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Author Topic: A Look at Amtrak's Map
yukon11
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The 3rd quarter issue of "Passenger Train Journal" had an interesting article article entitled, "A Fresh Look at Amtrak's Map". The article made suggestions for changes in some of Amtrak's trains and routes to better serve various route segments and bring about greater convenience and linkages for Amtrak passengers.

The article was fairly detailed with suggestions so I will try to be as brief as possible in highlighting various points made.

PALMETTO

In the 1980's, Amtrak tried an experimental program to extend the New York to Savannah Palmetto route to Jacksonville, an additional 148 miles which included the route of the Silver Meteor and Silver Star. The train, today, only goes to Savannah. The article suggests the extension to Jacksonville would cost little, with the only inconvenience to the cleaning crew from Savannah to Jacksonville. The gain would be especially good for passengers from Jacksonville where the ridership could pick up significantly.

MISSOURI RIVER RUNNER

Amtrak's Missouri River Runner (formerly Kansas City Mule) is now between St Louis and Kansas City. An extension of the River Runner to Omaha would add less than 200 miles to the route. If done right, it could tie together the Calif. Zephyr, Southwest Chief,and Texas Eagle. The route, now, from Kanasas City to St. Louis only averages around 104 passengers.

CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR

How about extending the Zephyr from Emeryville to Los Angeles? Today, the Zephyr arrives in Emeryville at 4:10 PM. It departs, eastbound, at 9:10 AM the next morning. The suggestion made as that the Zephyr would leave for LA, possibly, at 6PM, less than 2 hrs from arrival, which would get it into LA by early morning. Eastbound, the Zephyr would depart LA in mid-evening and be in Emeryville in time for the 9:10 AM departure east.

BOSTON TO FLORIDA

The Silver Meteor, Silver Star, and Crescent northern terminus should be Boston. The Meteor arrives in NYC now at 11:38 AM, the Crescent at 2:06 PM, and the Silver Star at 7:16 PM. As of now, too many trains are sitting in New York's Sunnyside Yard. The 3 trains could keep the present schedule...the only negative as it would affect onboard-service crews on the Lake Shore Limited and Crescent.

BOSTON TO CHICAGO

The present Lake Shore Limited sits 12 hours in Chicago before it departs for the east. In Boston, the layover is 14 hrs. The article suggested letting the train depart Chicago 1 hr later and get into Cleveland at a more realistic hour (now 5:20 AM). Westbound, leave Boston earlier and get into Cleveland closer to midnight and get into Chicago after 7 AM.

OHIO AND INDIANA IMPROVEMENTS

Cleveland is now only served by tghe Sunset Limited and Capitol Limited, Now Cincinnati is only served by the 3x/week Cardinal. How about extending an existing NEC train over the Cardinal route between Washington, DC and Cincinnati. In the west, let the Hoosier State operate on the Cardinal line. The Hoosier State could leave Chicago in the early afteroon and get into Cincinnati before midnight.

CAPITOL LIMITED IN FLORIDA

Extend the current Capitol Limited from Washington, DC, to Orlando. According to the article, the current Capitol Limited has only 2 coaches, with ample room for growth. Extend the Capitol Limited down CSX's former Atlantic Coast Line to Rocky Mount, NC, Charleston, SC. and then down to Orlando. It would get into Orlando around 9 AM.

HEARTLAND FLYER

Now, from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth. The average number of passengers, on departure, is 111. The article suggests getting rid of the Fort Worth base. Extend the southwest terminus to San Antonio or terminate in Houston or Dallas. As possible, extend the Heartland Flyer to Newton, Kansas (former SW Chief route) and there to Kansas City or even Chicago or St Louis.

I won't comment about most suggested changes as I know little about Amtrak routes in the midwest and further east. I do think the extension of the Missouri River Runner to Omaha sounds like a good idea. I don't know about the Zephyr extension to Los Angeles. If we get an extension of the P. Surfliners to San Francisco (a new Coast Daylight) it might make that suggestion unnecessary.

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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As I have reported here at the forum in the past, one of my "moles' learned a Capitol/Star was considered by Amtrak during the mid 90's, but was dismissed account marketing studies showed breaking the through NEC connection would result in the loss of more passengers than establishing the Cap/Star would generate.

The proposal came at a time when Amtrak was "flush' with Superliners in that delivery of the S-II's was completed just at the time the "Mercer Cuts" were implemented. However the "surplus" of Superliners has been addressed at localities with names such as Burbonnais, Bayou Canot, Crescent City, Hyder, Kensington.....et magna alia.

Overall, these proposals simply are nothing more than a "mini-NARP vision" to expand the LD system - something I simply do not foresee. Intercity passenger service will grow during this century, but it will be in regions where there is population base in need of service and where that service can make a meaningful impact in alleviating the need for other more costly ($$$$ and environment) air and highway infrastructure and where local jurisdictions are prepared to fund such services.

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notelvis
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I've read the article in question and I find the articles to be well-written....PTJ is a quality product. I do feel like some of their suggestions regarding expanding Amtrak tend toward the 'pie-in-the-sky' variety. In this area, I would tend to agree with Mr. Norman to some degree.

HOWEVER - I'd suggest that perhaps if one is going to dream at all, dream big. You might just wind up getting some unexpected improvements somewhere. In fact, I like three or four of these suggestions.

1) Sure - let's extend the Palmetto to Jacksonville. It's been an NYP-JAX daytrain before.

2) OK - let's have a superliner train DC to Florida......but only if it's an additional frequency with both the Silver Star and Silver Meteor originating for Florida in NYP.

3) Extending a train from Kansas City to Omaha would certainly be worth a try.

4) Finally - ANYTHING that would get a passenger train to Cincinnati on a daily basis during normal waking hours....or close to them.... would be an improvement. I would dare say that the majority of people living in Cincinnati today have never even seen a passenger train, much less considered using one as a viable transportation option.

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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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rresor
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Sigh! So PTJ is back! Most of these suggestions have either been made multiple times before, or reflect service that Amtrak actually did operate at one time or another. There was an overnight Sacramento-Oakland-LAX train in the late 1970s or early 1980s called the "Spirit of California". It didn't last long. Not only did the Palmetto once run to JAX, but for a while it ran all the way to Tampa and Miami as another "Silver Service" frequency. Amtrak has run BOS-Florida service in the past -- it didn't last long either. And yes, Ohio has been in need of corridor-type services on decent schedules since May 1, 1971.

Notwithstanding PTJ and NARP, I think we're most likely to see a continued slow shrinkage of LD services, and growth in short-distance daylight trains. That's where the demand and the ridership are.

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Dakguy201
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The fall-winter Amtrak timetable system map still shows a route from New Orleans to Jacksonville, presumably because this train is merely "suspended". One wonders when Amtrak's legal department will allow the railroad some measure of honesty in dealing with the public.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Never, if they can help it, Mr. Dakguy.

While I doubt if the advocacy groups collectively have the resources to "muster the muscle' and with no real political "patron saint', the likelihood of such is remote. It is difficult to obviate the fact that Amtrak discontinued Sunset East without the required 180 Day Notice under ARAA '97, and could conceivably be ordered to return it to service.

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Geoff Mayo
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Apart from the additional frequency (wow, double), I don't see the point of extending the California Zephyr to Los Angeles. It hasn't got a great timekeeping record and would only serve to give a handful of passengers between Utah and southern California a direct train. Much better to have a direct train from SLC to LA - maybe even call it the Desert Wind?

Several suggestions revolve around (sorry) turnaround times at trains' destinations. It is of course true that Amtrak's fleet utilisation is poor but whilst timekeeping is so poor on most routes, you have to build that delay factor into the turnaround times to minimise the chance of a late departure. Fix the timekeeping first then look at the schedules. Easier said than done.

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delvyrails
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If the description of the article is correct, it would seem to be another naive attempt to expand Amtrak usefully by adding little pieces here and there.

I think any professional would start with a knowledge of the travel markets and would ask which ones Amtrak serves poorly or not at all. Then and only then would attempt be made to restructure for the most revenue gains at the least cost.

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John Pawson

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amtrak92
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I'm all for a new superliner train to Florida, but instead of Washington to Florida, because you can't base a superliner train in New York with the East River tunnels. What about a Chicago Miami. After all that route once had three trains, even if they alternated days.
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TwinStarRocket
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Extending the City of New Orleans to Florida still makes a lot of sense to me. It would restore CHI-Florida AND complete the Sunset route with only minor adjustments to existing schedules (and convenient daytime connection times). A more direct route to Florida would run on slower track and not be much more timely anyway. I believe the CNO and Sunset have pretty good on-time performance lately.

Add a DFW-Houston train and you get a whole bunch more possible city pairs with a large and growing population base.

And if there is an occasional missed connection, I can think of a lot of worse places to kill a day than New Orleans.

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amtrak92
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Yeah, that would be a good thing, you would get two routes with one stone that way
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George Harris
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The idea of extending the Heartland Flyer to Houston does not take into accout the current realities of the track. When there was a Dallas to Houston train, it took about 6 hours by schedule and was frequently late. Since the drive time is under 4 hours, the ridership was simply not there. The fasted train ever on the route through Bryan / College Station was 4h25m and it died before I-45 was completed. The fast route, the ex Burlington - Rock Island is, so far as I know, a 40 mph route, thus, even slower.

Likewise, a Chicago to Florida train ignores several realities: The shortes of the traditional routes was on what is now all CSX and ran Chicago - Evansville - Nashville - Atlanta - Jacksonville, and that last not through Macon GA. The fast train on this route died sometime pre-1960. Due to curves and traffic, there is no way this line could support a train that got anywhere close to reasonable driving time. The last to run and fastest, not counting Amtrak's Floridian, was the Illinois Central's City of Miami. Segments of this route have been abandoned, and others are now short lines. As to the route of the Floridian: It would likely be the slowest of all given the short line operation between Indianapolis and Louisville and the 40mph (maybe)speed limit south of Montgomery AL.

The "Spirit of California" probably made sense at the time from things I have heard, but was dropped when it lost its state support. The basic problem with the schedule being proposed is the short time in Oakland. It needs to be late enough that it will be unaffected by a late CZ, unless the CZ is several hours late. Say, leave Oakland (or Emeryville) at about 8:00 pm, maybe later. Give it a different train number altogether, even if through passengers, such as there might be, are allowed to stay on board.

I still think that if you want to have multiple frequencies on a route that now has only one, New York to Chicago should be the place to start. Until shuch time as it becomes practical to run a City of New Orleans type day train, we should be looking at possibly three trains:
1. mid-morning departure early next day arrival,
2. mid afternoon departure, mid to late morning arrival,
3. Evening departure, mid afternoon arrival

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palmland
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It's hard to figure why Amtrak has not extended the Palmetto back to Jax.

The train has only a handful of riders south of Florence, SC - although BC tends to do better for all the Charleston tourists. This would be an easy source of additional revenue. No additional equipment would be required and at minimal expense for the 115 miles SAV-JAX, additional daylight (well, sort of) service would be provided on another segment of the Southeast HSR route. A crew base, turning, and servicing facilities are already in place.

Rather than try to extend the Capitol to FL, how about making the Cardinal do something useful. Rather than go to Washington from Charlottesville, have it terminate in Richmond (crew base, turning/servicing facilities). A sleeper and a coach or two would connect there to the Star or Meteor for Florida. The times should be changed so that Cincinnati is served at a decent hour.

The mileage Charlottesville-Richmond is about 15 miles less than to Washington. While there would be about 75 miles on the slow speed short line RR that now handles it Charlottesville-Clifton Forge, the last 25 miles would be back on Amtrak's Richmond line at Doswell, Va. I believe the SW connection in Doswell would have to upgraded or re-installed. Of course if FL trains are ever rerouted via Main St. station, the train could continue on the old C&O route and skip Staples Mill station. I suspect this option might not meet GBN's criteria for a useful investment, but should be a fun ride.

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CG96
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Mr. Harris raises an important point here, in that average speeds can be as important as maximum speeds.

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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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TwinStarRocket
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Yes, average speeds would prohibit any direct CHI to Florida train from being competitive with driving. But 2 nights and a day on a train with a stopover in New Orleans would make the CNO an attractive alternative to 20+ hours of driving. Both end points have good arrival/departure times. Minneapolis/St. Paul (& Seattle) would feed this service with reasonable connections in CHI. And a day in FLA to get to any destination you choose.

Then I can really dream and add a Denver-Omaha-KC-St.Louis sleeper and coach that gets connected in Carbondale while you sleep. Tee hee. I keep addin' those possible city pairs. (And more Guest Rewards one-zone opportunities.)

Now, is there any way of adding the Meridian-Dallas fast track into this?

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graynt
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I would love to see a Superliner train from Washington to Florida. No tunnel clearance to deal with and the Superliner trains are so much nicer than the single level trains. The only Superliner in the East is the Capitol Limited. I would love to see that trainset on the East Coast. Imagine a great sightseer lounge car from DC to Florida!
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Gilbert B Norman
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Regarding Mr. Harris' comments on Chicago-Florida service, the City of Miami was indeed the fastest and was quite time competitive with safe and lawful driving.

However, we should be mindful that on A-Day there were still significant "gaps' in the applicable Interstate highways. There were significant "gaps' both between N'ville and Chat (including Monteagle Pass IIRC), and the worst was between roundly Dalton and the Atlanta "by-pass'.

Regarding Mr. Harris comment on CHI-NOL scheduling, in view of that there is "one a day', and that is ALL there is going to be, emulating The Louisiane as Amtrak has done is the best option. It presently emulates the IC's last train out for the "College Corridor', provides overnight CHI-MEM for which even a business traveler could make use, and enables daylight service at convenient hours through "Ole Miss' where somehow I think more travelers are met by friends/relatives than are renting autos to reach final destinations.

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dns8560
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These "what if" threads always draw such an enjoyable response!

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notelvis
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quote:
Originally posted by graynt:
I would love to see a Superliner train from Washington to Florida. No tunnel clearance to deal with and the Superliner trains are so much nicer than the single level trains. The only Superliner in the East is the Capitol Limited. I would love to see that trainset on the East Coast. Imagine a great sightseer lounge car from DC to Florida!

I know that this is a non-starter due to operating contracts with CSX and probably one union or another BUT since we are bordering on fantasy -

Why not a Washington-Florida superliner train that is combined with the existing Auto-Train between Lorton and Sanford? Make limited brief station stops (Richmond, Rocky Mount, Fayetteville, Florence, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville) while combined. Perhaps even use the same consist through from the Capitol.

This wouldn't slow the Auto-Train down much as it already has some padding in it's schedule. It would put the pressure on CSX dispatching by giving it more points at which the train was expected at a given time however.

--------------------
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:
I know that this is a non-starter due to operating contracts with CSX and probably one union or another BUT since we are bordering on fantasy ...Why not a Washington-Florida superliner train that is combined with the existing Auto-Train between Lorton and Sanford?

Absolutely the case, Mr. Presley. The Auto Train operation is a contract between CSX, as successor to the SCL and RF&P railroads, and Amtrak, as successor to the Estate of the Auto Train Corp. The provisions relating to remuneration, train performance, liability are all different than that under the existing Amtrak-CSX Operating Agreement.

There is also an underlying "non-compete' provision that has often resulted in the perfectly legitimate question I have seen posed here of 'why can't a passenger without an auto ride and conversely why can't some simply ship a vehicle?"

Since Auto Train is not considered a train falling under the scope of RPSA '70 as amended by ARAA '97, if Auto Train 'went South', Amtrak could be rid of it without any kind of Notice whatever.

Finally, Auto Train roundly chases #91's markers (not really as it accelerates to its max 65mph on RF&P with about same velocity as does a freight) departing Lorton; at Sanford, I have often observed that same 91 passing while waiting for my auto.

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PullmanCo
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Money talks, baloney walks.

Missouri has de-authorized State support for 1 turn of the Eagle/Mule/Runner since I've lived here. It's a tax dollar thing.

Extending it to Omaha? Who will cover the costs? OBTW, what's the traffic demand (as in KC originations, Omaha destinations) over on I-29? I can tell you there is no KC-OMA air service of any major note. That says a bit about traffic volume.

Thunderchief may not understand me, but that's why I'm so hot on getting the Santa Fe Ranger right. There is documentable travel KC to/from OKC. There is documentable travel KC to/from Dallas. 1 a day at 3AM in Newton is a bad vitamin, not a viable transportation solution.

Reminds me... I need to see if the study is back yet. It's very late in 4Q09, and it should be due.

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