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Author Topic: Bush Administration - Amtrak LD Did OK
Gilbert B Norman
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At Lake Shore Sleeper topic, I noted:

quote:
Finally, as dissonant as such may sound, the Bush administration could go down in history as a 'friend of LD Amtrak'. Really, when compared with Carter and Clinton administrations, comparatively little has been lost with the Three Rivers and Sunset East - and there has been an impressive gain - The Downeaster.
In response, Mr. Presley notes:

quote:
I call "nicest use of the term 'dissonant' on Trainweb" that I've ever seen. (Warning - I have a degree in Music and I'm not afraid to use it!)

That the Bush administration may go down as being 'Amtrak Friendly' is really ironic.

In the interest of keeping discussion on topic at this essentially unmoderated Forum, let's discuss to what extent the Bush administration has been an Amtrak friend.

Again as I note, Amtrak LD "did OK" during the Bush administration. True, the 2005 "Dog and Pony" initiative was "bonehead" and did nothing other than engender uncertainty about the short-term future of LD trains, hence reducing patronage and revenue. It also could be said that if it was the Administration's intent to "get rid of 'em", "Dog and Pony' simply raised the "political capital" price too high and any such initiative got shelved, which establishes all the more reason the initiative was "bonehead".

But the Bush loss of only the Three Rivers and Sunset East is small when compared with Carter administration losses of the Floridian (Chi-Mia), North Coast Hi (Chi-Sea) and National Ltd (Pgh-StL). The Lone Star (Chi-Hou) was also lost, but replaced of sorts with The Eagle.

During the Clinton years the Pioneer (Den-Sea) and Desert Wind (SLC-LA) were goners.

Ironically, nothing was lost during the Reagan and Bush I years, even though the bluster from the former suggested that "if we could get rid of 'em all, we'd do it tomorrow".

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George Harris
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The above is why my main comment concerning politicians is turn off the sound and watch the action. Way too many times there is no real correlation between the speecifying and the voting and real money and action related activities of the politicos. At the risk of being too political for the situation, this process seems to be needed in spades for the current major candidates, ignore the speeches and look at their voting records and their actions that occurred when they thought the national news and its readers/watchers were not looking.
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Gilbert B Norman
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A good point, Mr. Harris. Going on the assumption that the Bush administration wanted to "whack as many of 'em as they could", had they not initiated the "Dog and Pony" but rather directed Amtrak to silently file the "180 Day Notices" on selected routes, so that only the passenger advocacy groups would notice (and nobody listen when they howled), the outcome could have been different than merely removing two routes.

If any historians that might possibly use "getting rid of Amtrak" (or more broad in scope "getting rid of pork barrel programs") as a measurement of an Administration's effectiveness, then the Bush administration has "come up short' on this point.

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notelvis
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One addendum and a comment - Note that there has been one other significant LD loss during the Bush era, that being the Palmetto south of Savannah. This was the last passenger train serving Ocala and Waldo, FL albeit at increasingly poor, middle of the night, times.

Perhaps, as you note, the Mineta road show, which was handled so ineptly it seems difficult now to argue that the administration actually intended to dismantle the LD network, was instead meant to throw a bone to the 'far right fringe' and get them out of the President's hair.

A bit of political theater from an administration that could not care less whether Amtrak came or went so long as Amtrak was one thing it didn't have to worry about?

--------------------
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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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by notelvis:
Perhaps, as you note, the Mineta road show, which was handled so ineptly it seems difficult now to argue that the administration actually intended to dismantle the LD network, was instead meant to throw a bone to the 'far right fringe' and get them out of the President's hair.

A bit of political theater from an administration that could not care less whether Amtrak came or went so long as Amtrak was one thing it didn't have to worry about?

An insightful assessment, Mr. Presley: by your reasoning Bush didn't care one way or the other about Amtrak; the $300M (my estimate) the LD's cost on an avoidable basis is meaningless to a government that pops $700,000M to bail out Wall Street (maybe me as I have a Lehman Note in my portfolio) and that "Dog and Pony' was a "well I tried" to any constituency "on his case to get rid of Amtrak".

Now as a rail passenger advocate, Mr. Presley, what would expect from the Obama administration (it's a lost cause if you're for the other guy - for a financial crisis as grave as what we face, the party in power takes the heat - was Hoover completely at fault for the '29 crash and following Depression?) if they in your eyes are to be considerted Amtrak friendly?

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notelvis
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quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:

Now as a rail passenger advocate, Mr. Presley, what would expect from the Obama administration (it's a lost cause if you're for the other guy - for a financial crisis as grave as what we face, the party in power takes the heat - was Hoover completely at fault for the '29 crash and following Depression?) if they in your eyes are to be considerted Amtrak friendly? [/QUOTE]

Beyond a dedicated funding source in which Amtrak doesn't have to stand for reauthorization every year, here are three improvements I'd consider 'Amtrak Friendly'

First - increase available rolling stock in order to increase capacity on the LD trains (and the Acelas too if possible). Fixing wreck-damaged equipment which can be salvaged is the first step but new equipment needs to be on the drawing board too.....the Viewliners sleepers, for instance, are not holding up very well.

Second - increase the matching funds available to individual states for corridor development and other state supported passenger trains.(Ulterior motive - such a move could enable the North Carolina DOT to restore rail passenger service to Asheville.)

Third - a few (but not as many as some advocates call for) 'enhancements' to the Long Distance network. Some relatively things that would have a larger impact. For instance, and note that as my list goes deeper, the items become more difficult and less likely. I'd consider the first three alone to be a 'win' -

+ Separate Tampa sections of the Silver Service trains.

+ Getting back to Las Vegas somehow.

+ An additional overnight (with sleepers) NYP-CHI train over roughly the route operated by the late 'Three Rivers'.

+ For my constituents in 'Zip 5' I propose a day train from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Kansas City. This route seems to have great, untapped potential. With connections to points west to/from both the California Zephyer and Southwest Chief, this route brings the Twin Cities 24 rail trip hours closer to anywhere in most of the southwest.

+ A 'direct' Chicago to Florida route

That's my list - chances are that none of these or anything equivalent becomes reality.

--------------------
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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smitty195
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Not trying to stir the pot (too much) GBN, but I'm curious as to why you chimed in on a thread I created recently and said that everything related to that topic should be directed to another thread? I'm referring to this:

http://www.railforum.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi/topic/11/5570.html

where you said:

"Finally, in the interest of continuity, could we continue our discussion of this incident over at the original topic thread?"

On the topic of the Lake Shore Limited, there are already two threads about this topic. The first one is here:

http://www.railforum.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi/topic/11/5573.html
("Sleeper To Boston Confirmed by NARP")

The second one is here:

http://www.railforum.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi/topic/11/5565.html
("new schedule")

I don't mind having new threads created, because I end up missing some key items sometimes when comments get buried deep within a topic. The "Email Notification" function appears dead on this forum, as I no longer receive emails automatically when someone replies to a topic that I am following. So I'm just wondering why the double-standard? As I said, I'm not really trying to stir up the pot....I'm more curious than anything. Thanks.

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Henry Kisor
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It perhaps should be pointed out that simply because an event occurred during a particular administration, it is not necessarily true that the administration caused the event to occur.

That may have been owing to forces other than the administration, such as congressional pressure.

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delvyrails
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The Downeaster may be an "impressive gain, but it's hardly a long distance route at a mere 116 miles in length!

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

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Gilbert B Norman
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I agree, Mr. Pawson, that the Downeaster is hardly an LD route, but lest anyone here hold thought that the Bush administration is completely opposed to any Amtrak services, and considering the anti-LD Amtrak postions I take here at the Forum, I thought it best that I acknowledge a service that simply was "in planning' on Jan 20-01 is now "up and running" - and doing quite well at that!

But without delving too far away from topic, we should not forget how the B&M fought "tooth and nail' against the inauguration of this service, and will surely be indicative of how UP would fight against another "natural" over their rails - namely Angels-Meadows.

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smitty195
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That's what I thought.
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amtraxmaniac
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What I found most ironic about the Mineta road show is that Norman Mineta was a Democrat! I know that goes against much of the belief (including my own) that Democrats are overwhelmingly pro amtrak while republicans are overwhelmingling anti-amtrak. I think I, and others have fallen into the old logic trap: All B's are A's. C's despise A's. Can it be derived then that C's specifically despise A's? Amtrak requires federal spending. Most republicans are against federal spending. Can it be derived then that, by consequence, republicans hate amtrak. No, they simply hate spending taxpayer money (with wars and corporate bailouts being the exception).

I don't believe Bush despised Amtrak, he just never made it a spending priority until now. I am very worried about how Amtrak might fare under a McCain administration, but as it's looking now, that probably won't happen. An Obama Administartion has already spoke favorably about Amtrak and passenger rail in general. But talk is cheap. I am cautiously optimistic.

To sum up the contribution to this thread in two sentences: Bush has done LD's ok by doing NOTHING. But nothing isn't exactly a tough act to follow.

--------------------
Patrick

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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by amtraxmaniac:
To sum up the contribution to this thread in two sentences: Bush has done LD's ok by doing NOTHING. But nothing isn't exactly a tough act to follow.

Patrick, you and Mr. Presley appear to be of same mind. Somehow, I highly doubt if President Obama will burn much political capital on Amtrak. I would not expect any mention of an Amtrak initiative in a State of the Union address.

I would hold out less likelihood should there somehow be a President McCain (Frank Rich in the Times last Sunday holds that the McCain campaign is now all about introducing Sarah to the world stage with '12 in mind).

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notelvis
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I'm hardly the expert but I did spend an afternoon picketing Mineta's press conference at the Charlotte Amtrak Station. He actually came over and spoke to those of us on the picket line and listened for a few minutes as we respectfully delivered our concerns. Mineta encouraged the media folks to present our position as well and then invited us inside to hear his press conference. He was certainly decent enough......just a man out doing his job.....professional, cordial, not particularly enthusiastic about his message.

Touching back to my 'wish list', I certainly don't expect to see Amtrak a priority during an Obama administration. In the great scheme of things, Amtrak (like Amtrak's budget) is merely a blip.

I do hope that the climate will change away from the annual battle for authorization and that Amtrak is funded to the level that they can replace what needs to be replaced, fix what they have that can be fixed, and that a mechanism to make it easier for individual states to sponsor rail passenger service will appear.

Anything more would be a bonus, anything less a disappointment.

--------------------
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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amtraxmaniac
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Mr Norman, I would expect that any funding from Amtrak might come out of some bigger bill having to do with energy, transportation, safety, or national security. It seems to me that the bill Bush II just signed was a bill that encompassed and adressed the issue of SAFETY. Yes, Amtrak may benefit across the board, but it was touted as a safety bill. In the same way, Amtrak could be included into bills adressing ENERGY, INFRASTRUCTURE/SAFETY, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, or NATIONAL SECURITY. And I believe Obama will follow through on that. Keep in mind he is from a pro-Amtrak state.

--------------------
Patrick

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Gilbert B Norman
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Patrick, Amtrak funding will be, as it has always been in the past, a line item in an Omnibus Spending Bill. Having such there is clearly in the interest of passenger rail supporters as, say, if such were presented to the President, as a one-issue bill, there would be all too great a chance such would be vetoed.

To have any program's funding request to be presented as part of an Omnibus Bill is clearly in the interest of such funding advocates; an Omnibus bill is clearly veto-proof.

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amtraxmaniac
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So, we're talking about the same thing? Amtrak funding as a 'line item' on a broader bill? I should know the language better, but at times wording escapes me.

And if it is as veto proof as you imply, would that suggest that the fate of Amtrak lies in the hands of the legislature and not the executive?

--------------------
Patrick

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Gilbert B Norman
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Patrick--

Presidents are not free to play "cafeteria" with any Bill presented by Congress for enactment, although both Reagan and Bush I sought legislation to empower a President with a "line item' veto.

Therefore, if the Amtrak appropriation is buried deep within an Omnibus spending bill - a bill that covers the appropriation for NASA, National Parks, Bureau of Reclamation, IRS, Railroad Retirement, and name it as it's in there. it is safe. No President is going to veto an Omnibus bill - all a President can do is rant in a Rose Garden ceremony about the "Drunken Sailors' sixteen blocks to the East.

But Amtrak is like any other Federal agency out there in which "Congress funds, but the President runs".

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train lady
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My understanding is that included in the bill is money for metro. (DC's subway system)
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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by amtraxmaniac:
And if it is as veto proof as you imply, would that suggest that the fate of Amtrak lies in the hands of the legislature and not the executive?

From day one to now, Amtrak has ALWAYS been a creature of congress.

At least in the early years of congress, those with the clout got new trains. Now all the get is new studies.

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Mr. Toy
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quote:
Originally posted by amtraxmaniac:
I know that goes against much of the belief (including my own) that Democrats are overwhelmingly pro amtrak while republicans are overwhelmingling anti-amtrak. I think I, and others have fallen into the old logic trap: All B's are A's. C's despise A's. Can it be derived then that C's specifically despise A's? Amtrak requires federal spending. Most republicans are against federal spending. Can it be derived then that, by consequence, republicans hate amtrak. No, they simply hate spending taxpayer money (with wars and corporate bailouts being the exception).


My observations about the Rs and Ds is that while many Rs fall into the pattern described above, the Rs that do like Amtrak understand the issues well enough to defend Amtrak from their anti-spending peers.

Most Ds on the other hand support Amtrak in a vague sort of way but don't understand the issues well enough to defend their positions. In the end they throw the Rs a bone by cuting a little Amtrak here and there to "show" they can be responsible with taxpayer funds.

As for the Bush/Mineta contribution towards Amtrak, their plan was an unintentional catalyst for rallying the pro-Amtrak troops. Meanwhile the Rs in Congress, while they like to use Amtrak as the anti-spending poster child, in the end they don't want to be accused of killing Amtrak on their watch.

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amtraxmaniac
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I guess then the real question, Mr. Toy, is that why don't the D's take time to understand the position enough to defend that position: the five million dollar question for sure.

Political climate determines agenda. I would think that with increasing gas prices, a candidate on either side of the aisle could bring Amtrak to the forefront and make it appear to be a viable solution. I don't think mentioning Amtrak in the dialogue regarding energy independence sounds any more silly than talking about becoming a completely 'clean energy' nation in 10 years. Amtrak needs to be included more in the national dialogue rather than simply discussed in forums made up of primarily rail advocates. The debates need to take place at the Capitol, not in cyberspace.

And if our elected officials want to oppose Amtrak, let them make a thorough case and stand on record. If our elected officials want to support Amtrak, let THEM make a thorough case and stand on record. And the media needs to expose both sides of the issue fairly and adequately.

--------------------
Patrick

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sojourner
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I think it is a vast generalization to say that Republicans understand the issue and Democrats don't. Some Dems know plenty about it--including both Biden (as we all know) and Obama (because Illinois has done much for expanding Amtrak in recent years). However, because it is not a contentious issue among Democratic politicians and their constituents--who generally support it--those who do not know much about it really don't have to.

Republicans, on the other hand, have large numbers in their party--including its leadership--who do not support Amtrak, so those who do support it all have to know why they do.

In the recent Senate vote for funding Amtrak, about 25 senators--all of them Republican, I believe--voted against it, including John McCain.

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train lady
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According to yesterday's paper all those who voted against the bill were Republican, including McCain, There were Republicans who voted for it. Obama voted for it.
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Gilbert B Norman
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In light that we now know who the 44th President will be (31DTG and a wake up - we're working on her torso now, Messrs. Harris and Ocala Mike) as well as his Cabinet picks, let's resurrect this topic.

I still contend that "Amtrak did OK" during the Bush administration. The LD's remained largely intact, Corridors were either enhanced or started with Local initiatives, and Amtrak's jewel the Northeast Corridor has "gone where it's never gone before" with Acela's success.

The SecTrans appointment is nothing to 'write home about' for advocates of any transportation mode. The designate, Mr. LaHood, is there to fill 'the bi-partisan chair' (yes I know SecDef Gates is staying on, but when you are least no longer loosing and maybe even starting to win, you don't bench your Quarterback. I predict Mr. Gates will be gone when we exit Iraq and turn the corner in Afghanistan, or the WWII equivalent of Dec 1942).

Therefore, Mr. LaHood is the 'bipartisan appointment'; indeed Cabinets have come a long way in diversity since the Eisenhower 'nine millionaires and a plumber' days. But quite simply as I noted at the "sort of" parallel topic, Mr. LaHood is bringing nothing whatever to the table.

Could this mean that VP Biden will become personally involved in transportation issues or a defacto Sec Trans? If such be the case, then Amtrak interests will fare well with the incoming Administration. No question whatever, there are many "shovel ready' infrastructure prejects about the NEC. If the usual "way of Washington" to have consultants consulting on what consultants should consult on, could be dispensed with, Amtrak could order 200 "off the shelf" NEC Coaches (the Viewliner shell would be a great start; Amtrak already owns the rights to that design) and maybe just maybe they could be placed in service within the same two year timeframe as were the A-I's (Budd was just like your friendly car dealer; "take it or leave it').

But I really would caution LD interests to not get hopes up too high that there will be new or restored routes nor would I rule out any possibility that an LD will get whacked - "pro-Amtrak" administration notwithstanding. I've stated my reasons for such quite extensively here in the past and they do not bear repeating.

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CG96
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In light of some of the earlier comments, I present you with some figures regarding the load factors of the long distance versus short distance: conventional wisdom nowadays seems to think that short distance corridors are the way to go, and make sense, but if one were to use these figures, that would not always be the case:
code:
 

FY 2007 FY 2008
Lower Upper Lower Upper
Northeast Corridor 48.0% 48.9% 51.3% 52.1%
Other Corridors 39.4% 41.1% 42.9% 45.0%
Long Distance 56.4% 57.3% 58.5% 59.3%
Amtrak Total 47.7% 50.5% 49.3% 53.4%

Acela/Metroliner 58.7% 59.3% 61.7% 62.1%
Regional 42.9% 44.7% 47.1% 48.2%
Ethan Allen 38.1% 39.5% 39.1% 43.3%
Vermonter 33.3% 41.9% 44.9% 46.4%
Albany-Niagara 44.9% 46.4% 52.8% 55.4%
Downeaster 34.7% 37.6% 27.9% 32.2%
New Haven-Springfield 42.7% 43.0% 46.6% 47.0%
Keystone 31.2% 32.4% 32.6% 35.6%
Empire 33.5% 34.3% 34.4% 35.3%
Chicago-St.Louis 33.3% 47.4% 43.8% 47.1%
Hiawathas 37.0% 40.8% 36.2% 42.2%
Wolverines 51.7% 52.8% 54.3% 55.3%
Illini/Saluki 42.5% 46.5% 0.0% 100.0%
Ill Zephyr/Sandburg 23.1% 45.5% 41.9% 43.5%
Heartland Flyer 35.1% 42.9% 35.5% 44.8%
Pacific Surfliner 33.8% 35.8% 35.0% 37.2%
Cascades 45.2% 47.1% 53.4% 56.4%
Capitols 26.0% 26.9% 28.2% 29.2%
San Joaquins 34.1% 35.7% 37.0% 39.2%
Adirondack 63.4% 68.1% 42.9% 100.0%
Blue Water 66.0% 68.2% 79.7% 81.7%
Washington-Newport News 42.9% 51.5% 56.4% 62.3%
Hoosier State 35.4% 35.6% 35.2% 35.5%
Kansas City - St. Louis 28.9% 29.6% 36.7% 37.6%
Pennsylvanian 62.1% 63.3% 72.8% 74.4%
Pere Marquette 60.7% 66.1% 65.2% 68.1%
Carolinian 58.6% 70.4% 45.5% 77.8%
Piedmont 39.7% 41.0% 42.6% 43.9%
Silver Star 56.2% 57.0% 57.6% 58.3%
Cardinal 51.3% 51.7% 54.7% 55.2%
Silver Meteor 59.1% 60.0% 61.4% 62.3%
Empire Builder 59.8% 61.6% 61.8% 63.5%
Capitol Limited 59.8% 60.5% 65.5% 66.3%
California Zephyr 51.0% 51.8% 51.0% 51.7%
Southwest Chief 64.5% 65.6% 62.5% 63.6%
City of New Orleans 57.4% 58.3% 62.5% 63.4%
Texas Eagle 50.6% 51.4% 52.5% 53.3%
Sunset Limited 52.0% 52.3% 55.4% 55.7%
Coast Starlight 57.9% 58.7% 60.8% 61.6%
Lake Shore Limited 59.7% 60.3% 63.1% 63.7%
Palmetto 44.5% 45.3% 50.2% 51.1%
Crescent 47.1% 47.7% 50.7% 51.3%
Auto Train 57.9% 61.3% 61.9% 65.0%



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"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner of the Earth all one's life."

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George Harris
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I think these stats need some explaining.
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Henry Kisor
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Seems to me that these stats mean that people prefer the upper berth to the lower, but not by much.

:-)

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Mr. Toy
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I was thinking the same thing as Mr. Kisor. These figures are meaningless without context. The only thing I can think of is that they may be load factors. Lower represents the days of the year with the lowest load factors and Upper represents those days with the highest load factors. Just a guess, though.

Whatever they mean, long distance wins the category.

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Toy:
I was thinking the same thing as Mr. Kisor. These figures are meaningless without context. The only thing I can think of is that they may be load factors. Lower represents the days of the year with the lowest load factors and Upper represents those days with the highest load factors. Just a guess, though.

Whatever they mean, long distance wins the category.

I was also thinking load factors, but most of the numbers seem way too close together for that.
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CG96
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Mssrs Harris and Toy: they are load factors. I have edited my post to state that.

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"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner of the Earth all one's life."

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But how do we interpret those numbers? What do they mean?
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CG96
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They are averages of how full the train is. load factor is arrived at by taking the passenger miles and dividing them by the seat miles. Any route that has high end-to-end ridership will also have high load factors. If a train departs the station fully occupied, and someone disembarks, then the train's load factor will be less than 100 percent. Trains transporting people back and forth to one large city will have lower load factors than the NEC. for example, on the Lincoln service of Illinois, many trains will be full between Springfield and Chicago, but not as full between Springfield and Saint Louis. If the train departs Chicago totally full, it means that they cannot accommodate one more passenger to Saint Louis, unless the train has enough replacement passengers at Springfield. The Hiawatha Service is sort of in the same category, and the Empire Builder actually has higher ridership than the Hiawathas, but compare the load factors between the two, and it makes the Empire Builder look like a better performer finance wise. Load factor is something that management will look at in order to determine when trains should be added between departure points. In other words, load factors help determine where the market is.

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"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner of the Earth all one's life."

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I know what load factors are, but what do "upper" and "lower" mean???

Higher load factors on LD trains is nothing new, but you are correct to point that out because "conventional wisdom" often assumes otherwise, largely due to the fact that LD trains still have a small percentage of total market share. I've always suspected this is due more to capacity constraints and a skeletal route network rather than lack of potential customers.

These load factors don't prove anything in that regard, but they do hint at the possibility and warrant further research by transportation planners.

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CG96
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"Upper" and "Lower" indicate the limits of the bounds for the period, the highest and lowest averages for the time period being measured.

--------------------
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner of the Earth all one's life."

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