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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » Southwest Chief "In The X-Hair" (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Southwest Chief "In The X-Hair"
Gilbert B Norman
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TRAINS Newswire reports that Amtrak has declined to provide its $3M share of a $16M TIGER grant to upgrade the Albuquerque-LA Junta route of the Southwest Chief. This grant makes no provision for PTC, and Amtrak has taken the position they will not operate any train over routes not so equipped.

Absent intervention, it would appear that The Chief will 1) be rerouted via Amarillo, or 2) the Adios drumhead will be hanging "guess where".

Prompted by this development, former CEO Boardman is, reportedly also by Newswire, "less than happy" with the course his successor is taking with at least one LD route.

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MargaretSPfan
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AFAIK, the Southwest Chief's route between Lamy, New Mexico, and Trinidad, Colorado, was supposed to be exempt from being required to have PTC. There are other places where Amtrak operates that are also supposed to be exempt from PTC.

With this news from the Trains Newswire, it looks to many of us as though Richard Anderson and Amtrak top management are continuing to do their "death by a thousand cuts" to destroy Amtrak's long-distance trains.

PTC is just a useful excuse to stop running the Southwest Chief.

The death by a thousand cuts is a very workable way to destroy something, because those who object to any of the small cuts can be derided as overreacting and wasting their energy on small issues when there really are much more important issues they should deal with.

But it is far, far easier to stop a snowball from rolling downhill and killing people if you kick it apart when it is very small.

Anderson was chosen to kill Amtrak's long-distance trains, and he will stay only as long as he has to to get his nice retirement package -- probably 3 years.

And when he is done, the US will be the only technologically advanced nation in the world that has no long-distance passenger trains. We will be like Mexico, which killed all of its passenger trains some years ago. That is not a good example to copy.

I know I am not wrong about Anderson's agenda. But I wish with all my heart that I were.

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yukon11
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Margaret, I think you hit the nail on the head. This is from the TRAINS report:

WASHINGTON – In its most explicit explanation yet, Amtrak management has revealed the reason why it intends to withhold a $3 million match to a $16 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant that was awarded to Colfax County, N. M., in March 2018 to help rehabilitate a portion of the Southwest Chief’s route.

The letter, sent to lawmakers earlier this month by Amtrak Director of Government Affairs Patrick Edmond and obtained by Trains News Wire through multiple sources, demands that the entire cost of remaining capital improvements on the line in New Mexico and Colorado be known before it commits any more funding. It also raises the possibility that, even though positive train control is not required by the Federal Railroad Administration on the portion of the route only traversed by the Chief, Amtrak would require such technology for future operations.

This is a departure from Amtrak’s previous collaboration with communities in those two states plus Kansas and the BNSF Railway. Previous TIGER grants sponsored by Garden City, Kan., and La Junta, Colo., were also supported by Amtrak President Joe Boardman, who worked out an agreement with then-BNSF Railway CEO Matt Rose to maintain the line for 20 years at BNSF’s expense.
********************************

I was wondering.....suppose a long distance Amtrak train route is deleted, due to lack of PTC compliance, by the end of this year. Then, say sometime in 2019 or thereafter, the route does become PTC compliant, would Amtrak then reinstate the LD train on such route?

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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Something has changed from the Boardman days.

The notion held ever since A-Day that 1) there was language in RPSA70 requiring a National System and that 2) maintaining such was the catalyst for Federal funding of a Regional operation, i.e. the Corridor. The first hint of change was Moorman's "weak" endorsement of the System with his "glue".

Somehow, Anderson has received enough "back channel" feedback that National System can be defined as operating regional "corridors" throughout the land. Such corridors do exist Coast to Coast, and likely would not had it not been for Section 403(b) of RPSA70. Apparently those presently holding the Federal purse strings are prepared to fund, as they did "big time" this current FY, without an interconnected national system.

This is a "turning point" for the LD system. Practically all of the equipment, locomotives and cars, is at or nearing the end of its service life. While I would contend that hardly $700M, or whatever, will be saved if all LD's were discontinued, there would be less $$$ "going out of the cookie jar" than if continued. Amtrak's $3M share of the $16M TIGER grant to do needed upgrades to the Lamy-La Junta line solely used by the Chief, will represent an avoidable cost. Even those, whose knowledge of accounting is that of the cookie jar, can readily understand that.

But one thing that is within the control of Amtrak management is the experiental (Mr. Anderson added a word to my vocabulary) reason to ride LD trains. But the level of on-board service amenities is totally with the control of management, and the present management is not looking to satisfy those who merely want to take a joyride.

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by yukon11:

I was wondering.....suppose a long distance Amtrak train route is deleted, due to lack of PTC compliance, by the end of this year. Then, say sometime in 2019 or thereafter, the route does become PTC compliant, would Amtrak then reinstate the LD train on such route?

No. Think Sunset Limited east of New Orleans.
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yukon11
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I think you're right, George. Not only because of the cost to reinstate New Orleans to Florida but also because it would be a likely money loser, if it is reinstated. I would like to be wrong.

Regarding the rest of the threads, I'm starting to wish Joe Boardman would come out of retirement and resume the Amtrak helm.

Richard

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palmland
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You’d think that Anderson would have figured out by now that Amtrak is a political creature and not your normal business. I don’t know how else to explain his apparent arrogance and dismissive attitude to his most loyal supporters. It wouldn’t take much to appease us. He should have taken better lessons from Moorman.

Nevertheless, I think, despite the virtual hysteria by many, that Amtrak will be in better shape when he departts. Many of us won’t like it, myself included, as a few of the LD trains will morph into something far different but arguably more useful.

I certainly don’t think he is doing this for visions of a golden parachute. The former CEO of the airline that many rate as the best in the U.S. is not concerned about the paltry severance or retirement package he will receive. And like Moorman his salary is zero.

But, I do think a deal has been struck with key members of Congress and Sectratary Chao. It provided him with additional funds this year to get Amtrak’s house in order, even if a few LD trains disappear.

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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by palmland:

But, I do think a deal has been struck with key members of Congress and Sectratary Chao. It provided him with additional funds this year to get Amtrak’s house in order, even if a few LD trains disappear.

Mr. Palmland, painful as it is for some to accept, the current thinking on The Hill, One Mass, and 1600, is that the days of tolerating, let alone promoting, "the joy of trains" is simply over.

They’re "wet nursing kittens" at another site (at which I've found myself "persona non grata" and at which I have likely ceased participation) over these developments, and during the Q&A at the California Summit, Mr. Dyson of RAIL PAC let it be known many in his membership "pay thousands of dollars" for the relaxing experience of a Pacific Parlour and full service Dining.

All well and good, but the taxpayers day of subsidizing it are over. The $1.9B appropriated - the highest ever - is certainly indicative that Congress (the President? who needs him; that appropriation is buried deep in the Spending Bill; and any passenger rail stakeholder best hope it stays right there) holds there is need for intercity passenger rail and, within their own chambers, have moved away from the "you don't fund my train and I won't fund yours" thinking of the past forty seven years.

Finally, the Chief has the nostalgia because it traverses "flyover country back when you did that on the ground". I guess there is mystique to that Clark and Marilyn were ensconced in a "Regal---" but were never seen. The Desert Wind would have provided more online business from Denver, Salt Lake, and Vegas, but alas that's water over the dam.

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PullmanCo
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At one point, I believe the 218 and the 51 demanded the NEC states get votes from outside the Corridor.

I believe rather less so now.

Amtrak California brings a lot of House votes, plus 2 Senate votes, to the formula. That's a change from past years.

Ditto Illinois.

Political analysis of what I'll call the "Amtrak Funding Caucus" to follow.

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PullmanCo
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Here is what I deem the Amtrak Funding Caucus

53..California
_5..Connecticut
_1..Delaware
18..Illinois
_9..Indiana
_9..Massachusetts
14..Michigan
12..New Jersey
27..New York
16..Ohio
18..Pennsylvania
11..Virginia
10..Washington

Bottom line is 203. That means these folk only have to find 15 votes to get a majority for Amtrak.

The Senate is harder, the vote count is only half of the need at 26. That's enough to do some issues horse trading.

So, where I once thought 1/2, 3/4, 5/6, and 7/8 mattered to Amtrak, I say now, as a political reality: So what, who cares? Post the 180 day discontinuance notices on the STB website. That Superliner stock can be used for 2d runs on several of the Chicago-East Coast routes, which fall in the 750 mile limit.

The One a Day runs are no longer part of the political calculus, imnsho.

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

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Gilbert B Norman
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This document, circulated by an informed "deep throat" source, suggests Amtrak "has the Chief in the X-hair:

Anderson Presentation

It certainly appears that Amtrak management is bound and determined to show they can whack a Long Distance route. With a good portion of the route, and possibly over the steepest ruling grade on any Amtrak route, used solely by the Chief and yet is included within the PTC mandate, puts it in jeopardy.

Within the document, is a proposed Dodge City-Albuquerque "busteetoot". While overall CHI-LAX trip time can be maintained, access to the Scouts Philmont Ranch will sure take a hit. And at least "back in my day", being active in Scouting was a ticket aspiring railroad managers had to get punched.

Needless to say, the local advocacy groups are vowing to "fight on the beaches, fight in the sand".

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palmland
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I still can’t figure out why Anderson is going for the SWC that has some political support rather than the tri weekly Sunset, arguably the worst Amtrak train from a financial standpoint. The politicians don’t really care about the Sunset, after fall, there isn’t much between El Paso and Tucson.

Regardless, it is interesting to note that a carrot mentioned is Amtrak’s interest in working with the affected states for a Newton, KS to Ft. Worth train and a Front range train from Cheyenne to Pueblo.

Also interesting is that the bustitiution could be Albuquerque to LaJuna rather than Dodge City. That would entail almost 200 miles of non PTC line (Dodge City to Las Animas Jct - just west of LaJunta). Guess Anderson figures that might be viable since BNSF still has some freight on that line.

Of course as a railfan, my thought was if you go to LaJunta and are interested in the Front Range service, might as well run KC to Denver.

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MargaretSPfan
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Mr. palmland, sir --
Anderson is trying to kill Amtrak, and is using the very old and very successful "death by a thousand cuts" method. And the SWC is just his latest target, and it is not the first one.

And bustitution as a permanent replacement for one part pf a long-distance train is cruel and ridiculous and completely unnecessary. And Anderson is pitching this bustitution as a "safety" issue, implying that riding those buses will be "safer" than riding a passenger train in an area where PTC is not in use? Ridiculous!

And anyway, that area where the SWC runs the only 2 trains out there has been declared by the FRA to be exempt from being required to have PTC in use.

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Gilbert B Norman
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About like a lead balloon:

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/heinrich-balks-at-amtraks-plan-to-abandon-nm-route/4961142/

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  • [Sen. Martin] Heinrich [D-NM] said the meeting did not go well.

    “I think this was one of the most unproductive meetings with an agency level official that I’ve ever experienced,” he said. “To learn that not only are they planning to pull back their commitment to the TIGER grant, but that they're going to abandon the route I think is just outrageous.”

    Those documents obtained by KOB detail what Amtrak presented in that meeting.

    Because of outdated railroad track and signal systems between Raton Pass and Lamy, upgrades need to be made that would cost more than what is included in that Department of Transportation-provided TIGER grant.

    Amtrak officials said they’re not willing to contribute any money without a "comprehensive plan from other stakeholders." That means the company doesn't plan on paying to repair track and signals they don’t own.

    As for the passengers, documents outline a plan to divert service at Albuquerque, sending eastbound passengers on charter buses to meet up with the train in Colorado or Kansas.

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yukon11
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I think the bus and interposed train suggestion for Albuquerque-La Junta-Dodge City-Pueblo (Mr. Norman's link, "Anderson Presentation") makes me believe that the true agenda is the elimination of the SW Chief.

The Rail Runner, from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, from what I can tell, has not been a success. It's has been losing ridership. I think the original idea of a Front Range train, Casper to Albuquerque, may have been much more rational.

Mr. Anderson does make a point with regard to the fact that 83% of the SW Chief passengers travel less than 250 miles. However, passengers on the SWC, traveling > 750 miles, account for 63% of the Chief's revenue.

Maybe the SW Chief should go from LA to Salt Lake City to hook up with the Zephyr. Then CA, AZ, & NM can work on LA to Flagstaff to Albuquerque.

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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I think it is time to accept that when President Trump leaves office, whenever that may be, there will be an Amtrak, but it will hardly be "Amtrak as we know it".

Simplified Dining on LD trains will only go one way. Should Amtrak be successful in truncating, if not outright discontinuing, the Chief - not that it's a "basket case" so far as public acceptance, but rather because the maintenance of a good portion of its route represents "cash out of the cookie jar" and not simply an assignment of costs - the "basket cases" will follow.

All told, it will be a new day - and Congress has placed it's bets with the record $1.9B appropriation, that new philosophy will result in providing intercity transportation in the markets that demonstrate the need for such - and not rolling pork barrels.

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Ocala Mike
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Gil, if Mr. Mueller, the IRS, and the NY State Attorney General prevail, the only office Trump will be leaving in Jan., 2025 will be the Warden's.
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palmland
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Richard, I think you are probably right, Anderson wants the SWC gone. But, is there a silver lining? With the miles saved by eliminating KS to Albuquerque, could he be planning to make the Sunset daily to still give a one seat ride CHI-LAX?

Maybe not a bad trade off especially since Anderson talks about the Newton, KS - Ft Worth service. Could we see a rebirth of the Texas Chief connecting to the Sunset? That route has always made more sense to me than the Texas Eagle, especially with the CHI-STL corridor service serving the largest cities on that route.

An old Amtrak timetable shows the running time CHI-FTW on the Texas Chief as about 3 hours faster than the Eagle. Consider that the Texas Chief would serve the likes of KC, Topeka, Wichita, and Oklahoma City - like Little Rock, the Capitol of the state. Texas, at some point, will initiate their own intrastate services to take care off towns like Marshall and Longview and of course the Houston-Dallas high speed route now being discussed.

Of course, this is pure railfan speculation. If I had to bet, I’d say that this time next year we’ll stil be talking about the SWC as it lives from month to month on its present route.

Let’s save the discussion on politics for another forum. And, GBN, I quite agree, Anderson has no intention of killing Amtrak. He just wants to transform it - into something many of us may not like but may well be more sucesssful in terms of ridership and financial impact.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Could there be any foundation to this blog report/rumor/musing/whatever?

https://www.scivision.co/amtrak-southwest-chief-drastic-service-cuts/

Fair Use:
  • Amtrak OBS employees have received new menus for November 2018. The elimination of chefs is said to be coming in fall 2018 for some western long distance trains including the Southwest Chief. The new Southwest Chief sleeping car passenger meal menus for November 2018 have cold sandwiches, akin to the June 2018 Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited no-chef cold food menus
They’re sure "worked up" about this at another site.
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MargaretSPfan
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Mr.Norman --
wouldn't you, too, be "worked up" about having your only choice for dinner being a cold sandwich? Why is taht acceptable anywhere on any mode of transportation? and sleeping-car passenger pay a lot of money for their accommodations, which include their meals -- and all they will be able to have for dinner is a cold sandwich? Good grief!

This stupid and cruel change -- if it happens -- is yet another way Anderson is trying to get away with making the on-board experience so unpleasant
that no one will want to ride Amtrak, so that he can complain to Congress -- his real bosses -- that "no one" is riding Amtrak long-distance trains any more. And, just as with the SP and the ICC in the 1960s, Anderson's tactics are likely to work.

what a shame it is that this country hsa sunk to such a low that the CEO of our national passenger rail system could not only think for one minute about ding this,but actually plan to do it.

This stupid idea is very symbolic -- much like the old advice to check out a restaurant's restrooms if you want to see how good it is, because n business owner that really runs a good business will ever let even one part of his or her business look or be shoddy or unkempt.

Dining car menus matter -- a lot, and no one should ever believe the lie that Amtrak "does not have the money" to provide excellent food and service on any of their trains.

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yukon11
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by MargaretSPfan:

This stupid idea is very symbolic -- much like the old advice to check out a restaurant's restrooms if you want to see how good it is, because n business owner that really runs a good business will ever let even one part of his or her business look or be shoddy or unkempt.

*********************************
Good advice. Recalling some of the filthy, smelly bathrooms and toilets I've encountered while on Amtrak, I really don't think I want to sample Amtrak's cold yogurt breakfast. Not even if an onboard Harvey Girl hands it out.

Richard

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PullmanCo
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In case anyone does not get it, the Amtrak BOD knows political reality. Political reality is Trump is in charge. They hired Anderson fully knowing that fact.

The clock is running on the four transcontinental trains. Eliminating them permits 2 or even 3 a day service LA-Phoenix, New Orleans to Houston, San Antonio and Dallas, Chicago to KC and Chicago to Denver.

Running a sleeper as a parlor car permits an upscale seat. With better wi-fi connections, you can actually have a 8 person business meeting in two bedrooms.

Lest we forget, the Southern Pacific offered snack cars as well as automat cars. Eliminating dining options is a historic tool in the box of operators.

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MargaretSPfan
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PullmanCo --
Ys, the political realities are now different, but -- Anderson's real bosses are the 535 Congresspeople.

And the SP and other railroads did use may tools quite effectively to discourage people from riding their trains. It worked, and the ICC let the SP discontinue many trains, and never required the SP to explains why far fewer people were riding their trains.

And recent scuttlebutt says that the diner will be removed from the Starlight in November -- after the elections, I am sure.

We desperately need people like Ross Rowland -- people with a "Yes, we CAN!" attitude -- to lead many organizations. We do NOT need any more of the current and very destructive race to the bottom.

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George Harris
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The main reality is that for most routes remaining trains are simply too slow. That is until you check bus schedules. These are ridiculous. If you ever check any out it becomes obvious why you find only the desperate on Greyhound. They also seem to have given up.

Example: The famous high speed schedule of the City of New Orleans of around 16 1/2 hours for 921 miles? What is the time for this distance on the interstates where you can set your cruise control at 70 to 75 and leave it there? 13 hours easy. What is today's CNO? Without looking I would guess around 18 hours, and this is one of the better ones for time. Look at Ft. Worth to San Antonio for example.

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Vincent206
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The operational reality is that the infrastructure of the current SW Chief route between western Kansas and Albuquerque is deteriorating. I was on that section about 2 years ago and it was obvious that the tracks were in need of maintenance. As the years go by and nothing is done, the ties will continue to deteriorate every year. There isn't any freight traffic on that corridor and BNSF isn't going to maintain the tracks to passenger standards without help from Amtrak and the states. If Amtrak and the states don't want to pay for maintenance, trains 3 and 4 will eventually be running at 25 mph between Dodge City and Albuquerque.

There also are 348 miles of track between Dodge City and ABQ that have no PTC installed and Amtrak will need to cover that cost, too.

The problems are clear but the solutions aren't easy or obvious. Switching 3/4 to the BNSF Transcon would create a faster and more dependable journey for Chicago to Los Angeles passengers, but many stations in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico would get buses instead of trains.

Albuquerque would also be facing the "Maricopa Problem" if 3/4 stick to the Transcon. Belen to ABQ could be covered by local train service or NM Railrunner, but that would be a significant downgrade of service to ABQ.

The ridership info in the "Anderson Presentation" shows that most passengers are riding regionally. There were 15,200 tickets sold between CHI-LAX and 6,300 tickets CHI-FLG, but most of the largest city pairs are either in the Chicago to Kansas City corridor or the Los Angeles to Albuquerque corridor. There is very little ridership generated from the cities on the central part of the route.

The Southwest Chief problems are real and the solutions involve making difficult choices, but doing nothing is not a sustainable solution. Also, expecting Amtrak to upgrade and maintain the deteriorating infrastructure to passenger rail standards isn't financially realistic.

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yukon11
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Vincent: I think you make a good argument for the SWC switching to Transcon. 25 mph between Dodge City and Albuquerque? They might as well hire some stagecoaches to take train passengers along that stretch. You could say hello to Matt and Miss Kitty while in Dodge.

George: Of course the passenger train is slow. But that aspect has never been a deterrent, at least in my mind. I like the leisurely pace. That's why it would be a real tragedy to eliminate the dining car, parlor cars, lounge cars, and even sleepers when that's a possibility. I guess I shouldn't complain, we will still get those wonderful cold box meals as an amenity.

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by yukon11:
Of course the passenger train is slow. But that aspect has never been a deterrent, at least in my mind. I like the leisurely pace. That's why it would be a real tragedy to eliminate the dining car, parlor cars, lounge cars, and even sleepers when that's a possibility

Richard, does Delta or any airline offer "nostalgia flights" aboard DC-6's and with in-flight services by Stewardesses (who must be single and hit the scale monthly) just as it was "back in the 50's?"

Time has moved on; and Congress has placed its biggest bet to date with $1.9B that Amtrak will provide needed transportation in the markets in which rail travel can be competitive. That means the product will be pitched to those who are simply looking for a means to get from "Eh to Bee".

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Vincent206
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What are some possible changes that could be made to the Chief?

1) Move the Southwest Chief to the BNSF Transcon, adding stops in Wichita and Amarillo. But with this change Colorado, western Kansas and northern New Mexico would all lose train service if 3/4 move to the Transcon. Amtrak could extend one of the Missouri trains to run as far west as Dodge City to provide daytime service to western Kansas, but that would likely require some financial contributions from the state of Kansas.

Also, serving ABQ would be difficult. The Transcon runs through Belen which is about 35 miles south of ABQ. The New Mexico Rail Runner could be used to provide guaranteed connections between Belen and ABQ (and Santa Fe). Would passengers from Chicago and Los Angeles be willing to make a switch at Belen? The Rail Runner uses the old Santa Fe depot as its station in Belen so the transfer wouldn't be all that painful.


2) Break the Southwest Chief into 2 different trains. The first train would run between Los Angeles and Santa Fe. This route would take about 17 hours to run so it would have to be an overnight train. Eastbound, the train could leave LAX about 5 hours earlier to time arrivals in Flagstaff before midnight and create an early morning arrival time in ABQ. This train would then continue north to Santa Fe which might be a popular destination. Westbound, the train would run on roughly the same schedule it follows now (afternoon departure from ABQ, early morning arrival in LAX).

The trains to/from Chicago would run on the Transcon and terminate in ABQ with service to Santa Fe provided by the Rail Runner. With this option, the CHI-LAX passengers would likely be inconvenienced with a layover in ABQ or Belen. But unfortunately, with any proposal to fix the Chief, there will be people who lose service or convenience.

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yukon11
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Mr. Norman: I hope that my concern isn't simply a Twilight Zone fantasy to revive the great passenger trains of the 1950's.

I can get into a frame of mind where there would be a good argument to discontinue all Amtrak long distance trains, and just have the NEC, Cascades, the Florida Brightlines, and other corridor trains that seem to be financially viable. The LD trains are dinosaurs, I quite agree.

What bothers me is Anderson's apparent attempt, at least for the next few years, to downsize and truncate the LD's, to the bone, to make them more financially feasible. The idea of a bustitute for any Amtrak, to me, is ridiculous unless track conditions would temporarily require it. If they can't run a train along a LD route, I think it would be better to eliminate the LD train altogether. I would feel sorry for small communities along LD routes if they lost train services. I don't know if the respective states could come up with a substitute. I would hope so.

If they eliminate several LD trains, you would think Amtrak could develop services and food quality, on the trains remaining, that would be attractive. I don't think "simplified dining" and box meals should be acceptable to Bill Grogan's goat, much less to passengers. I think food service, alone, is paramount to passenger acceptability for any moderate to long distance train.

IF the LD trains are chopped, it still would be sad to no longer have the "experiental" overnight trains and fresh, hot meals in a dining car. Maybe the only possibility would be a Rocky Mountaineer-like overnight train, from the Northwest to Glacier. It would have to be funded by private interests. If the rumor Margaret talked about, regarding deleting the dining car on the Starlight comes true, then maybe a RM train from SEA/PDX to Calif.

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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Richard, I sincerely respect your thoughts.

If a private sector operator believes there is a market within the CONUS - Continental US - for a Luxotrain such as Rocky Mountaineer and is willing to pay railroads fair value for their access and priority dispatch (which Amtrak clearly is not), then "go for it". Otherwise it's time to accept that passenger rail and "experiential" are simply not congruent terms.

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mgt
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I find this debate interesting and somewhat depressing. As a non-American I would not dream of making any political comment.
In the past 14 years my wife and I have travelled on trans-continental and north/south Amtrak routes. The Bedroom/dining-car/Pacific Parlour Cars have been an enjoyable and integral part of both our holiday and our transport experiences. We have met people, mainly Americans for whom Amtrak was the preferred option for long distance travel. Some had a deep-rooted fear of flying, others had the time to enjoy hassle-free travel. Others were making relatively short journeys. On the other hand I fully understand that a partly publicly funded transport system must take realistic financial decisions.
In Britain, with our effective HST Intercity north/south service rail holds its own with the airlines up to 400 miles, i.e. Edinburgh/Glasgow to London. I suppose that is why Acela and other trains on the East Coast Corridor are so successful. In Britain there is now only very rudimentary catering, either trolley or buffet, and increasingly air-line style cramped seating.
We also have a safe, widely used, efficient and very reasonably priced national bus service, if prone to delays caused by congestion and road-works. This serves the more populous areas; rural transport is a different matter. I wonder how much the loss of the LD routes would affect the rural communities in the US? I am aware that, previously, local Congressmen/women have been vocal in their support for Amtrak. Has that changed? Or is there a Dr Beeching factor at work? Many people in Britain who were outraged at Beeching's proposed closures, including my grandmother in the south of Scotland, only used the train once or twice a year, or not at all, even when the same journey by bus was slower and more uncomfortable, but there were several bus stops in the village compared to the one station. And once the railway went, the number of buses was cut!
More affluent US acquaintances have found our enthusiasm for Amtrak odd, even idiosyncratic. On the other hand I recall the enthusiasm of a first time user rapturously extolling the virtues and comfort of train travel to his wife on his cell-phone, vowing to use it more often in future. Long distance train travel on regular routes offers something special. But that requires, for some passengers, comfortable sleeping accommodation and reasonable meals served in a pleasant setting. With equipment replacement becoming an issue does the market for this group of travellers in the US still exist?

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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. MGT et al the only real inconvenience be inflicted should all LD routes be discontinued will be to those who ride trains for "experiential" reasons. That of course means a lot of folk who participate at this and other passenger rail discussion sites.

There is no community on the Amtrak system inaccessible by highway; same of course cannot be said of Alaska, Canada, Russia, China, and of course others where rail represents the only way in or out. There are of course some folk who ride the LD trains for other than "experiential" reasons. There are the "can't drives", and a few who cannot fly account medical reasons. But the arguments of "I don't like flying or driving" simply do not justify $300M (Amtrak likes to say $700M) of taxpayer funds expended as well as the interference such trains cause to freight operations.

Being in the industry on A-Day, I assure you the washroom walls heard the intent was to have the LD trains gone by, say, 1976. That incidentally was the date that roads choosing not to join Amtrak could have petitioned regulatory authorities to discontinue their services. The 1979 Carter Cuts were the first step in an orderly discontinuance of the trains, as no end point having service lost such.

So I have no idea to what extent the apparent Anderson initiative to "whack 'em all" will be successful. I think he is of thought that funding for "the stuff that counts" i.e. reequipping, track and signaling upgrades, the Gateway project (to the extent such is REALLY an Amtrak project), creating the "Safety Culture" he enjoyed during his airline years, and seeking other economies and efficiencies about the System. As others have noted, Amtrak is a passenger transportation provider. Even if the need for funding to move trains over the road is reduced, the needs of infrastructure will never be satisfied. I'm certain that Anderson is of thought that if he shows an economic and efficient passenger railroad is being developed, the record levels of funding will continue

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sojourner
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Bull, Mr Norman. The US is a big country with many communities not readily accessible by plane, and there are many people who cannot drive the distances to get there. Therefore, if there is no public transportation, those people cannot go where they want or need to go. We have poor bus transportation too, poor people without cars or the money to rent them, an aging population with many single/divorced women who cannot drive the distances and frankly whom it would be better to keep off the road. But of course the Republicans don't care about most of those people, since it's by and large not their voters.
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George Harris
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Bull, Sojouner. It is exactly the small town and rural areas that are most concerned about the long distance Amtrak services. These are also the people that most consistently vote Republican. It is the people in the northeast that most consistently vote Democrat that could not care less about the long distance trains so long as they get their high prices high costs flyers in the "Corridor" Do not forget, historically the major cuts is long distance services were made under a democrat.
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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by sojourner:
Bull, Mr Norman. The US is a big country with many communities not readily accessible by plane, and there are many people who cannot drive the distances to get there.

Ms. Sojourner, what concerns me is that if this "underserved" argument that you and others have set forth is agressively progressed, there will be like arguments heard from that demographic residing in, say, North Platte of "they got their train in McCook, we want ours". That could result in the proliferation of service along lines that got rid of such on A-Day. Now let's think what that would do to towards building an economic and efficient Amtrak.
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MargaretSPfan
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Mr. Norman --
Please, sir,what is wrong with giving people who have no passenger trains at all to ride restored service? We have had more than 60 years of highway "proliferation," and have been paying a huge price for that, both economically and in human lives (tens of thousands of injuries and deaths on our highways every year).


You seem not to care at all about the needs of the many people who cannot or should not drive. Are they not worth the cost of providing excellent transportation?

and before you remind us all of the high costs of doing so,please note that there IS plenty of money to pay for new rail infrastructure and operations. It is just both being hoarded -- trillions of dollars worth (see "Pananama Papers") and being wasted on wars and useless unneeded public works project like CA HSR, the Boston Big Dig, the Seattle Tunnel, etc.

And because tens of millions of formerly good-paying jobs have been shipped overseas, there are far fewer well-paid people who can afford to pay the taxes needed ti support the new passenger rail transportation projects that are needed.

The burden on the ordinary taxpayer nowadays is far, far higher than it should be, because many mega-wealthy people and most large corporations have been allowed to get away with paying far, far less than their fair share of taxes.

And any claim that Amtrak makes about not being able to afford [fill in the blank] needs to be carefully evaluated, using the knowledge insiders have shared that Amtrak's financials are, at best, very murky, and are more akin to smoke and mirrors than any sensible and clear statements. And Amtrak -- like other RRs -- often assigns expenses that rightfully belong in one area to another area, i.e., their common practice of dumping some of the costs of the NEC onto the LD trains.

And it is essential to also evaluate the worth of any new or restored passenger-train services in the context of the total resources that would be available for public services like passenger trains if so much of our country's resources were not both being spent o the wrong things (endless wars and unneeded public works projects (that only serve to fatten the bank accounts of already mega-wealthy people) and being hoarded (see "Panama Papers).

So -- there IS, after all, plenty of money for public services of all sorts. And it would be wonderful if passenger trains did proliferate. We desperately need that!

Instead of the proliferation of passenger trains, we have endured the proliferation of highways, to everyone's detriment.

We have all paid a huge prices for our country's lack of a sensible transportation plan.

The economic price of this highway proliferation is gigantic, because of the huge inefficiency of using trucks instead of trains to move goods long distances. Even now, an 18-wheeler can carry a maximum total load of only 40 tons, even hauling 3 trailers. And every truck needs at least one driver, and to keep going and get the goods there faster, they need 2 drivers per tractor.

But one freight car now is allowed to carry a maximum of 123 tons, and, as all of us know, freight trains are often 100 cars or more long, and need only 2 crewpeople to operate them.

Do the math: an 18-wheeler truck can carry a maximum of 40 tons per operator if there is only one driver, and only 20 tons per operator if there are 2 drivers (to drive almost continually). But a 100-car freight train can carry 6,150 tons per operator! That means a 100-car freight train with cars carrying 123 tons each is 153 times as efficient as a truck carrying 40 tons!

So -- passenger trains do need to proliferate.

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sojourner
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Mr Harris, you are right, there were cuts made back when CARTER was president. They were despicable. But that is a long, long time ago. In the past few decades the Republican party has shown itself to be the enemy of Amtrak. The Republican "think tanks" speak out against it. Conservative publications editorialize against it. The few Congressional Republicans who were supporters--Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Trent Lott, for example--are mostly long gone. Trump put in a budget of 0 for Amtrak (though that was overridden in Congress). Scott Walker killed trains in Wisconsin on which work had already begun. John Kasich pooh-poohed expansion in Ohio. John Mica was a big enemy. The governor of Alabama just killed expansion in Mobile. And so on. It's all part of some game plan, talking points, etc etc, as if they can balance the budget by cutting the pittance to Amtrak.

In Niagara Falls, NY, the Republican candidate for mayor (fellow named Destino) railed against development of a larger train station. The Democrat who won reelection (fellow named Dysart) was for it. Now, the station gets only an average of about 90 passengers a day. But that's an average; in summer, Niagara Falls is pretty popular with tourists going up from NYC. So I ask you, is it appropriate for this point of entry to the US from Canada, at a spot to which tourists go, to be a tawdry little Amshack, as it used to be? In contrast to the cute little station Canada has in Niagara Falls, Ontario? When already lots more tourists go to Niagara Falls, Ontario, than Niagara Falls, NY, told that the Canadian side of the Falls is much nicer? Plus, the new station houses US Customs, and is intermodal for local transit. Plus, I believe much of the money to build it came from the federal stimulus package passed by the Democrats in 1998 to help curtail the very bad recession, so it wasn't even local money. Now, it did take disgustingly long to get done, and I don't know all the politics of it, which I'm sure involved some bad things on Dysart's part as well. But I do know that if ever a town needed a better-looking, more welcoming station, it was Niagara Falls.

Anyway, I don't have time to do lots of research but I can tell you, over and over, it is Republicans who are the enemies of Amtrak now. I don't mean Republican voters; of course some of them support it if they live in small towns it serves (esp on Empire Builder line). I mean Republican politicians.

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Ocala Mike
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quote:
Originally posted by sojourner:



Scott Wilson killed trains in Wisconsin on which work had already begun.



Of course, you mean Scott Walker. We have our own "great Amtrak-hating Scott" down here in Florida (Rick). As far as Republican voters go, they seem to fall into line behind whatever Fox News, their talk radio gurus, and Big Orange in the WH dictate.

--------------------
Ocala Mike

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sojourner
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Oops, sorry, I've fixed it. Names are tough.
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palmland
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Mike, while Scott killed the federal funding for HSR, wouldn’t you rather have Brightline do it without your tax money? Their key to success seems to be real estate development along the ROW funding the new trains which in turn brings more people. Transit oriented development seems to be a good thing to me. I can’t find the he link where Brightline threw their hat in the ring to use the I-4 corridor for a new line Orlando to Tampa.

Save your taxes to fund LD service, that’s the only way it will survive. And then, apparently, only as an ‘experiential’ service on the routes Anderson has mentioned: CZ, CS, EB, and Florida.

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