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Author Topic: Long Distance Frequency Reductions - Tri Weekly
Gilbert B Norman
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By now, all here to whom such is of concern, have learned of Amtrak's plan to reduce the frequency of all Long Distance routes to Tri-Weekly.

Along with the full Amtrak internal memo regarding such, here is an advocacy group's "we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills" rhetoric regarding this development:

Texas Rail Advocates

All told, I have to accept that Group's position that less than Daily operation will not save the proportionate 57% that proponents would like to have it believed, but it is the "optics" that are presented to your benefactors is what it's all about.

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yukon11
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I can already hear the howl from our Congressional critters. "Amtrak is a public transportation service, what does it matter how much it loses", etc.

It will be interesting to see if LD trans will become jam packed, with long waiting periods before one could book a coach or sleeper. Or, the opposite, will the lack of frequency cause overall ridership, for any train run, to drop precipitously.

I wonder what the new 3x/week schedules, for the LD's, will look like. When the VIA "Canadian" ran 3x/week, the westbound train left Toronto on Tue-Thr-Sat. The eastbound train left Vancouver on Tue-Fri-Sun.

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by yukon11:
When the VIA "Canadian" ran 3x/week, the westbound train left Toronto on Tue-Thr-Sat. The eastbound train left Vancouver on Tue-Fri-Sun.

Richard, off topic here, but I'll place my bets that "The Canadian" and "Ocean" are done for.
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George Harris
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57% = 4/7 which is the proportion of trains discontinued. OK, this may be, and just maybe, but not certainly be the reduction in operating costs of the trains themselves. However, the reduction in fixed costs, that is, stations and such will be zero or really close to it. I would suspect that the direct cost reduction of running trains will probably be less than 57% because it is highly likely that sets of equipment will spend more time hanging around waiting for their next schedule.

This is actually a really dumb idea. If anything, some increase in schedule frequency should be considered. An additional New York - Atlanta train with a morning arrival southbound in Charlotte or thereabouts and northbound in New York comes to mind as a first shot at an additional train. An extra New York - Chicago train or maybe even two would also seem to be logical with "good" times at some of the intermediate points.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Harris, OK we're sitting down "socially distanced" and Netflix is now airing "The Graduate".

Mr. Robinson (Murray Hamilton) siddles up to Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) in his SCUBA gear and utters one word:

"OPTICS"

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PullmanCo
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I hear rumor Beech Grove has been told to make the Adios drumheads.

This isn’t a good idea, but this Administration is no friend of anyone outside the top 1%

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Gilbert B Norman
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Colonel, this "idea" has been forty five years in the making. The CUS office washroom walls gave "this nonsense" (labor intensive trains on which the roads were losing real $$$, honoring existing labor agreements - and now they are going to make money???) five years. It looked like the '79 Carter Cuts were "getting the ball rolling" with its cuts to the "sacrosanct Basic System" (Floridian and National). The '94 Clinton "Mercer" Cuts were just chopping away at the brush that had built up since RPSA70, and the '04 Bush "Prunings" were really no more than that ('05 Sunset East is just suspended, lest we forget).

Volks, "I was there" on A-Day; hardly high up, but "there". The LD System was simply to be an "ease the pain" transition lasting about five years.

It's time.

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George Harris
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I was also there on A-day. Somewhat distracted as I spent most of 1971 in that wonderful southeast asian vacation land. I came back cross country by train, and it was essentially the railroad's trains as were with a different name on the timetable. SP engines Oakland to Ogden, UP engines Ogden to Cheyenne to Denver, and Burlington Denver to Chicago. Cars were also about 1/3 1/3 1/3. At Denver the train doubled in length, all Burlington equipment. Given all the crazies running around screaming "Babykiller" I decided that peace was worth the extra cost of not riding in uniform, not thinking that a young 20's guy with a deep tan in late November might as well be in a uniform as my status was obvious simply from appearance. UP still had its 90 mph speed limit across Wyoming and the train spent most of its time doing exactly that. The absolute emptiness of the state was amazing.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Thank you Mr. Harris for saying favorable words about the Overland Route. My DEROS (think that was ETR in Armyese) was July 68, and my "I'm back in The World" ride was on SP102 "City of SF". I was asleep by Auburn and "raised the shade" atop Great Salt Lake.

I've always wondered why at this Forum, and elsewhere, at posts made wanting to know of planned trackwork shutdowns on the D&RGW, so as to avoid a Zephyr ride on the Overland Route detour. I've never ridden it in the Amtrak era, but enough times prior, as well as road trips along I-80 to simply be "awestruck" at "the guts" of "settlers" X-ing essentially on foot of this "moonscape" - and hostile territory at that.

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George Harris
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One thing to add about that cross country trip:
The engines ran around the train at Ogden (oops should have said Cheyenne) and pulled it backwards from Ogden (nope, Cheyenne) to Denver. No turning of seats or anything else, just as run backwards, mostly at 79 mph (I assume this speed, it was fast.) At Denver a bunch of Burlington cars were added, 3 Burlington units put on the front, and away we went, again facing in the direction of travel. Hard to believe that was 48 years ago.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Harris, I think you are addressing Cheyenne, vice Ogden, for the start of the backward haul. Trains arriving from the West on the SP ran straight Eastward into the OUD, and of course proceeded Eastward on the Overland Route. At Cheyenne, with Borie Jc. being to the West by some four miles, that is where your backward ride to Denver began.

"Eastward" trains, such as the City of LA and Amtrak's Desert Wind, entering Ogden from the LA&SL, converged with the Overland Route at Roy Jc which was one mile East of OUD. Those trains had to back Westward the mile into the Depot.

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George Harris
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You are correct. Duhhh. I knew that. Cheyenne.
Cheyenne. Cheyenne. Have no idea why I had Ogden on the brain. Ogden was SP to UP interchange. Eastbound you haven't even gotten to Wyoming at Ogden. (This last sentence for the benefit of those unfamiliar with the geography we are discussing, if there are any that are here.)

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George Harris
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I have thought from day 1 that becoming profitable was not a reasonable target. Perhaps under something on the order of WW2 conditions when there is significant restriction on personal vehicle usage, but otherwise nope. At that time passenger trains could match or better road speed on most routes. That is no longer true nor is it likely to ever be again due to the megabucks spending on roads ever since WW2 and negligible spending on anything that would improve passenger train time, and conversely reduction in speeds due to removal of superelevaation and pulling up second mains, and potential alternative routes.

More later

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yukon11
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quote:
Originally posted by yukon11:
The 2021 transportation bill was approved.

https://is.gd/E4qVsw

"The legislation would provide $10 billion for Amtrak in FY21—$2 billion through the standard budgeting process, with another $3 billion for the National Network and $5 billion for the Northeast Corridor as part of economic stimulus title. The bill also explicitly prohibits Amtrak from reducing service frequencies."


My cynical side: I never believed 3X/week for the LD's would save all that much money. But if Amtrak disagrees, could that be an incentive for Amtrak to discontinue all LD trains?

Richard


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Gilbert B Norman
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Richard, tri-weekky will not save much, if any, $$$. It is simply a device to "ease the pain" of being rid of the LD system in its entirety.

That was to have been gone starting in about '76, but various political interests, shall we say, interfered.

A Trump second term will finish the job that should have been done by, say, '80.

Never forget, had the roads declined to sign up, they could have petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission during '76 to have been rid of their trains. By '80, when Staggers was implemented and the Commission was legislated into oblivion, the roads would have been "out".

Not a single LD would be on the roads today.

That is why I have contended over the years we've both been around here, the roads signed "The Faustian pact with the Devil" when joining Amtrak.

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Memma
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It's interesting. I'm one of the news editors for TrainReview and covered Amtrak's service reduction - whilst a big change for the US I wonder if a model like VIA or the trains in Australia would be a terrible thing for Amtrak - i.e. focus on the experience, make the train a vacation etc...

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Memma
Train Lover and Avid Traveller!

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by Memma:
It's interesting. I'm one of the news editors for TrainReview and covered Amtrak's service reduction - whilst a big change for the US I wonder if a model like VIA or the trains in Australia would be a terrible thing for Amtrak - i.e. focus on the experience, make the train a vacation etc...

A vacation experience is not the intent of Amtrak. If they were to decided to change their focus from transportation to "land cruise" at that point I would think the railroad companies would have solid grounds is trying to get either released from their obligation to run trains at all or to demand payment of full cost related to providing for the operation of the trains, which is far from the case at this point. It is doubtful that even avoidable costs are met with the current payments.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Memma, allow me to "second" Mr. Harris' thoughts.

Allow me to add, what I know you already know, is that your "Luxotrains" down there are within the private sector, but operate over publicly owned rights-or-way. If they "can make a go of it", including fair payments for the use of the trackage, and command AU$1200 a day in passenger fares, great for them.

Canada's publicly funded two "Luxo of sorts" trains were withdrawn this year. First they had to deal with the Indians' blockades, then COVID. They had their excuse to be rid of them "temporarily", but I think they are gone for good.

Now if I am ever to "go down" to visit my Niece who resides near Sydney (Pymble), I think I'd have "other things on my plate" than "experiential" rail travel. I'm really not that much of a rail enthusiast anymore.

The only "home leave" my Niece gets is when Mom pays the freight for all four of 'em (hub, her, two tween girls) to endure it in "the back of the bus" (now that Qantas has grounded their 380's - and United or Delta never had any to begin with, less room to possibly stretch out). My Sister has "gone down" thrice since '16, but with her present health, "it's too much" - even Business Class.

I'm older than my Sister, and the earliest COVID will be over I think is '22. Then at age 81, "too much".

Various private sector "Luxotrains" have been tried "over here"; some operating as separate trains with Amtrak only providing engines, Rules Qualified crews, and insurance. There have been others with cars added to an existing Amtrak train; all have flopped.

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Jerome Nicholson
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I have a trip coming up soon. My niece's wedding just outside Philadelphia PA on Labor Day weekend.Of course,i could drive there easily but I want the experience of Amtrak under social distancing, and I realize this might be my last trip on a mode of travel I've loved since childhood.
I must have an astoundingly bad sense of timing.
I grew up loving trains in the fifties and sixties. My family didn't travel, so my experience was limited to school trips to Ashland and Washington on the RF&P,Williamsburg on the C&O, and my mother's home town of Hillsboro on the Southern.
I reached adulthood in 1971, same year Amtrak came into existence. I did ride the Metroliner to New York and the Crescent to Atlanta and New Orleans just after Amtrak took it over.
The mid 70s were the height of my travels _ the U.S. east of the Mississippi on the National Limited, Texas Eagle, Sunset Limited, and overnight NECtrrains to Boston. I rode the Canadian Corridor Windsor to Quebec City, not on one train. I really tried to ride the Turbo train, both under CN and VIA, but both times I barely mised them.
After that,what was supposed to be my first European vacation, with a week in Ireland by train and 5 days in London. After that trip, reality stepped in and stopped my travels for a time. In 1995, I made my long awaited West Coast Odyssey to California on the Capitol Limited, California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, San Diego and, Grand Canyon Railroad Southwest Chief and Cardinal. Best vacation ever!
I'd planned a journey to Eastern Canada and had made all the arrangements when I came down with shingles. Reality. If it's not financial, it's health!
Except for the time the new owners of the American Orient Express offered a trip to Florida. I bought a ticket and planned a great vacation in Orlando around it. Then the company folded. But the vacation I'd planned was too good to cancel, so I substituted The Silver Meteor and Southwest Airlines.It turned out to be a good voyage.
In 2016, I retired from the transit agency with an excellent package that set me up for life! Now there's nothing in my way from spending the rest of my life traveling! Guess what happened next? Kidney failure! Prostate cancer! Heart attack! Have to take dialysis three times a week to stay alive. And now,theres no place to go even if I was healthy. Pacific Northwest, the Canadian, Alaska cruise, Rhine cruise, Swiss trains, Paris,Italy, gone.
I'm posting this only because I don't expect to live past my niece's wedding, though I'm trying mightily to make it past the election and the inauguration.so this is a possible good bye letter.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Nicholson, so very sorry to learn.

I too, along with anyone else "our age" need accept "it's over".

I say this on the strength that after this past January, when I went to Miami and Boca (drive; Auto Train; wanted to stop and see Ocala Mike in his hometown, but "he "wasn't up to it"). Since the March lockdown, I have not been more than 20 miles from home and have driven only 1000 miles since then, and of course not used any commercial transportation. I have CX seven addititrional trips planned for this year.

I do not foresee any "normalcy" until '22 when I'm 81yo. I think there will be a safe and effective vax by this time next year, but who knows where the non-working elderly will be prioritized.

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:
I do not foresee any "normalcy" until '22 when I'm 81yo. I think there will be a safe and effective vax by this time next year, but who knows where the non-working elderly will be prioritized.

Good question. Given that the elderly are most vulnerable, we (at 75 I count myself part of that crowd) might be a little higher on the list than for Polio vaccine. For this stuff, it might be the inverse of Polio and have children last. For the majority of you that were not around for it, when the Polio vaccine, also commonly called the Salk vaccine after its developer, its was prioritized by age, starting with a very narrow range of the most succeptible and then widening out. I don't recall the age ranges, but just know that I was in the middle of that range at the time, and given that I had a cousin that died of complications of it and we had a kid in the school with braces on his legs, we were on the street in front of the doctor's office when the first shipment got to town. Yes, on the street standing in line. Given that we now have vaccines for all the normal childhood diseases it was anticipated that all would have I don't think anyone under about 50 understands the mindset of the time.
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What is going to be interesting to me is what is going to happen with the crews?

Example: Crew that leaves Chicago on #7 on Monday afternoon arrives in Winona, MN on Monday night. The next eastbound train back (#8) will not arrive until Thursday morning.

Same deal with #3 and #4 and Fort Madison (engineer) and KC (conductors).

Regardless if you pay for the crews to overnight for 3 nights in a hotel -- or you find a van or shuttle to bring them back to Chicago from some remote place like Fort Madison, IA or Winona, MN... it certainly ain't going to be cheap!

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Gilbert B Norman
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I completely agree, Mr. Tabern. Reducing frequencies to Tri Weekly will save much of nothing proportionally beyond Train Fuel.

But again as I noted earlier: "OPTICS".

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yukon11
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quote:
Originally posted by George Harris:
[qb] Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:
[quote]For this stuff, it might be the inverse of Polio and have children last. For the majority of you that were not around for it, when the Polio vaccine, also commonly called the Salk vaccine after its developer, its was prioritized by age

****************************************
I, too, can remember required Polio vaccines back in the 1950's. I seem to think I got one in the 5th or 6th grade (1953-1954). One of the girls in my 5th grade class came down with Polio. She had to have braces, but, to her credit, she went on to be valedictorian at my high school graduation ceremony.

Whenever the Coronavirus vaccines are available, I think I will be sure to obtain written evidence of having had the vaccine as well as date and place where the vaccination was given. Even if the mask requirement, for planes and Amtrak, is lifted you might be required to show proof of vaccination before getting aboard.

Richard

[ 08-28-2020, 07:39 PM: Message edited by: Moderator ]

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yukon11
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quote:
Originally posted by yukon11:
quote:
Originally posted by yukon11:
Here are the frequency changes for 10 Amtrak Long Distance trains, starting in October:

https://is.gd/YZGx3R

I've heard a Covid 19 vaccine may come out as early as November, or most likely by Jan or Feb of next year. Thus, is the virus really the reason for the schedule cutback? Or, is Covid 19 precautions just an excuse for the eventual elimination of all Amtrak LD trains, as some have suggested? Loss of ridership, due to the virus, of course is a factor. But there will be an eventual recovery.

The 2021 transportation bill says appropriations to Amtrak will only be made if Amtrak doesn't reduce any frequencies, services, or personnel.

Speaking of lossses, the Post Office lost 8 billion last FY. Will post office delivery days be cut to tri-weekly?

Richard



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Gilbert B Norman
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Not rail related, but I declined to go to the wedding of a long-time friend (he #3, she #2) in Sarasota during October.

He "shocked"; she "understands".

All I know is I "caught hell" from my Primary Care provider (MD) for going out to Dinner one evening during June. The outdoor tables were "socially distant" and the Waitress was masked. But he held it was a risk that need not be taken. Let us not imagine what my next scheduled appointment with "Doc" would have been had I gone to the wedding; nevermind what had I caught COVID-19.

Finally, to close rail related, some "diehard" would be saying "gee, you could take Amtrak".

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