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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » Economic & Political Transportation Crisis Intensifies While Business as Usual at NAR

   
Author Topic: Economic & Political Transportation Crisis Intensifies While Business as Usual at NAR
amtraksupporter
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Things are not getting better. In fact, they are getting worse quicker.

The Financial Times reports today that traders pushed December, 2016 oil price futures to $139.50 a barrel. The spot price hit another record at $129.60.

The story gets worse. T. Boone Pickens says $150 by the end of December.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c2955660-2696-11dd-9c95-000077b07658.html?nclick_check=1

My friends in Southern California tell me that it is about to hit $4 self-service regular citywide in Los Angeles. Some of Connie Rice's stations already have hit $4 but not all. For weeks now, people have watched the price remain at $3.90, $3.95, $3.97, $3.99 as if the stations were putting off the last few cents.

Working people cannot afford these prices and desperately need alternatives for travel.

We have got to expand Amtrak so people can travel at reasonable expense. For many people travel by Amtrak may be good times but for many more Amtrak is critical economic transportation.

Meanwhile, over at NARP, it seems to be business as usual. They have some good train day coverage but there is certainly no sense of any crisis that involves them.

A month ago, on April 21, 2008, the well known NARP blogger wrote, "[I]t is possible that oil could experience another significant price drop short-term." http://www.narprail.org/cms/index.php/narpblog/index/ I hope no one relies on that site for financial advice.

While accuratly analyzing the state of the oil industry, that posting failed to come to the obvious answer of Amtrak to reduced oil compsumption and higher prices.

It is time for NARP, board members and staff, to recognize that the country is facing an emergency right now that most certainly does involve them.

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Mike Smith
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This energy crisis has been created by our US Congress. I doubt that NARP could convince that same Congress to provide more funds for Amtrak unless it would put more money into the Congress critters' back pocket.
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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by amtraksupporter:
Working people cannot afford these prices and desperately need alternatives for travel.

No question whatever, Mr. Supporter, "pain at the pump' is taking its toll on discretionary auto travel. This linked New York Times article points out how mass transit use is growing. But the growth appears to be centered around the ONE daily trip that simply MUST be made - and that is to work.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/10/business/10transit.html

Speaking for myself, my auto mileage YTDMAY1507 was 6976; for same during '08 was 3509, although I have a 1600 mile journey to Wash DC area set to begin May 30.

quote:
Originally posted by amtraksupporter:
We have got to expand Amtrak so people can travel at reasonable expense. For many people travel by Amtrak may be good times but for many more Amtrak is critical economic transportation.

Again no argument on this point Mr. Supporter; Amtrak corridor business is seeing marked ridership increases. But where I disagree is a need for an expansion of the LD train system - and somehow I think that is what you are addressing. On this point, could anyone here with a sound mind state that railroads should embargo freight traffic so that more passenger trains could be handled?

In closing, allow me to note "I was there" for the 1973-74 "gas crisis" during which both Amtrak Corridor and LD did enjoy a surge in traffic. In fact, it took until 1999 for passengers boarded to exceed the levels recorded during that period. But there is a big difference this time around - and that is supply. At present, whatever you want is there so long as you are willing or able to pay for it. Back then, gas was rationed and, as I did, simply found oneself not able to obtain it on demand.

Posts: 9391 | From: Clarendon Hills, IL USA (BNSF Chicago Sub MP 18.71) | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
amtraxmaniac
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Public needs should take precedence over needs and wants of corporations. Lest we forget that NONE of these Class I railroads would exist if not for PUBLIC land grants. Embargo? No. Concessions for the public good? Yes. If this is not of sound mind, explain to me the existence and exercising of EMINENT DOMAIN.

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Patrick

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Gilbert B Norman
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Patrick, I'll go along with you to this extent. If any road out there is wilfully delaying Amtrak operations for any reasons, be such a dictum from high in the hope that Amtrak will simply fold up and go away, or even someone down the chain, such as a Chief Train Dispatcher who had a "dust up" with an Amtrak counterpart, is wrong and should be addressed.

But to think that simply because a Class I is not encouraging greater use of its lines by passenger trains should give rise, at any such operator's convenience, to a taking under any principle of Eminent Domain, is indeed a "stretch".

Posts: 9391 | From: Clarendon Hills, IL USA (BNSF Chicago Sub MP 18.71) | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
amtraxmaniac
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It would be a bit of a stretch, I agree. I was only stating the similarities in PRINCIPLE whereas the federal government has several tools at their disposal to place mandates on the private sector. Eminent domain is just ONE of those tools of many.

In terms of your first illustration, I honestly feel that kind of bologne happens way to often...more than occasionally on UP steel. I refuse to believe that there are significant operational differences between, say UP and BNSF, yet it appears that Amtrak trains fare better when operating on BNSF steel. Why is that? Could it POSSIBLY boil down to a difference in ATTITUDE by the two companies towards Amtrak, and more SPECIFICALLY LD trains? Is there THAT big of a difference in how these two railroads operate or is it simply that UP has an UPyours attitude towards Amtrak? If it boils down to attitudes and not operational differences, I have a HUGE problem with that and I think the federal government should address that. Again, lest we forget, these rails wouldn't exist if not for PUBLIC land grants.

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Patrick

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Gilbert B Norman
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Patrick--

Here is a compilation made from the Amtrak TT to establish present day Amtrak route miles by predecessor over Union Pacific

SP 3854 62.7%
MP 1136 18.4
MKT 40 0.7
D&RGW 570 9.3
GM&O 284 4.6
WP 263 4.3
C&NW 0
UP (traditional) 0

TOTAL 6147 100.0%

From the above, it is evident that the Southern Pacific - the predecessor road on the eve of its inclusion bankrupt by any measurement except legally so (the Anschutz interests obviously concluded that it was not in their best interest to have any of their holdings under bankruptcy protection), hosts the majority of UP Amtrak trains. The healthiest of the predecessor roads - the traditional UP - does not host any Amtrak passenger trains (some LAMTA).

This means that the UP inherited a "duct tape railroad" that owing to the explosive growth in their Sunset Route region as well as the increase in E-W traffic from Globalization, the road literally burst at the seams. The effect is still felt today, although the $2B of private capital being injected to double track LA-El Paso will help to meet poresent and furure traffic volumes. It is no wonder, with the majority of Amtrak operations on the SP, UP is the "bad boy" for OTP. If I may say so, I think it is a wonder the UP never simply embargoed the Sunset during the worst of the "meltdown crisis", but somehow they moved it.

The traditional UP was probably best equipped to handle passenger trains; but Amtrak or its overseers has now chosen not to operate any over such.

Now lets do a "conparo" with BNSF - often considered "best in show":

ATSF 2858 44.6%
CB&Q 1038 16.2
GN 1946 30.4
NP 187 2.9
SP&S 380 5.9

TOTAL 6409 100.0%

Let us now compare this merger environment with the UP. None of these roads were in dire straits when they first merged to form the BN during 1970, then the BNSF during 1995. Their properties were well maintained and "right size' for the existing traffic levels. Further benefitting Amtrak operations over the ATSF is that Albuquerque Newton is a secondary freight routing. Elsewhere, the E-W Santa Fe is double tracked.

Operations over the CB&Q are not quite as flawless as they are over the ATSF. That line is single tracked roundly west of Creston IA and handles coal traffic as well. As a result, the Zephyr does not enjoy the stellar performance as does the Chief.

I must say I am astounded by the Builder, the GN is single tracked, but has hardly had the explosive traffic growth as found along the SP Sunset. Nevertheless the facts speak for themselves, as the Builder is a good performer.

Posts: 9391 | From: Clarendon Hills, IL USA (BNSF Chicago Sub MP 18.71) | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
amtraxmaniac
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Not following...explain. If these roads were on the verge of bankruptcy, wouldn't accepting federal dollars for infrastructure improvements (as the case with accepting additional passenger trains) benefit these roads? Or is your illustration strickly a historical explanation of their attitude towards Amtrak? If that's the case, then UP's attitude is self defeating. They are thumbing their noses at the oportunity to feed off the 'government trough' to make improvements to their own roads. To me, it lacks of logic.

Example: The signal and track work that is being done on the SP between SLO and the bay area...aren't those STATE funds that are being used? That benefits freight operations just as well. Why wouldn't ANY railroad take a sweetheart deal like this? 'Let us run a few extra trains on your road and we will PAY for the signal and track improvements'.

Perhaps the State and Feds need to dangle a bigger carrot...or maybe its plain ARROGANCE on the part of UP and other Class I's.

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Patrick

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amtraxmaniac
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Thanks for the clarification. So why wouldn't Amtrak exploit the TRADITIONAL UP is one question. The other question is are their any roads of the BNSF that can provide competitive routing/OTP to trains currently running on these 'less maintained' roads of the UP (ie; the SP Sunset Route). If Amtrak has other options, then it's Amtrak, not UP that's the problem. Example: can NM, TX, and LA be reached over BNSF steel with better OTP? I'm not as educated regarding where the roads run.

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Patrick

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amtraxmaniac
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Regardless, Supporter, GBN does point something out. Most of these business travelers are utilizing corridor trains, not LD's. There is absolutely no threat to these corridor trains as long as the states sponsoring them are resolved on keeping them around. The vacation travelers, however are more effected by what happens to the LD's. LD's play more of a role in tourism. If you look at this from an economic standpoint, people are not going to drive unless they absolutely have to. If they can use corridor trains to get to work they can. But, as we see over and over again reported by organizations like AAA, when gas prices go up, that means less travel/tourism. People simple can't afford to make that once per year family vacation. This is where I believe LD's are vital to the economy in the same way the airline industry might be (and we can turn on the tv and see how the airline industry is going down the dumper and how it's impacting tourism for AMERICAN TRAVELERS at least). Business travel and tourism are apples and oranges.

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Patrick

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PullmanCo
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Here's the long pole in the tent.

Even if Congress magically acted tomorrow and appropriated $$$,$$$,$$$.00 for additional equipment, the first cars won't outshop for 18 months.

Amtrak simply does not have a lot of slack capacity. There's a limited amount of Amfleet coaches which could be shopped and brought back to service. There are a very few Superliners in some form of post-wreck limbo. Even bringing these back on-stream requires an infusion of capital, hiring of staff for the shops, and time.

218+51+1 ... and a supplemental appropriation to Amtrak would require an Act of Congress.

http://www.house.gov/writerep
http://www.senate.gov

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

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amtraxmaniac
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Nonetheless Pullman, lets get the ball rolling now. 18 months may sound like an eternity and will certaininy do nothing to help this current crisis. But, if D.C appropriated $$$,$$$,$$$ now to get that rolling stock built in 18 months, then maybe next time Amtrak could be ready to step to the plate come the next MAJOR transportation crisis. 18 months will be 18 months whether we start today, tomorrow, or the next day.
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PullmanCo
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I've written my Senators and Congressman on Amtrak, and not the form letters suggested by many special interest groups. I hope you have as well.
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