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Author Topic: Now it gets real.
Jerome Nicholson
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President Trump's budget proposals for domestic spending are out, and they are brutal. All sorts of federal programs are to be sliced with a meat axe, and Amtrak is no exception:
http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2017/03/16-trump-budget
This is reminiscent of the Reagan budget of three decades ago, but this time thr Republicans' control of all three branches of Government is much more than it was in Reagan's day. Ford and the Bushes also tried to do this, but they didn't succeed. Now that the GOP is totally unleashed, will they do what they promised to do if they had total control? Or will they again act like the dog that caught the car, like they did with Obamacare?
So far I've only seen this on the "Trains" website. The MSM is still too distracted by Trump's behavior to pay attention to his policy.

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Ocala Mike
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Congress drives the budget bus, but you know that. This austerity budget is red meat for Trump's base, but will not get off the ground without major massaging.

It is ironic, though, that if you look at a map of all the states that would be totally without Amtrak service with no LD routes, you will find that almost every one of them was carried by Trump in 2016.

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Gilbert B Norman
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The Budget was discussed today on WBBM 780/105.9 Noon Business Hour. While a bit aided and abetted by the host, the guest did make reference to Amtrak. Without any specific reference to Mr. Moorman's "glue", he did note that the long distance trains, while beginning or ending their routes in "the Blue" they cross "a lot of Red" to get between.

President Trump had best accept that Amtrak is an inexpensive and popular program that collects more in "Service Fees" (tickets) than it does in appropriations.

"Worst case" I believe will be a "pruning". The usual suspects of course are The Sunset Limited and The Cardinal, and if it came down to one, I'd say Sunset.

Thoughts, anyone on the "hit list" - again if any.

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George Harris
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Is the term "correlation without causation"? I think that is what we have here.

There are many people, and I am one, that were not enamored with Trump, but found Clinton far more repulsive. I would suspect that the lack of enthusiasm for either of these led to the relatively high "third party" vote. I have not seen any discussion on the proportion of third party votes this election relative to other elections, but this time I was paying attention and it did seem high. If having Trump instead of Clinton results in loss of long distance Amtrak, so be it. However, based on past performance, I would not expect the outcome of Amtrak to be better under her. In fact it could be worse under her, as she would owe the heartland states no favors.

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palmland
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Reading between the lines on Moorman's Message to the troops reported in Trains, I suspect Moorman will work with Secretary Chao, whom he mentions. There will be a shuffling of the LD deck to make an apparent sacrifice. And, since the Secretary is 'in bed' with the Speaker, a deal will be cut with little substantive change, but a new look. Agree that the Sunset is likely sacrificed in some fashion.
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Vincent206
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Trump says he wants to make infrastructure improvements that will improve rail transportation.

For discussion, I'll offer these suggestions to help make passenger rail great again:
1. Trade the Cardinal for infrastructure improvements to allow a daily Hoosier State train to make the trip from Indy to Chicago in under 4 hours.
2. Trade the Sunset Limited for daily, daylight service between Los Angeles and Tucson.
3. Eliminate one of the Silvers for true HSR between Tampa, Orlando and Miami.

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Jerome Nicholson
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On that last one, The Florida Governor turned down free Fed money for HSR. Maybe a highER speed network between cities.
And maybe ending the Sunset for daily LA-Tuscon and San Antonio - NOL trains. And perhaps turning over the CONO to the guy from Iowa?

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palmland
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I think Brightline will take care of FL HSR.

Like your suggestions, Vincent with Jerome's addition. Wonder why the government doesn't just ask us for ideas.

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Vincent206
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The ARRA grants were turned down by GOP governors who were making a political statement about government (Democratic) spending. I think both FL and WI would be better off today if those plans had been implemented (OH is another story). Let's see who walks away from free money from the Trump administration.

quote:
Wonder why the government doesn't just ask us for ideas.
Anybody want to start a passenger rail consulting firm? [Wink]
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Jerome Nicholson
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If it gets worse, maybe replacing the Cardinal with a daily DC- Cincinnati Superliner train?
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Vincent206
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The 3x trains (Sunset and Cardinal) have awful financial metrics. If they were converted to daily trains on the most useful corridors, would their metrics improve?

Possible Cardinal Corridors: if the Cardinal became a daily train between New York - Charlottesville and the Hoosier State ran daily (along with an infrastructure improvement package to reduce the trip times), Amtrak would likely reduce the operating loss of the current Cardinal/Hoosier State trains.

Possible Sunset Corridors: if the Sunset left LAUS at about 10am (to allow for connections from the Surfliners and MetroLink), it would arrive in Tucson about 730pm. If the westbound trips left Tucson at 700am, they would arrive LAUS about 430pm (again, in time for connections to the Surfliners and MetroLink).

The route between San Antonio and New Orleans doesn't easily convert to a corridor operation because the distance is too long to allow for convenient arrival/departure times at all stations. Could some sort of connection be made with the Crescent that would work well enough to improve the financial metrics of both the Sunset and the Crescent?

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George Harris
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Ever heard the expression, "Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?" That is what some of these things amount to. We will not improve the overall situation by going for train-offs.
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PullmanCo
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Remember, the 218 and the 51 are R. They are fighting for things which matter to them:
- NIH grants.
- HHS research grants.

Those are pretty big tickets, and each Congressman has his own big ticket.

What are the jobs for Amtrak in New Mexico? Probably, less than 50, including car tonks. Will the Scouts still come to Philmont? Yes. Will the tourists and the business conferences still come to Albuquerque? Yes.

LA/OAKLAND have job bases. SEATTLE has a job base. CHICAGO has a job base. NEW ORLEANS has a job base. That said, Chicago has regional Amtrak service, so there'd only be incremental losses.

Most likely: Say goodbye to the top 3 LD money losers.

Still in the category of likely: Buy the Adios drumheads. Watch Amtrak post 180 day notices.

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PullmanCo
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The one blessing in all this is Trump couldn't whip the 218 into abject submission on healthcare. He's now behind the power curve as his party's leader.

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

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Jerome Nicholson
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I forgot. The top 3 money losers are:
Sunset Limited
Cardinal
and?

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PullmanCo
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Old info, but the Texas Eagle was not a great performer.
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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by PullmanCo:
Old info, but the Texas Eagle was not a great performer.

The Texas Eagle is daily because a Texas politician got behind it. Before that it was 3X per week.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Here it is; page 78 of the supplemental document, Major Changes and Reforms:

  • 2018 MAJOR SAVINGS AND REFORMS

    REDUCTION: GRANTS TO AMTRAK Department of Transportation
    The Budget proposes to terminate Federal support for Long Distance services, which consistently suffer from poor on-time performance, serve a small percentage of the population, and generate the vast majority of Amtrak's operating losses.
    Funding Summary (In millions of dollars)
    2018 Change from 2017 2018 Request 2017 CR -630 774 1,404 Budget Authority............

    Justification
    Amtrak's long distance trains do not serve a vital transportation purpose, and are a vestige of when train service was the only viable transcontinental transportation option. Today communities are served by an expansive aviation, interstate highway, and intercity bus network. The remaining Federal funds for Amtrak are dedicated to Amtrak's Northeast Corridor (NEC) and State-Supported services, which do provide real transportation alternatives for regions.
    Long Distance services suffer from poor on-time performance (55 percent in 2016) and account for only 15 percent of Amtrak ridership but 38 percent of train system operating costs. Long distance trains have consistently had a net operating loss (roughly half a billion dollars annually for the past decade) since Amtrak was created in 1971.
    Terminating Federal funding for Long Distance services will allow Amtrak to focus its resources – and those appropriated by Congress – on better managing its successful corridor services that provide transportation options within more densely populated regions. For example, Amtrak's Northeast Corridor train services carry the vast majority of the combined air/rail market between Washington and New York. Yet this corridor faces many challenges, and the 2018 Budget proposal would allow Amtrak to right-size itself and more adequately focus on these pressing issues.

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Ocala Mike
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The Budget, besides playing loosey goosey with math and economic growth estimates, is already being labeled "Dead on Arrival" by members of both parties in both houses.

I'm predicting no substantive changes to Amtrak besides possibly lopping off a route or two.

Down here, the Florida Coalition of Rail Passengers is robustly lobbying Rep. Ted Yoho (my rep. and a member of the "Freedom Caucus") about reinstituting Gulf Coast service, NOLA to FL. Gonna be a tough nut to crack without the state's involvement and $, though.

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Gilbert B Norman
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I suppose Amtrak’s interests would be furthered if this were to come to pass;

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/01/politics/joe-biden-2020/index.html

Fair Use:
  • ."No. Question. In. The. Least."

    That's the response to an email I sent last night to a longtime Democratic strategist that wondered whether Joe Biden's decision to start a political action committee was a sign of the former vice president's growing interest in running in 2020.
    That PAC -- known as American Possibilities -- launched Thursday morning amid a slew of quotes from Biden that sounded like a 2020 stump speech in waiting

https://americanpossibilities.org

http://www.oddsshark.com/other/2020-usa-presidential-odds-futures

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George Harris
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Without coverage by all forms of financial games it would become obvious that the Northeast Corridor is the true sinkhole for money. It may serve a true transportation purpose, but at a far higher cost than Amtrak or the norteastern politicians would be willing to admit, and if there is any part of the country and any group of politicians to whom Trump owes absolutely nothing, they are the ones. Frankly, by now I am willing to let them have it.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Harris, even though Amtrak is quite transparent about its affairs when compared with other government agencies, cost allocation over the activities of any organization, sector notwithstanding, is entering the world of "figures don't lie, but liars figure".

From my perspective of a practicing (now retired) CPA, no matter the expenditure, there will be conjecture as to its financial treatment (should we book as Income a sale in this current period we have been "promised"???). Add to the mix Responsibility Acvounting, or WHO gets charged with an expenditure deemed an expense.

So are there expenses that an LD advocate holds rightly belong to the NEC yet are charged elsewhere? Of course there are. Are there expenses that Amtrak is all about Corridors and the rest ought to do what was expected to happen long about five years in? Of course there are.

Whoever has best developed their "meeting skills" will win. Maybe the Corridor folk are better at it than others at 60 Mass.

Yesterday, I met at the Laundromat (I've never owned a washer or dryer) an off duty Amtrak Police Officer. While I was careful not to come off as a "nutty railfan", he did note that on-board patrols will be stepped up after Naperville. What trains? Well, "I didn't ask and he didn't tell". But it raises the point, how will the Force's costs be allocated? There is also the matter of four State level agencies (IL, MI, MO, WI) that have trains originating in Chicago. It must be fun to see how to allocate the PD costs over those trains.

So in closing, Mr. Harris, we must recognize that the Corridor unquestionably is a needed transportation resource. The question must be raised how "needed" for transportation, as distinct from other "needs", is the "City" that comes by your "pad".

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Gilbert B Norman
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Well, since everyone has been holding rallies for one cause or the other, I guess it figures NARP will join the herd:

https://townswithouttrains.com

I learned of this event from TRAINS Newswire.

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