and Charlotte.

I'd like to see more details beyond what tidbits we're given in this press release.

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David Pressley

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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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DesertSpirit
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Daily service from Raleigh to Asheville would be a nice start for them.
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George Harris
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Considering that California has (based on wikipedia information)
2.83 times the land are
4.21 times the population
CA household income is 1.3 times that in NC
and taxes on that income are much higher
(I bet you could live better in NC on NC median income than you could in CA on CA median income.)

California has a lot more money to play with than North Carolina does. And, with the largest population of any state they also have the largest congressional delegation in congress to help bring home the goodies from Washington.

With all that the difference trains is not a great as first appears.

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notelvis
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quote:
Originally posted by DesertSpirit:
Daily service from Raleigh to Asheville would be a nice start for them.

Agree.

I hope that I live long enough to see scheduled passenger train service return to Asheville. I remember the last one on August 9, 1975 and we're still waiting!

--------------------
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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notelvis
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quote:
Originally posted by George Harris:
Considering that California has (based on wikipedia information)
2.83 times the land are
4.21 times the population
CA household income is 1.3 times that in NC
and taxes on that income are much higher
(I bet you could live better in NC on NC median income than you could in CA on CA median income.)

California has a lot more money to play with than North Carolina does. And, with the largest population of any state they also have the largest congressional delegation in congress to help bring home the goodies from Washington.

With all that the difference trains is not a great as first appears.

Also agree......particulaly with the part about quality of life on the median NC income vs. the median CA income.

We sure do have some pretty train stations in NC though!

--------------------
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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tarheelman
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The announcement discussed in the article is definitely a good start. However, as David said, more details would be nice.

I still say that, once the track improvements between Charlotte and Greensboro have been completed, the 'Piedmont' would make a great business travel train. All it would take is more trains on business days, eliminating some stops on those days (Kannapolis, Salisbury, and Burlington), and promoting the train in business publications such as "Triangle Business News" and "Triad Business News."

George:

It's been a few years since you lived in NC, hasn't it? We're now the highest tax state in the southeast. For example, our top income tax rate is over 8%, and the sales tax rate in most parts of the state is 6.75%. Even so, I agree that a person could live better here on the state's median income than a person could in CA on that state's median income.

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George Harris
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There are 6 income tax brackets for California.

Table below for singles. If married filing jointly, the steps are at double the dollar amount. This works like the usual graduated tax table.

If your income range is between $0 and $6,146, your tax rate on every dollar of income earned is 1%.
If your income range is between $6,147 and $14,570, your tax rate on every additional dollar of income earned above $6,147 is 2%.
If your income range is between $14,571 and $22,996, your tax rate on every additional dollar of income earned above 14,571 is 4%.
If your income range is between $22,997 and $31,924, your tax rate on every additioal dollar of income earned above $22,997 is 6%.
If your income range is between $31,925 and $40,345, your tax rate on every additional dollar of income earned above $31,345 is 8%.
If your income range is $40,346 and over, your tax rate on every additional dollar of income earned above $40,345 is 9.3%.

Income tax brackets data as of December 31st, 2004. (Still current.)

California state sales tax is 7.25% and there are lots of local additions to that. In San Francisco city the total you pay in sales tax is 8.50%

'Nuff said.

Any place in the south is still better.

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tarheelman
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quote:
Originally posted by George Harris:
There are 6 income tax brackets for California.

Table below for singles. If married filing jointly, the steps are at double the dollar amount. This works like the usual graduated tax table.

If your income range is between $0 and $6,146, your tax rate on every dollar of income earned is 1%.
If your income range is between $6,147 and $14,570, your tax rate on every additional dollar of income earned above $6,147 is 2%.
If your income range is between $14,571 and $22,996, your tax rate on every additional dollar of income earned above 14,571 is 4%.
If your income range is between $22,997 and $31,924, your tax rate on every additioal dollar of income earned above $22,997 is 6%.
If your income range is between $31,925 and $40,345, your tax rate on every additional dollar of income earned above $31,345 is 8%.
If your income range is $40,346 and over, your tax rate on every additional dollar of income earned above $40,345 is 9.3%.

Income tax brackets data as of December 31st, 2004. (Still current.)

California state sales tax is 7.25% and there are lots of local additions to that. In San Francisco city the total you pay in sales tax is 8.50%

'Nuff said.

Any place in the south is still better.

Ouch!!! [Eek!]

Suddenly, I don't feel quite as much animosity toward our legislature anymore......

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Mr. Toy
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You want more detail? Ask and ye shall receive. The website referenced above http://www.bytrain.org/ has since posted a four page executive summary and a more detailed 80 page report.

I've read the exec summary and skimmed parts of the full report.

It includes a color coded map. Though not as extensive as NARP's much criticized "Grid and Gateway" proposal, it contains a number of similarities to NARP's map. It includes separate track from freight on certain 110 MPH corridors, shared track on 79 MPH corridors, and new ROW in California for high speed service. It also calls for retention of the existing Amtrak long distance network and restoration of the Pioneer and Desert Wind, but I see the latter is not expected before 2015, and possibly as far out as 2030, according to the full report. Note that the proposal cautions "The model provides a broad perspective and should not be relied upon to provide specific detailed information about any one corridor."

Unlike NARP's plan the exec summary also includes a cost estimate chart for three time periods up to 2050. Total estimated costs through 2050 is a tad over $357 billion, averaging about $8 billion per year.

I need time to read the full report, but this looks like the sort of thing I've been advocating for years now, a coordinated planning process.

To answer the title question in this thread, it doesn't look like a replacement for Amtrak so much as an expansion proposal for Amtrak. However, this proposal is being put forth by a government commission independent of Amtrak. The difference between this commission and previous "reform" committees, is that this commission is composed of transportation professionals and not political appointees.

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Mr. Toy
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I looked it over in a little more detail, and this looks to me like a 20 year plan, stretched out to 43 years. Heck, the interstate highway system was mostly done after 15-20 years. Surely we ought to expect more than a handful of new or expanded corridors and restoration of two LD routes in 43 years. So if there's anything to fault here, it's a lack of ambition or acquiescing to the current political inertia.
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delvyrails
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The route structure is reasonably non-extravagant, and it includes almost all of the major region-connecting long-distance elements. Without reading the detailed report, it would appear a fairly good starter.

Can't understand, though, why Fort Worth-El Paso (the more populated route) was left out in favor of keeping San Antonio-El Paso. Why the gap between Bristol and Knoxville?

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

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MakeChooChooGoNow
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In order to have an effective and attractive national passenger rail system, the effort to accomplish this must begin at both top and bottom. Write your representatives and let them know your views.

--------------------
- Harvey Henkelman, Ferroequinologist

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by delvyrails:
Can't understand, though, why Fort Worth-El Paso (the more populated route) was left out in favor of keeping San Antonio-El Paso. Why the gap between Bristol and Knoxville?

Don't understand Fort Worth - El Paso being left off, or that San Antonio - El Paso and Fort Worth -El Paso have to be either/or propositions.

But Knoxville - Bristol: 130 miles by rail, 3 hours plus in passenger train days, mostly 45 mph or thereabouts speed limits due to curves and paralleled by a 110 mile 75 mph interstate highway, drive time under 2 hours. This is the problem with almost all the Tennessee routes: curvey lines that are longer in distance than the parallel highway. About the only ones that come close to being even are the north south ICRR line through Memphis and the north south ex L&N line through Nashville, and even that one is still longer and slower than parallel I-65.

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delvyrails
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Another way of looking at it is that including a missing Bristol-Knoxville segment permits many overlapping markets to be served that two low-ridership stub-end routes could not serve.
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sojourner
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Oooh Ferroequinologist, that's a good one.
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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by delvyrails:
Another way of looking at it is that including a missing Bristol-Knoxville segment permits many overlapping markets to be served that two low-ridership stub-end routes could not serve.

True.

When Southern did run trains on this route they were New York / Washington to Memphis, New Orleans, and Chattanooga with connections to New Orleans. In general, the passengers per train increased as you went north on all these runs. That is to say, at least in the portions that I was riding, the number of passengers getting off northbound or on southbound was on average smaller than the numbers of passengers getting on northbound off southbound on all these trains. But, in that time frame there was no I-81/I-40/I-75 in place for most of the distance paralleling the railroad.

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tarheelman
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quote:
Originally posted by George Harris:
But, in that time frame there was no I-81/I-40/I-75 in place for most of the distance paralleling the railroad.

You nailed it with this statement, George.

However, what about Atlanta to Nashville? Considering the fact that there is no single Interstate highway that runs between these two cities, would this be at least as fast by rail as it is by car?

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RRRICH
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Whaaaat? No Interstate between Nashville and Atlanta? Yes there is -- I-24 (Nashville to Chattanooga) and I-75 (Chattanooga to Atlanta)!!!!! Or am I misunderstanding your comment?
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George Harris
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Atlanta - Nashville has been discussed before, in the context of Chicago - Atlanta - Florida, if not otherwise.

Atlanta to Nashville by rail: 287 miles. Historic best schedule, 6 hours. Best likely schedule without visiting any sidings under current conditions, about 8 hours. Single track line, for the most part, with a heavy volume of freight traffic. Very curvey south of Chattanooga, particular the last 35 miles into Atlanta, which I believe has a 35 mph speed limit. 151 miles between Nashville and Chattanooga with a short helper grade up to Cowan tunnel and a longer grade up and down over Racoon Mountain west of Chattanooga. Thanks to the terrain, the line from Nashville heads to a point that is 40 miles WSW of Chattanooga before turning toward it. Therefore, coming from Nashville, you enter Chattanooga from the southwest and leave it going almost due north to head to Atlanta.

I-24/I-75: about 250 to 260 miles, reasonable drive time about 4 hours.

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tarheelman
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quote:
Originally posted by RRRICH:
Whaaaat? No Interstate between Nashville and Atlanta? Yes there is -- I-24 (Nashville to Chattanooga) and I-75 (Chattanooga to Atlanta)!!!!! Or am I misunderstanding your comment?

I probably didn't make it clear, Rich, but what I meant was that you can't get from Atlanta to Nashville by car without taking at least two Interstates.
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tarheelman
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quote:
Originally posted by George Harris:
Atlanta - Nashville has been discussed before, in the context of Chicago - Atlanta - Florida, if not otherwise.

Atlanta to Nashville by rail: 287 miles. Historic best schedule, 6 hours. Best likely schedule without visiting any sidings under current conditions, about 8 hours. Single track line, for the most part, with a heavy volume of freight traffic. Very curvey south of Chattanooga, particular the last 35 miles into Atlanta, which I believe has a 35 mph speed limit. 151 miles between Nashville and Chattanooga with a short helper grade up to Cowan tunnel and a longer grade up and down over Racoon Mountain west of Chattanooga. Thanks to the terrain, the line from Nashville heads to a point that is 40 miles WSW of Chattanooga before turning toward it. Therefore, coming from Nashville, you enter Chattanooga from the southwest and leave it going almost due north to head to Atlanta.

I-24/I-75: about 250 to 260 miles, reasonable drive time about 4 hours.

Thanks for the detailed answer, George. I guess the only way a train from Atlanta to Nashville would make sense is either by constructing an entirely new high speed line directly linking the two cities (expen$ive), or by double tracking the two existing lines and improving them for safe travel at 79 MPH. IMO, that's too bad, because it'd be nice to be able to travel between these two cities by rail.

George, at the risk of hijacking this thread (my apologies to the original poster), how does the travel time by rail during the day from Atlanta to Charlotte compare with the drive time between these two cities (which is approximately four hours).

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by tarheelman:
George, at the risk of hijacking this thread (my apologies to the original poster), how does the travel time by rail during the day from Atlanta to Charlotte compare with the drive time between these two cities (which is approximately four hours).

A look at the current elapsed time for the Crescent would be your answer. If there is much padding in it anywhere, it would be southbound into Atlanta.
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irishchieftain
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quote:
Originally posted by Doodlebug:
Does anyone know what to make of the announcement "New Vision for Intercity Rail Unveiled" on the North Carolina Department of Transportation Rail Division's website at ByTrain.org?

The link at the top of the home page goes to a press release from an organization I have not heard of called the Passenger Rail Working Group and describes a proposal to spend $357.2 billion between now and 2050 to significantly upgrade passenger rail in the United States, but by building on the current system.

Looks like hot air to me. They'll never get $8.31 billion per year over the next 43 years, and certainly not in this current political climate. If NARP, National Corridors Initiative and (the infamous) URPA can't get Congress to do anything, don't expect this group to, either.

The name "Passenger Rail Working Group" expands to the "Passenger Rail Working Group of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission", and that begs the question "now who are they?" A search for the NSTP&RSC comes up with their website, TransportationForTomorrow.org and reveals that their creation is a result of implementing SAFETEA-LU. (Now since the home page of their website claims that the USA's surface transportation network is "the best in the world", that certainly made me raise my eyebrows and wonder what their position on rail really is, if they regard the status quo as "the best" out of all on this planet.)

I haven't had time to peruse everything on the NCDOT site, so it is not clear whether or not this proposed $8.31 billion per year is meant to be spread across all pasenger rail operators in the USA or not, in which case it would not be very much dough whatsoever.

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tarheelman
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quote:
Originally posted by irishchieftain:
quote:
Originally posted by Doodlebug:
Does anyone know what to make of the announcement "New Vision for Intercity Rail Unveiled" on the North Carolina Department of Transportation Rail Division's website at ByTrain.org?

The link at the top of the home page goes to a press release from an organization I have not heard of called the Passenger Rail Working Group and describes a proposal to spend $357.2 billion between now and 2050 to significantly upgrade passenger rail in the United States, but by building on the current system.

Looks like hot air to me. They'll never get $8.31 billion per year over the next 43 years, and certainly not in this current political climate. If NARP, National Corridors Initiative and (the infamous) URPA can't get Congress to do anything, don't expect this group to, either.

The name "Passenger Rail Working Group" expands to the "Passenger Rail Working Group of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission", and that begs the question "now who are they?" A search for the NSTP&RSC comes up with their website, TransportationForTomorrow.org and reveals that their creation is a result of implementing SAFETEA-LU. (Now since the home page of their website claims that the USA's surface transportation network is "the best in the world", that certainly made me raise my eyebrows and wonder what their position on rail really is, if they regard the status quo as "the best" out of all on this planet.)

I haven't had time to peruse everything on the NCDOT site, so it is not clear whether or not this proposed $8.31 billion per year is meant to be spread across all pasenger rail operators in the USA or not, in which case it would not be very much dough whatsoever.

Speaking of funding, here's some food for thought:

If we the people could find a way to force the members of both houses of Congress to stop putting earmarks (i.e., "pork") in legislation, this would free up enough money to properly fund passenger rail as well as a lot of other worthwhile things (such as bridge maintenance and replacement).

Unfortunately, because passenger rail, infrastructure maintenance, and other necessary but un-glamorous things don't get attention (and, therefore, votes) for members of Congress, said members will never give up their earmarks in favor of them. After all, as wasteful as it is, "pork" brings votes. [Frown]

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