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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » Response from Amtrak re: Sunset Ltd. letter

   
Author Topic: Response from Amtrak re: Sunset Ltd. letter
Steve O.
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I posted this on another Amtrak message board as well...

Some of you may recall that I sent a letter to CEO Kummant in early June regarding the Sunset Limited. I was not really expecting a reply, as the letter was fairly long, but I did get one...although not from Mr. Kummant himself. The letter was from one of the VP's in marketing. Here are the key points from the letter:

1) Resuming the service East of New Orleans would be costly
2) The service was slow and riderhip was down
3) Not sure if resuming Sunset Ltd East of NOL would be the best option
4) Amtrak is working with agencies to determine the best way restore service

Overall, it's about what I expected...seemed to be a fairly generic response which others have received as well....and it brings nothing new to the table. But, I appreciated the response.

One thing I do not like, however, is how Amtrak likes to use the "decreased ridership" excuse, but they fail to acknowledge why that took place: the horrible unreliability of the train in 2004/2005. Many trains were terminated in NOL. Decreased ridership had nothing to do with demand on the route.

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Good morning America, how are ya?

44,950 Amtrak rail miles traveled since August 18, 2003.

Posts: 135 | From: Atlanta, GA / New Orleans, LA | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
smitty195
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I'm glad they responded to your letter, but it's about what I expected it to be. Keep in mind that the CEO of Amtrak has publicly and clearly announced that the chances of the Sunset Limited resuming service east of New Orleans is basically zero.

Personally, I think it's a done deal and that service will never happen again in our lifetime.

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SilverStar092
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I live on the route and am not surprised by Amtrak's attitude although it's a mystery why they continue to be dishonest and leave the route in the timetable and have never posted a train-off petition. My one ray of hope continues to be the statement that the SUNSET LIMITED will likely no run on this route again. Once the train became unrelaible, it was obvious to me (along with our station agent at the time) that the City of New Orleans should be extended to Florida since its equipment sits in NOL for about 20 or 21 hours and could be extended easily either as a through train or a separate NOL-FL train. The problem is not lack of ridership...it's the Sunset's lack of reliability. A daily train to FL would do just fine.
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Mr. Toy
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quote:
Originally posted by NativeSon5859:

One thing I do not like, however, is how Amtrak likes to use the "decreased ridership" excuse, but they fail to acknowledge why that took place: the horrible unreliability of the train in 2004/2005. Many trains were terminated in NOL. Decreased ridership had nothing to do with demand on the route.

Being from the opposite coast, I don't fully understand the details, but I can appreciate Amtrak's difficult position. If the train was frequently terminiating in NOL because of excessive delays, then the current standard of no train at all was essentially established pre-Katrina, hence the declining ridership.

I don't think Amtrak is confusing lack of ridership with lack of demand, or they wouldn't have given you point #4. Sounds like they want to restore some sort of service, but they understandably want it to work reliably. I would gather they haven't yet found a way to do so that is acceptable to all parties involved.

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notelvis
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I think Amtrak is hoping for something like a Mobile - New Orleans train paid for by the states it serves.

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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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gp35
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The Sunset may not run east of NOL, however that does not excludes another train on a day time schedule.
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amtraxmaniac
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There are two major service gaps that need to be filled especially since Sunset East disappeared. There should definately be a daily NOL to Florida train, but the question is, what route? Evidently CSX is out of the question. Maybe someone with more knowledge can answer that. NOL to ATL and then cut to the south. Split the Crescent at Atlanta? Thats a bit of a detour. Even if you continue the CONO east to Florida, by what route? I personally would like to see a CHI-Florida train come back. Although I'm too young to remember when they had these trains, I believe they existed pre-Amtrak and possibly early Amtrak. At least Amtrak, per point #4, is looking at the options.

I find the ridership arguement, as many in here do, ludicrous. Of course ridership is low when your lucky to even SEE a train come through once per week. Remember, the Sunset was and still is 3x weekly. Which means if trains were terminating in NOL...riders might only see one or two trains A WEEK...service was sucha a crap shoot, you never knew if a train was going to show up, or you'd get a Greyhound, or get a call from Amtrak saying 'sorry your on your own'. Provide reliable service and the ridership will follow.

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Patrick

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Gilbert B Norman
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Brief history, Patrick, from one who can state "been there done that".

There were three Chi-Fla routes operated by the railroads - all of which had competitive trains, and any of the trains could handily beat drive times over US41 (there were "gaps" in I-75 well into the '70's).

The Dixie Flyer was routed Chi-Evansville-Nashville-Atlanta-Jacksonville-Miami. This train was discontinued during the late 50's.

The City of Miami was routed Chi-Champaign-Birmingham-Jacksonville-Miami and survived until A-Day-Eve. This was likely the most luxurious of the trio, offering a Twin-unit diner, and Domes for Pullman passengers.

The South Wind was routed Chi-Louisville-Nashville-Birmingham-Montgomery-Jacksonville-Miami and became the foundation of Amtrak's Chi-Florida service. While hardly having as attractive consist as the City of Miami, it nevertheless served more population centers than any other route. Therefore, the Incorporators selected the route for their service. The name South Wind continued for about six months after A-Day, then the name Floridian was adopted.

There were several reroutes Chi-Louisville owing to deterioration of the Penn Central trackage. Even though Amtrak did put their "best foot forward" with a consist circa Nov 1977 when I rode it "bumper to bumper', it's circuitous routing was no match against a complete Interstate highway route. Accordingly, the Floridian was a casualty of the 1979 "Carter Cuts" that also whacked the National Limited (NY-Kan City) and the Lone Star (Chi-Houston).

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Ham Radio
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quote:
Originally posted by notelvis:
I think Amtrak is hoping for something like a Mobile - New Orleans train paid for by the states it serves.

I believe you have nailed the issue.

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Ham Radio
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SilverStar092
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GBN has explained this exactly right. I grew up in Miami and rode the City of Miami many times within Florida in the 1960s up to 1971. It was a beautiful train with its chocolate brown and orange color. In winter it offered a variety of Pullman accommodations including drawing rooms and eventually carried a dome sleeper in winter that was leased from Northern Pacific and repainted to match the rest of the train. A dome coach soon came on board and remained year round eventually. A stately round end observation car ran until some point around 1967 then was cut back to Chicago to Jax and eventually ditched altogether. At times the City also offered a budget minded Palm Grove Cafe car as well as a regular diner. The train usually offered through cars from St. Louis and also through cars from Chicago to Tampa and St. Petersburg.
The South Wind, on the other hand, was more spartan as it had no observation car, less sleeper room choices, no cars from St. Louis, and only a sleeper dome in winter (still in NP colors) for a couple of years. Its mishmash of L&N, PRR (PC), and ACL cars never quite fit together. And the route was indeed circuitous. The latter point doomed its successor, the Floridian, along with the fact that its schedule frequently switched from a one night, 2 day trip to two night, one day trip and back. The 2 night schedule meant it was the day's last train out of Chicago and it got the leftover equipment with better mechanically functioning cars going on earlier trains.
I agree that either a Chicago to FL or NOL-FL daily train is a must if not both. NOL-Mobile is a joke as how many people would it carry? Service to FL is what would attract ridership. The problem is that Amtrak is trying to stick the states with the bill and nobody is going to come up with a schedule that appeals to FL, AL, and MS. Somebody has to have night service if this train is going to connect and I don't see anyone giving in unless Congress forces Amtrak to start service. AL and MS would be pleased just to have service to NOL and FL has the most track miles hence the highest cost. The issue becomes: why must staes pay for a long haul train?

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RRRICH
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There could be a day train between NOL and JAX which would serve most points in the Panhandle as well as AL and MS during daylight hours--but then you would have a problem connecting to the train in JAX or NOL, which would require an overnight stay in one of those 2 cities.
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PullmanCo
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quote:
Originally posted by notelvis:
I think Amtrak is hoping for something like a Mobile - New Orleans train paid for by the states it serves.

In other words, no bucks, no Buck Rogers!

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

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