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Author Topic: Fantasy Time - Amtrak Apropriation Doubled
Gilbert B Norman
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In view of the reasonable possibility that the "RR Ticket' will get punched in less than three months (and on a day when I receive this from a former client and friend now at The Villages FL - ask Ocala Mike if their politics are his politics), let's go to Fantasyland and play Amtrak's annual appropriation, now at $1.2B, is doubled to about $2.5.

Where will it go; replacement and/or additional equipment, a "down payment" on a true HSR Corridor? Incremental - like constant tension caternary enabling 150mph operation over much of the PRR? Expanded LD service - frequencies and new routes. A more massive bureaucracy @ 60 Mass; no doubt spilling over into other nearby offices.

This is fantasyland; have fun everyone.

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Mike Smith
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Help UP, etc. double track the slow-down/congestion areas for Amtrak. Make the Sunset Limited a daily. Purchase more equipment.

In that order.

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TBlack
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GBN,
Over on another one of your threads George Harris and Iron Mountain are giving you the answer. 5 hours on the train = 1 hour in the air. So, my thought is to eliminate 1 hour plane flights and replace with train travel. We've already seen that in the NE corridor the train is trumping the plane; what more evidence do we need?

TB

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CG96
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Train service through Madison, WI. Then from WI to Winnipeg, MB.

--------------------
"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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Multiple trains, say 4, New York to Chicago both via Buffalo and via Pittsburg. Speed things up so that 16 or less hours end to end. Throw some thing like 5 trains between major cities in the northeast, Texas, and a few other places.
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Ocala Mike
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Service east of New Orleans along the Gulf Coast to FL.

Don't bother asking me about the politics of people who reside in The Villages. We had a hard time enumerating them for the 2010 census. Ryan's coming down tomorrow to receive their accolades, although there is a bit of a slippery slope he will have to negotiate regarding the RR ticket's stance on Medicare.

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Ocala Mike

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Gilbert B Norman
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Hard to believe Rep. Ryan's Mother lives in Broward - they don't know (well at least since my Father and his (2nd) Wife deceased (my Mother was sort of Independent)) what a Republican - especially of the arch rightie varietal - is around those parts:

http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2012-08-16/news/sfl-paul-ryan-mother-20120816_1_campaign-trail-paul-ryan-candidate-son

Will she be packing off to somewhere in Sumter County?

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yukon11
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Mr. Norman:

I believe you're a fan of the Auto Train (concept). Would you go for an expansion in the Auto Train to different locales? One quick thought... how about an Auto Train along the Calif. Zephyr route which could terminate, as one example, in Salt Lake City (westbound)?

Richard

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palmland
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Well if we're into fantasy world - Turn most of the western LD trains (incl CONO) over to the National Park Service with operations managed by a third party (maybe BNSF or IP) with necessary funding as part of the NP budget. This would be along the lines of the stillborn National Park trains that Anshutz/Xanterra had proposed. Those routes really are national treasures and should be preserved outside the political arena.

Turn the eastern trains into short distance runs modeled after NC or Downeaster service with expanded frequencies - exception: an all Viewliner (incl coaches) overnight train from Northeast to FL, Chicago (via Phil.), and Atlanta to connect the eastern corridors. Add a few new corridors: Nashville/B/Ham/Mobile; NOL/Mobile; Talahassee/Jax/Orlando connections to new FEC service; Sav/ATL/Chattanooga.

Additional auto trains - to the west coast from Chicago area with intermediate stop in Albuquerque replacing the SWC and Lorton to Chicago area replacing the CL.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Richard, as I've noted here in the past, my "incremental approach" to expansion of "Auto Train Service" would remain unchanged in this "double down" scenario I set forth.

The incremental approach would simply be to add auto carriers to several LD trains and accommodate those possengers in line space. Again the routes I would have in mind would be:

Galesburg-Irondale CO
Galesburg-La Junta
Albuquerque-Victorville

Victorville represents a change from previously proposed San Bernardino to avoid handling auto carriers over the San Gabriel Mountains (Cajon Pass).

This represents my long held thought that to most AT passengers outside the rail travel hobbyist community that "overnight is enough" (really, how many here regularly use AT; aren't I about it? Might one hold that with me "overnight is enough" AT or otherwise?). Note that any of these segments would not require auto carriers to be handled over mountain grades. The reason the service would not actually serve "core" urban areas is the same reason why the existing AT route is from suburban Wash and Orlando. From such locations the service is much more in a position to "feed" from the entire region.

Now regarding Auto Train Service over the Starlight Route, I'd suggest San Jose to Kalamath Falls; equal access from both Peninsula and East Bay.

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Vincent206
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For a west coast AutoTrain I would offer Portland to Bakersfield service. Drivers could leave as far away as Vancouver BC in the morning, catch a train in Portland about 430pm, spend the night on the train, arrive in Bakersfield before noon the next day and then drive to any popular southwest destination (LA, San Diego, Phoenix, Palm Springs, Las Vegas) on the day of arrival. One trainset would allow every-other-day service, or 3x per week, which would likely be sufficient.

I think if Amtrak were to suddenly receive a doubled appropriation the money should immediately be spent upgrading the existing corridors to higher speed service. This may be FantasyLand, but I'd keep the ARRA experience in mind and spend the money on the existing routes and not look to start new routes--other than my west coast AT.

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yukon11
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Vincent: I would go for just Portland to Sacramento..would be good enough for me.

Mr. Norman: San Jose to Klamath would be great, if it leaves San Jose at a morning time. It would provide, for me, a great way to travel around Oregon and Washington by car.

Palmland..I would also like to see more national park trains...good idea.

My suggestion for Salt Lake city, as an auto jumping off point, might, possibly, provide for some sort of substitute for the loss of the Pioneer and Desert Wind. Auto trips out of Salt Lake could be destined for Las Vegas, Oregon (for those not taking the Empire Builder), and a way to drive up to Yellowstone with car access to all the sights.

Richard

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notelvis
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Fantasyland -

Sunset and Cardinal operate daily.

Additional overnight frequency New York - Atlanta via Richmond, Raleigh, Greensboro, and Charlotte.

Separate Tampa sections for both the Silver Meteor and Silver Star.

Maybe extend the Palmetto on to Miami. Route some Florida service via the FEC.

Restore Broadway Limited on whatever route practical west of Pittsburgh.

Restore 'Executive Sleeper' service between Washington, DC and New York.

Additional Chicago-Twin Cities and perhaps on to Duluth frequency.

Restore service to the 'Sunset East' route...... though not neccessarily as a continuation of the Sunset. Perhaps a new 'Gulf Wind'.

Somehow go to Las Vegas. Restore the Pioneer Denver-Cheyenne-Portland while we're at it.

Personal Pet Project - New route Asheville-Salisbury-Charlotte-Columbia with through sleeper to Orlando and Miami via the Silver Star.

And finally - 1st class lounge space provided on ALL long-distance trains with new sightseer lounges for the superliner trains and new 5 bedroom/lounge viewliners (a la the Seaboard 'Sun Lounges') for the single-level trains.

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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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notelvis
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Oh........ and I neglected to mention a Twin Cities - Kansas City day train providing west coast connections to/from both the California Zephyr and Southwest Chief.

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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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Gilbert B Norman
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While it's all fair game, I could have figured that all the responses thus far have regarded additional LD services.

Why isn't there any talk about what 21st Century passenger railroading is all about - short distances through densely populated regions.

Last time I checked, they're called Corridors.

$2.5B is "not exactly" a windfall analogous to the single Powerball winner recently in Lapeer MI (route of the Blue Water); should not we be focusing upon incremental improvements to enhance operational efficiency in the Corridors?

Nothing has upset that the LD's are simply appendages of the way the political system works; they do not exactly represent the economic and efficient movement of people.

So my dream list is focused on incremental improvements that will make existing Corridors more efficient and in the process make them more attractive. In addition to new tunnels through New York and Baltimore, how say a flyover junction at New Rochelle? A tunnel under the Thames at New London? Constant tension catenary to enable 150mph Acela operation over the PRR.

Out here, the Grand Xing to enable an efficient interchange of the IC trains to the PRR for efficient access to CUS; new passenger dedicated trackage CUS to Porter IN laid over the abandoned NYC ROW. A flyover at Porter; assistance to MI so that the East End of the Wolverine Route is same as the West (110mph).

Out on the Left Coast; track capacity to enable an LA-Vegas Corridor. LAUPT made "run through" for a true Santa Barbara-San Diego Corridor.

Sure it's fun (and as I noted completely within the Originator's "bounds") to dream of some "pet" LD route offering some kind of "pet" on-board service, but to me 21st Century passenger railroading's role is in the Corridors.

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Jerome Nicholson
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Darn!
Mr Pressley had all the same ideas I had before I could post them! Now, i'll have to think up some new stuff!
1. New Pacific Parlour Cars on all Superliner LD trains.
2. Single level (Atlantic Parlour cars?) for the Eastern LD trains. The high glass ceilinged dars used by VIA and RMR could be models to replace the Amcafes with single level Sightseer cars. Might not be much to see from Florida trains, but they'd do wonders for Adirondack, Pennsylvanian, Cardinal, Ethan Allen.
3. Dual power engines with caternaries. No more changing locos in Washington or Philadelphia.
4. Extend Capitol Limited southward to Orlando.
5. Extend Heartland Flyer to Kansas City. I can't stand the idea of a train terminating in the middle of Nowhere.
6. Improve trackage in Richmond, VA to allow all through trains to use Main Street Station, including a Richmond - Raleigh - Charlotte - Atlanta train that will go to a new Downtown Atlanta station.
7. Get service to Asheville.
8. Restore Main street Station to its former glory including the trainshed, which will hold the trains that terminate in Richmond. Build a new Surburban Richmond station, bigger, prettier and with more parking than Staples Mill.
9. Add one or two frequencies of a LA - Bay area train, these terminating in Downtown San Francisco. Maybe one of them an overnight from San Diego.
10. Bring the Vermonter back to Montreal.

I know Mr. Pressley beat me to some of these, but they were too good not to repeat!

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notelvis
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I would suggest, Mr. Norman, that there is an unspoken train of thought (no pun intended) here that corridor improvements are and will continue to be primarily funded by state and local entities.

Corridors are emerging at a steady, albeit slow, pace.

Since we're fantasizing here, any unforseen windfall from the Federal level is to be squandered on the great things we wouldn't be getting otherwise.

--------------------
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 Jerome Nicholson:

3. Dual power engines with caternaries. No more changing locos in Washington or Philadelphia.

4. Extend Capitol Limited southward to Orlando.

These two captioned points from Mr. Nicholson's immediate caught my attention. One has merit and the other has been considered by Amtrak and ruled out.

While the 70 Siemens electric locomotives are anticipated to replace the existing fleet of AEM-7 and HHP-8 locomotives in their entirety, and the existing P-42 Diesel fleet is both underutilized and has economic life remaining, I could foresee other "extended corridor" services developing, such as the reportedly quite successful extension to Lynchburg. A new service to Norfolk is apparently a "done deal".

NJTransit is now operating Dual Mode Diesel-Pantograph locomotives with nomenclature of ALP-45DP. If these locomotives prove successful in the "high stress" (stop and go) operating environment of commuter service, I would hope that Amtrak would give consideration to adding such to the fleet. The existing Amtrak Dual mode fleet is Diesel Third rail shoe (P32-ACDM).

Naturally, assignment of such an engine to any train requiring a locomotive change would be uneconomical (Crescent, Silvers examples of such), but I would think that for any of the "extended Corridor' services such as to Richmond, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Charlotte, or Springfield would be worth "running some numbers". The benefit would be faster schedules, less need for Carmen and Electricians at the bypassed change points, and an extension of Amtrak's operating philosophy of "don't break a consist unless absolutely necessary" (off topic; this is why I highly doubt the through BOS-CHI cars were restored at Amtrak's own initiative).

The "downside' is greater unit cost and having one locomotive prime mover not in use at any given time. Obviously the closer the "match" between electrified and non-electrified route miles, the more cost effective such units will prove. This is why I have ruled out LD assignments through Wash.

But crunch some numbers first (sorry volks,, I know many of you care less, but I'm personally good at that stuff).

Regarding a CHI-WAS-Florida service, a Superliner Capitol-Star was considered circa 1995, but was dismissed account breaking the through service to New York. It is one thing not to offer single room/seat service where it could conceivably be offered, but it is something else to take it away from where it presently exists.

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RRRICH
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I have nothing against Corridor operations -- I believe they too are essential in any discussion of the future of AMTRAK. My dream "corridor connecton" would be either a Detroit-Gaylord (MI) train on the former MC/D & M route (now Lake State Railroad) or an extension of the Pere Marquette from Grand Rapids to Kalkaska. The revised Detroit-Gaylord run would pass right by my home!

My LD fantasies are the continuation of the Sunset East and maybe 1 or 2 more western N-S routes, such as Shelby, Montana to Albuquerque via Great Falls, Billings, Casper, Cheyenne, Denver, and Trinidad)and maybe Minneapolis/St. Paul to Texas on whatever route is feasible and still operational.

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TwinStarRocket
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MSP-Texas is still very feasible and operational. UP(ex Rock Island) MSP-KC is good track from what I have seen, and the ex-ATSF KC-DFW is fine. Whether the market is there is debatable.

I would say Shelby, MT to Denver does not have the population density needed. Of course I would personally LOVE to have these 2 routes added for my joyrides.

I think the daytime restoration of Sunset East currently being pushed by mayors of the cities on the route has merit. They believe it would greatly help the tourist industry on the Gulf Coast. It would require an overnight stay in New Orleans, but if some deal could be made between Amtrak and a hotel by the station to their mutual benefit, it would be a good test of a new form of LD travel not requiring sleepers. It could be either single or double level equipment. Late trains would not break the connection. The stations are already there. And Florida would now be connected to the rest of the country from a direction other than north.

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pporro
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I'm going to be an easy one to please.

California Zephyr - Auto Train. Picks up rail cars already loaded at origin station.

Naperville - Emeryville, Two Auto drops, Hastings Nebraska and Salt Lake City. (leave the rail cars on a siding and the train continues) Picks up at the same stations on the way back East.

Covers the entire country almost coast to coast. The West coast auto train covers N-S

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RR4me
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I'd like to see a Seattle to Denver route, through Boise.
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George Harris
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I think I have said it elsewhere, but I will say it again: not less than 4 trains each way between New York and chicago on both primary routes, that is vai Buffalo and via Pittsburg. Add in a St. Louis out of the northeast, leaving New York either as part of Chicago trains or as stand alone. Put on some regional services in Ohio and Indiana. Add a second New York to Atlanta train, as possible a 3rd and 4th. Carry some of these on to New Orleans, both via Birmingham as now, and via Montgomery as in the pre Amtrak Crescent route.

Yes, some of these will require significant trackwork to get speeds up.

Put in a Chicago to Florida train via the old Royal Palm route. This could be made to be faster than any other practical Chicago to Florida route. Perhaps do another Chicago to Florida via the former Floridian pre Amtrak South Wind route, except do it via Tallahasse on the south end.

Obvously make the Sunset daily. Spend some capital to put the Phoenix west line back in service, and at 79 to 90 mph, maybe even 110. Loan UP enought to finish doubling the Sunset route, and mke the east end of it Alpine TX, not El Paso.

Get the Southwest Chief route across Kansas and Colorado back up to at least 90 mph, if not get it to 110 mph. (By the time you get the route up to be good for 90 mph, to go on to 110 mph cost near nothing on the track side.) Add a second train. Throw in a Denver section of one if not both of these train.

There is more, but I will stop here.

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yukon11
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If you look at interstate migratory tendencies, both now and into the future, I think there are going to be vast numbers of people moving away from east coast/west coast densities into the west and midwest states. Oregon, Washington, the Rocky Mountain states, Nebraska, Iowa, etc will have large gains in population, in my opinion, in coming years and decades.

I have to think Rich's idea of Shelby to Denver is not that all far-fetched. I havn't read much with regard to the proposed "Ranger Xpress" train (Casper to Denver to Albuquerque). I don't konw if that will ever get rolling. I would bet, if it does, it would gain considerable ridership, with time.

If the Iowa Interstate Railroad's route from Chicago to Omaha comes into place, how about extending it into sort of a UP Overland route, through Wyoming, Utah, and (dreaming) all the way to Portland.

Richard

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George Harris
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A north south middlle of the country resurrection of the Twin Star Rocket, slightly different: Ex-CRIP between MSP and KC, then ex-MKT to Ft. Worth to San Antonio, with a Dallas to Houston section taken off at Ft. Worth, with enough track upgrades to make a decently fast schedule. Run a couple of trains per day at least. (I think any route worth doing is worth having at least two per day.) At Des Moines connect with Chicago to Omaha trains. At Kansas City swap cars with Chicago to Los Angeles trains.

Also would seem to be good to run a southeast to northwest train, think out of Florida through Birmingham, Memphis, Kansas City, Omaha, then UPRR route toward Portland OR and on to Seattle

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Gilbert B Norman
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Even though Mr. Presley's earlier thoughts are noted with respect, I continue to hold "you're all missing the point". Dreaming up all these, sorry, ridiculous LD routes is not what 21st Century rail passenger service is all about. If an increased appropriation were to be squandered on such nonsense, guess what? "it won't be 'dere, no mo".

Furthermore, there was no parameter set forth saying the Class I industry was going to "roll over and play dead" with regards to encroachment on their existing capacity to handle trains that put the "copper in the hopper" (and I think we all know enough about the existing rates Amtrak pays to access Class I ROW's who doesn't put the copper in there).

But fear not, simply because this topic has hardly generated the responses I would have hoped it would, does not mean the "nuclear option" is about to be exercised. It has unquestionably moved forth with respect (maturity? I'll take a pass on that).

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Iron Mountain
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First allow me to wax political in response to the RR doom ticket. As Mr. Harris once pointed out the two adminstrations that savaged Amtrak the worst were led by two presidents who were certainly positioned on the "port" side of center, Carter and Clinton. I must always remind myself that when we blame or glorify adminstrations they are only part of the formula. There is also congress. And further both branches have to be sensitive to the states. I would think that it would be highly unlikely that RR could follow through on the threat to defund Amtrak. For example, states like Florida, Wisconsin, and Ohio were all able to turn back Obama supported spending. The states have power also. And talk about foolish expenditures, the HSR stuff at this time is not wise. I agree totally with GBN that incrementalism is the best way to go. If we could have a reliable passenger rail system that matched some of the speedsters of the late 1930's I think that it would be very competive with other modes of travel. I am not a numbers cruncher so I will try to be conservative in my suggestions as to what to do with an extra billion $ or so. To Illinois' good fortune, one of their own is in the whitehouse so the Chicago corridors are getting a boost. I would like to see a lot more go to speeding up the trips to CUS from MSP, KCY, and STL. And depending on the money I would like to dream about filling in the "spider web of routes" with connections like MSP to KCY, and maybe STL to Indianapolis or Louisville with a through car from STL picked up by the CONO at Carbondale. Finally I want to compliment those who share comments and ideas on Train Web. Different opinions are always respectful and respected. I enjoy the intelligent and thought provoking conversations.
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George Harris
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When it comes to politics/politicians, turn off the sound and watch the action.

Others have said, and it seems to be very common in the political field, "If their lips are moving, they're lying."

While I agree that incrementalism is a good idea, if you have to build new track, the reality is that the cost of an alignment that will handle 220 mph may not be a tremendous amount more than an alignment built to handle 110 mph. And, for the track itself, the difference in cost is close to nil. Well, if you build a concrete base track like much of the newer Shinkansen lines the cost is about 30% more than ballasted track, but over time I suspect that difference will shrink.

I am inclined to believe that true high speed lines are worth doing given travel patterns that will fill 2 or more trains per hour during the business day. It is worthwhile to note that the Taiwan High Speed Railway runs 4 trains per hour, and since its opening the flights between the end point cities has dropped from 6 or more per hour to one or two per day. The number of trains on the existing railway did not drop all that much, but traffic on the parallel highways did drop some.

I think we should be looking at the "Texas Triangle" for one. San Fran to LA is a good idea if somehow we can get past the politics.

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amtraxmaniac
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How about adding capacity over Altamont Pass in California to extend a few San Joaquins directly to San Jose? If you want ULTIMATE corridor improvement, forget HSR out here! Start building over the Grapevine, connecting Northern and Southern California without bus-titution!

I've been away from here for some time. I have been blogging a lot locally on California's HSR stuff. People here live in La-La Land. California's CURRENT Corridor Service is the envy of the nation and Sacramento wants to dump it for this pipe-dream HSR that will NEVER see completion CRAP! I gave up and started flying.

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by amtraxmaniac:
How about adding capacity over Altamont Pass Start building over the Grapevine, connecting Northern and Southern California without bus-titution!

Before getting all excited about going over the "Grapevine" (That is parallel to I-5 between Bakersfield and LA to those unfamiliar with California-speak), a look at a topographic map and a map showing faults would be worth doing. If you like LONG grades over 3%, likely a good bit above 4% and long tunnels that cross fault lines, the Grapevine is the way to go. Otherwise, go via Tehachapi and Palmdale. Search around on the web for these two routes and you can probably find some studies that will help in understanding what goes on here.

Yes, I do think that regional services are the future, but there is no reason that they cannot be overlapping pieces of longer runs. If we go way back and look at the average length of trip when most long distance travel was by rail, you will find that it was in the range of 100 miles or so. Why do you think these trains in the long distant past made all these stops between end points? Forgetting the intermediate points is one of the worst planning mistakes that can be made. That is also why, if a route is worth serving at all, it should be worth service with at least 2 and better 4 or more trains spread out over the day.

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amtraxmaniac
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George-I agree with your assessment of Tehachapi Pass making more sense. I think Antelope Valley that was the plan until the HSRA decided 'nahh, lets spend 9 billion dollars on a train along the 5 instead. The laughable part of this that the only portion that they have guaranteed funding for is Bakersfield to Merced! Basically, the train to NO WHERE as us locals have come to call it! I say we take that HSR money, fire the HSRA, hand the money to the state Dept of Transportation (which has been successfully running Amtrak California from the get-go) and invest in linking Bakersfield with Antelope Valley. The ROW already exists from Antelope Valley to LAUS-which adds credit to your analysis of going via the Tehachapi's. We could also provide an Antelope Valley to Las Vegas Line (since we're discussing fantasy land) therefor linking BOTH Northern California AND Southern California to Las Vegas! That would be the Uber-corridor of all Uber-corridors, no? Both North and Southbound trains could transfer passengers in Antelope Valley for Las Vegas!

I'm also of the train of thought (pun intended) that intermodal transportation is the future. It would be nice to connect corridor rail to airports, rather than downtowns (ex, BWI, Bob Hope). This would make corridor service even more attractive with airlines cutting unprofittable regional services (ex-ComAir).

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