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Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Express HSR is sexy. Indeed, its sexy enough that when Big Oil propagandizes against it, they have to paint it as too expensive or something that America is too incompetent to handle, since the idea of sitting in an actually comfortable rail seat, watching a movie on a laptop or snacking on a sandwich while flying along at two to three times highway speeds, "just like in France or Japan or Spain", that's too appealing to convince a big majority of people that it would be anything but nice to have. So they have to con people into thinking of it as an unrealistic pipe dream that the US can do what Spain has been doing for a decade, France for three decades, and Japan for half a century.

Rapid Rail is not as sexy as Express HSR, but at least it is as fast as driving for most drivers on most corridors, and appreciably faster than driving on the corridor with the "best bones", like either Cleveland / Columbus or Davenport / Des Moines / Iowa wold be at 110mph top passenger speed. And it is much cheaper than Express HSR, with lots of potential corridors that local residents will start lobbying for once the first of the Rapid Passenger Rail services come into service.

But conventional long haul rail? Surely plodding along at 50mph to as slow as 30mph on heavy freight rail corridors is an obsolete holdover from an earlier time?

Well, no. Conventional long haul rail has a 21st century role to play, if the United States should declare Economic Independence and start working to regain the economic freedom that we surrendered to the Big Oil and the oil exporting regions in the 70's and 80's.

And so, in this evening's Sunday Train, we look at the "PRIIA Section 210" plans that Amtrak has developed for the five weakest of its fifteen long distance corridors: the California Zephyr, the Capitol Limited, the Cardinal, the Sunset Limited, and the Texas Eagle.

The PRIIA Section 210 Process

The four working group reports produced for these five corridors all share the same introductory boilerplate language to describe what is going on:

Section 210 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA) requires Amtrak to identify the lowest performing third of the fifteen long distance routes in 2010 and develop a plan to improve the overall results of their financial, on-time performance, service related, and customer satisfaction targets. Amtrak will work on the middle ranked and top ranked trains in 2011 and 2012 respectively. The five routes identified for FY10, based on a combination of FY08 Attributed Cost Recovery, Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI), and on-time performance are the Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, California Zephyr, Cardinal, and Capitol Limited.
Section 210 requires Amtrak to embark on a comprehensive program to improve its long-distance services. Starting in FY10 with the five worst performing routes, Amtrak formed cross-departmental Performance Improvement Teams to explore every aspect of the routes’ operations. By the end of the fiscal year, Amtrak will make recommendations based on in-depth analyses of the long-distance routes in nine key areas. These areas are:
  • On-time performance
  • Scheduling, frequency, routes, and stops
  • Feasibility of restructuring the route into connected corridor services
  • Performance-related equipment changes and capital improvements
  • Onboard amenities and service including food, first class, and sleeping car service
  • State or other non-Federal financial contributions
  • Improving financial performance
  • Anticipated Federal funding of operating and capital costs
The reason that there are five corridors and four reports is that the Texas Eagle and Sunset Limited routes are partially integrated, with a set of passenger rail cars handed off from the Texas Eagle at the end of its route to the Sunset Limited for through service to Los Angeles, and then collected again on return eastbound from LA to connect through to Chicago on the Texas Eagle.

Fixing up the Cardinal

The Sunday Train has looked at the Cardinal several times, as the only existing East/West service through Central Appalachia. The Cardinal presently runs three times a week "the long way around" between New York and Chicago, via Washington DC, western Virginia, West Virginia, northern Kentucky, Cincinnati, and Indiana. The Cardinal comes fourteenth among the fifteen long haul routes in terms of combined passenger satisfaction, on-time performance and farebox recovery, with a 66% customer satisfaction index (CSI), 31% on-time performance (OTP), and 35% cost recovery (CR).

Because the Indianapolis / Chicago service is provided by the Hoosier service on the days that the Cardinal does not run, the working group considers the Cardinal and the Hoosier together: any substantial change to the Cardinal would require the Hoosier to fall in line.

Since the Capitol Ltd offers a faster trip DC/Chicago, and the Lakeshore Ltd a faster trip NYC/Chicago, the Cardinal has very little end to end patronage. Its largest trip generators (by head count rather than passenger miles) are 12% Chicago / Indianapolis, 9% Chicago / Lafayette, IN, 6% Chicago / Cincinnati, about 3% each DC / Charlottesville, DC / Cincinnati, Chicago / Charlottesville, and Chicago / DC, with 61% of total trips represented by smaller individual trip markets. It serves Marshall, Purdue, and Indiana University, among other universities (but not Miami University, despite running through Oxford, Ohio in the middle of the night).

Although considering a range of alternatives, the simplest fundamental improvement proposed for the Cardinal is the simplest: replace the tri-weekly Cardinal and four-times-weekly Hoosier state with a daily Cardinal. Each Cardinal service requires one diesel locomotive, one baggage car, one diner/lounge car, and three coach cars. The Hoosier State consists of one locomotive and two coach cars. And given that the Cardinal runs 26hrs per one-way trip, three Cardinal trains are sufficient for daily service. So the equipment requirements to basically upgrade the Hoosier State corridor coach train into the required third Cardinal train for daily are one each of a sleeper car, baggage car, diner/lounge, and coach.

Because the Cardinal passes through height-limited tunnels on its way to NYC, this has to be single level "Viewliner" equipment. And, what do you know, but thanks to the record Amtrak ridership this past few years, there will shortly be some new single-level Viewliner equipment available:

Amtrak awards $298.1 million contract to CAF USA for 130 rail cars
On Friday, Amtrak announced it’s implementing the first step in a 30-year rail-car fleet renewal plan by purchasing 130 new single-level cars for long-distance services.
The order includes 55 baggage, 25 baggage/dormitory, 25 sleeping and 25 diner cars. ... The cars will feature more modern interiors with better layouts, upgraded lighting and more efficient air conditioning and heating systems, and improved accessibility for disabled passengers.

Revenue — which is surpassing budget estimates in part because of record ridership — will cover the contract’s first-year total of $29.8 million; funding for subsequent years will be sought from other sources, such as loans or direct Congressional appropriations, Amtrak officials said.

Critically, the current cars used on the Amtrak Regionals cannot operate at 125mph, so one priority will be to not just replace the oldest of the existing Heritage fleet, some of it dating back to the 1940's and 1950's, but to form Amtrak Regional trains that will be capable of up to 125mph when running along the electrified NEC corridor. Cherry picking the best of the current rolling stock that is being rotated out of service in the Northeast for one each baggage car, sleeping car, diner/lounge and coach

Also, while not a formal part of the PRIIA Part 210 analysis, the Hoosier State is the type of corridor service that states are supposed to take over funding ... and it is highly likely that Indiana will refuse to pay. So

And the financial impact? According to Amtrak projections, switching to daily service will boost ridership by 96%, and increase passenger miles per train mile by 15%, while increasing cost by . Meanwhile it will increase increase operating costs by about 42%. The net result is an increase in direct loss on the service by $1.1m, from $19.5m to $21.6m, and with the near doubling of ridership, farebox recovery is expected to increase by 8% points, and subsidy per passenger mile to drop from $0.42 to $0.29.

There are other service changes covered in the report -- including more modestly priced menu choices in the diner car, ongoing work to reduce slow orders along the corridor, re-arranging servicing to have more work done overnight in New York, where there is greater experience working with single level trains than in Chicago -- but the upgrade to daily is the big one. This was held up by Congress refusing to fund the order of new Viewliners, but now that Amtrak revenues are exceeding expectations, and new cars will start to be delivered this Fall, we could well see a daily Cardinal by the New Year.

Texas Eagle / Sunset Limited

The Sunset Limited is another one of the struggling tri-weekly services. When it does run, it collects through passenger cars from the daily Texas Eagle -- which Kay Bailey Hutchinson worked hard and successfully to rescue the last time it was under threat --  in San Antonio. And therein lies a key problem with the service:

Over the years, Amtrak has managed a number of efforts to improve the financial performance of the Sunset Limited. Most of these focused on cost reduction, which generally resulted in degraded service leading to lower revenues and declining financial performance. Following Hurricane Katrina, Amtrak suspended the Eastern portion of the route between New Orleans and Orlando.
The Texas Eagle provides daily service between San Antonio and Chicago and tri-weekly service to Los Angeles. By switching cars at San Antonio between the Texas Eagle and the Sunset Limited, Amtrak provides a Los Angeles - Chicago through car service. The two routes’ respective schedules, however, result in very long layovers for connecting customers during which through cars are parked overnight in a noisy rail yard. Historically poor host on-time performance issues further exacerbate the customer service situation. Historically, the Texas Eagle outperforms the Sunset Limited on cost recovery, though their on-time performance and CSI scores are similar.
The solution was already in the works when the PRIIA Section 210 requirements were enacted, with the Amtrak Route Performance Improvement (RPI) team starting to analyse the route in 2009. The result is a complete restructuring of the services:
Two major changes underlie the proposal made by the Performance Improvement Team:

1. New daily Los Angeles - Chicago service combines the Los Angeles - San Antonio portion of the Sunset Limited with the San Antonio - Chicago Texas Eagle.

2. New daily San Antonio - New Orleans service with cross-platform transfer of passengers at San Antonio.

This plan corrects several operational obstacles that have held down Sunset Limited financial performance. The tri-weekly service schedule increased costs by forcing long layovers of On-Board Services (OBS) personnel at New Orleans, and Train and Engine (T&E) crews at various layover locations along the route. It also forced inefficient equipment utilization. The fact that train mileage increases 76% while avoidable costs rise by only 31% is evidence that this plan makes real improvements in labor and equipment efficiency. Amtrak’s Market Research & Analysis Group and Finance Department estimate that the new service will add 124,100 additional riders and generate over $10 million in additional revenue across the Amtrak system. Nearly 80% of the revenue and ridership increases will be on the new combined Sunset/Eagle route. The Coast Starlight and Capitol Limited are the other routes benefiting from the change. The Southwest Chief will incur slight declines.

Because of inefficient equipment use under the current schedule, the new schedule will in many cases reduce equipment requirements. The change would free up 1 locomotive, and release 14 cars of various types, including four two-level sleepers, with seven additional cars of different types.

Some of the biggest impacts of the proposed new schedule are in hours of service in key cities along the route:

  • Maricopo Phoenix, 11:17pm EB / 12:57am WB, to 12:57am EB / 8:13pm WB
  • Tucson, 1:55am EB / 11:30pm WB, to 11:30pm EB / 6:46pm WB
  • Houston, 5:10am EB / 9:50pm WB, to 12:10pm EB / 6:35pm WB

This is achieved largely by cutting layovers in San Antonio. the Texas Eagle transfer layover from LA is cut from 9hrs, 30mins to 50mins, and the layover to LA is cut from 7hrs 45mins to 2hrs 40mins. And lest you think that the cross platform transfer at San Antonia is a pure sacrifice to passengers to Houston and NOLA, there too the layovers are cut, from 2hrs 25mins Eastbound down to 1hr 5mins, and from 2hrs 40mins Westbound to 2hrs 10mins.

The projected result is a 25% increase in total revenues, 30% increase in ridership and 44% increase in passenger miles, with subsidy per passenger mile dropping from about $0.12 to $0.10 and farebox recovery rising by about 3% points. Total avoidable costs increase by 31%, buying a 76% increase in total train miles.

However, as with the Cardinal, while subsidy per passenger drops, total annual subsidy for the service does increase by 16%, or $4.4m annually.

This plan was approved by the Amtrak Board over a year ago, but has not yet been implemented, likely as a result of uncertainty of Congressional operating subsidy funding.

The Capitol Limited

The third route on the list brings us back to the East Coast and the faster train connecting Chicago to DC, the Capitol Ltd. 39% of the ridership on this train is end-to-end Chicago/DC. 14% is Chicago/Pittsburgh. 7% is DC/Pittsburgh. 10% is Toledo traffic -- 6% to DC, 4% to Chicago. 4% is DC / Cumberland and 4% is Chicago / Cleveland, which leaves 22% of ridership coming from smaller trip markets.

One reason for the strong demand for DC, Chicago, and Pittsburgh trips is the availability of connections at DC, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. However the Pittsburgh connection, to the Pennsylvanian through to Philadelphia and NYC, involves a late night cross platform transfer with a long layover. Amtrak market research suggests (unsurprisingly) that passengers would much rather stay in the train and have the whole railroad car layover. And that is exactly the focus of the proposed service improvement to the Capitol Limited: eastbound, drop off a diner, coach and sleeper car to be picked up after a multi-hour layover by the Pennsylvanian eastbound, and westbound pick up the same set that was dropped off by the Pennsylvanian westbound.

At present, the Pennsylvanian is a corridor service with a business class car, food service car, and four coaches per set, with two sets, alternating between eastbound and westbound. Under the new plan, two coaches, one food service car, and one sleeper will be in the set of cars that are transferred back and forth, with three sets required total. So the equipment requirement goes up by one food service and two coach cars, because the Chicago through to Philadelphia / NYC route requires three sets of cars, and three sleepers for the sleeper passengers through to Philadelphia/NYC.

Because it is primarily longer distance passengers that are affected by the change, the passenger miles are projected to ride more than the ridership, with 9% higher ridership but 17% more passenger miles. With the addition of a new sleeper service option, revenue rise even further, by 21%. Avoidable Cost Recovery from passenger revenues rises from 47% to 51% of avoidable costs. Costs increase by 11% but, of course, at 47% cost recovery, 11% increase in costs is more money than 21% increase in revenue, so total subsidy is projected to increase by $0.7m.

California Zephyr and Wrapping It Up

And the Zephyr? As far as operations go, they had close to nothing, so the Working Group focused on how to raise the performance of the customer service crews generating the least praise and most complaints to be more like the crews generating the most praise and fewest complaints. Of course, if they simply shift them in the direction of the crews that generate few complaints or praise, that ought to increase their Customer Satisfaction Index as well.

The only operational change they could come up with was shifting one coach off of the large number of sets that provide this service in the wintertime, when demand is lower, and placing them into increased service between Reno and San Francisco, when the roads to Reno are more dangerous to drive, and when accommodating all of the Reno passenger demand would imply leaving a large number of coach seats empty east of Reno.

But realistically, the only thing that can provide a substantial increase in financial performance and on time performance along the California Zephyr route is some sort of Rapid Passenger Rail upgrade along some substantial stretch of the corridor between Chicago and Denver, such as between Chicago and Omaha for the Iowa Connection. The Zephyr has a 52 hour schedule, with the eastbound scheduled into Chicago 20mins after the westbound is scheduled to depart, and the eastbound scheduled to leave 17 hours after the westbound arrives in Oakland. Two to three hours removed from the Chicago to Denver leg of the journey would allow a train to arrive in Chicago and turn around to return the same day, as well as providing an arrival closer to start of business and a departure at about close of business.

Which brings me back to the Steel Interstate plan discussed last week. While the routes were drawn up in pursuit of freight rail markets, each of the five struggling corridors would gain a benefit from the Steel Interstate routes sketched to the right. The Cardinal would gain a higher speed run from Cincinnati to Indianapolis, which doesn't seem like much. However, there is also a rail corridor connecting from Lafayette to the Eastern Illinois corridor, so with a re-routing it could well run on a Steel Interstate for over half the distance between Cincinnati and Chicago. The Capitol Ltd would not gain a path on a Steel Interstate. However, its planned partner service the Pennsylvanian would, allowing multiple Pittsburgh / Philadelphia / NYC services per day, and so allowing a much shorter layover in Pittsburgh for the through service to NYC, as well as a much faster trip. The California Zephyr would gain a ride on the Steel Interstate from Salt Lake City through to Oakland, likely cutting over half a day from the service time.

And the "Texas Eagle Limited" would get a ride on the Steel Interstate from Los Angeles through to El Paso.

All of these are aside from newly established services, at the trip speeds of 70mph that allows a long distance train to cover costs out of revenue, running entirely along the the Steel Interstates.

The things about a long haul sleeper service is that on an trip of over a day in length, one must eat, one must relax and, of course, one must sleep.

While driving, the eating is normally done while parked, just as a break from driving. The relaxation is replaced by the activity of chauffeuring yourself, which ought to include (but, as we know from the annual highway death toll, often does not include) "rest" breaks every few hours to convince your body that it is in fact in use and should not take a nap. And, of course, sleeping while driving quickly most often results in not driving any more that day, if ever.

On the long haul sleeper, the eating, the relaxation, and the sleeping, can all be done while the train is in motion. If you need a break from sitting in your seat, you can go to the lounge car. If you are a reader, rather than listening to an audio book while driving, you can sit down and read a book. If its an ebook, you can plug your ereader in. The next best is a good sleeper bus, as in South America, but even the best sleeper bus has no diner car and no lounge car.

Indeed, if we pursue the Steel Interstates (as we will do if we ever gain freedom from our economic bondage to Big Oil), one way that we will be able to provide intercity transport services to cities and towns that would otherwise have none is to run a conventional rail sleeper service through town, then sooner or later hit the Steel Interstate, and lay the passenger cars over to be picked up by the electric Steel Interstate passenger train running through. Even an hour or so layover will quickly be made up by the speed of the Steel Interstate service and, of course, if one wishes one can sleep, or read, or watch a movie straight through the layover without having to get out of the train and wait. One could, indeed, go to get a sandwich while the train is stopped, and have the train get picked up and begin moving before your sandwich is finished.

Which is a key advantage of the Steel Interstates for freight, translated directly to passenger rail. The existing Amtrak passenger rail cars are already capable of 110mph service, if they can get a 110mph corridor on which to run. With the financial performance of passenger rail along a Steel Interstate, we can be confident of two or three daily long distance trains along the Steel Interstates. And with two or three long distance trains running along a given Steel Interstate, there will be the opportunity to run a short,. Cardinal style, sleeper train in many routes through the country scheduled to then be collected later in the evening by a through Steel Interstate service, with the passengers over 500 miles along the line after an eight hour sleep.

Midnight Oil ~ Beds Are Burning

That is, if you can sleep while our beds are burning.

Originally posted to Sunday Train on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 07:15 PM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Of course HSR is sexy (8+ / 0-)

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 07:32:30 PM PDT

  •  Where would these lines end up? (7+ / 0-)

    HSR sure would be fun.

    But, especially in the west, these lines end up in cities where you need a car to get around.   You even need a car in nice progressive Portland or if you want to see most of the almost entirely Democratic Bay Area that isn't next to a BART line.

  •  I actually rode the Capitol Limited (5+ / 0-)

    in 2008 from Washington DC to Chicago coming home after cleaning up and settling my mothers affairs. The train actually arrived 20 minutes early in Chicago, but it made up time from being late to Pittsburgh and the intermediate stops in Ohio.

    Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

    by NoMoreLies on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 08:51:02 PM PDT

  •  Coal Trains to China ride on Amtrak financed Rails (4+ / 0-)

    We are discovering more facets of the Buffett/Obama Rules.  He with the gold gets our cheap coal leases from Obama buys out Burlington Northern and profits from using Amtrak financed rail improvements by shipping coal that bottlenecks the passenger rail 24/7 in Washington.  Cities and Towns are divided by coal trains blocking emergency responders.  Cities and Towns then told that new overpasses must be 95% financed by taxpayers with Buffett's BN paying 5%.
    I smell something burning...

    •  Alternate BNSF Routes not used for China Coal (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      concernedamerican, Larsstephens

      Lack of Amtrak funding for maintenance prevents Buffett from using less disruptive routes.  Amtrak puts money in Buffett's pocket!  Coal trains very rough on the rails!  I hear another right now.  Steel wheels squeeling around the curves, try it 24/7!

      •  What alternate BNSF route ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ... why would BNSF route coal trains from Montana to ports in the Pacific Northwest on any other corridor? That's one of their main transcontinental routes in their possession. And after all, it was originally built for freight ~ fed by the the granger lines of Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana and eastern Washington collecting agricultural products for exports out of Pacific Northwest ports.

        Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

        by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 11:05:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Because they could, and are trying to. (0+ / 0-)

          They're not going to put in a new rail system for the coal! They're pressing every major city in the PNW to allow shipment of coal from Montana and Wyoming to China. And if the cities are not buying it - and they are not so far - they will settle for putting in new lines in British Columbia through some of our last old-growth timber, unless the First Nations people there can fend them off.

          I live about a half-block from the BNSF's main north-south line that runs from Vancouver BC to Los Angeles, and can't imagine what 24/7 coal shipments would do not only here (and that includes the line's tunnel under downtown Seattle), but to the shoreline fisheries, and the 1930s era bridges and rail lines, which as it is are often closed by landslides and washouts during the winter months.

          "Money doesn't talk, it screams," as the poet says.

          •  Buffett very Clever (0+ / 0-)

            BNSF says the coal is coming whether it is shipped out in Canada or at Cherry Point.  If that is accepted as factual then the train impacts are existing and public funds must be used to deal with the problems.  We are disputing that since the cost of the impacts should be borne by BNSF.

    •  I've rec'd this comment because you seem to know (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      madcitysailor, Larsstephens

      what you're talking about, but you need to give links when you say stuff like this.  People here don't know about these kinds of things and they want to learn about them.  You need to educate folks here about what you're talking about so that the wider community is better prepared to take action.

      That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

      by concernedamerican on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 04:16:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Link? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Link to emergency responders being blocked?

      China's economy is slowing down and with the US economy slowing down, the intermodal trains going the other way from Seattle/Tacoma to Seattle aren't as long.

      •  Links! (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Zornorph, fgentile, Creosote

        Sorry I did not have time to provide them we live near the tracks and it's not news to us.

        Railroad Spokesman in Mount Vernon

        A BNSF Railway Co. spokesman told the Mount Vernon City Council recently that his company probably would not pay more than 5 percent of the cost of railway overpasses to avoid traffic problems that could result from increased traffic in coal and other freight through the city.
        Coal Free Bellingham!

        Coal Trains

        The consultants pointed to a 2006 state study noting that an existing siding in the southern portion of Bellingham is not long enough to hold an entire freight train. That means that trains have to be held on sidings farther north or south to allow oncoming trains to pass on the single-track main line.

        Extending the Bellingham siding to the north would eliminate that bottleneck and make it possible for more trains to use the line, but the siding would have to extend north through Boulevard Park, past the existing Wharf Street crossing and almost to Central Avenue. That siding - a parking place for a freight train - would likely mean the closure of the Wharf Street crossing, as well as the Bayview Drive access to Boulevard Park and the South Bay Trail bike and pedestrian crossing at the park's northern end.

        Building the siding would be a financial bottleneck as well. The 2006 state study estimated its cost at more than $102 million. State and federal money regularly pay the cost of rail improvements, but public funding sources for a project of that magnitude are nonexistent at present.

        The consultant's report observes that the railroad might pay some of it, but a Bellingham project would have to compete for company funds with other projects around BNSF's 32,000 miles of track in 27 states and British Columbia.

        Fact Sheet

        Just a few.  Many more available.  Google is your friend...
        Ask me for specific ones.

        •  Public Financing Private Profits King Coal (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Zornorph, Creosote

          From Comments:

          The benefits of longer trains cannot be realized without significant investment in supporting infrastructure. This includes longer sidings, more and longer storage tracks for train building in terminals and yards, and adjusting operations to account for the time it takes longer trains to clear grade crossings, sidings where passage can occur (between slower vs faster trains, as well as trains in single mainline areas, such as ours, going in opposite directions) and entry and egress locations at terminals. In addition, the use of longer and heavier trains will mean more, and more frequent, track maintenance, which also affects operational capacity, particularly in single track areas.

          Over the past couple of decades, taxpayers have paid BNSF well over a billion dollars for rail capacity improvements; nearly all of those funds targeted improving passenger rail service, including the amount of passenger service offered, and improving on-time performance. Under the American Rehabilitation and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) alone, Washington received federal allocations totaling $781 million, al for high speed passenger rail–but the improvements help provide BNSF the capacity to handle the proposed coal traffic–and even then, at the cost of current freight and passenger rail capacity.

          Shouldn’t we expect at least a refund from BNSF, if they are not going to provide us what we paid them for?

          The routing of the coal train traffic usually always follows Amtrak.  That is how taxpayers line Buffett's pockets.  Simply put they pay to repair the rails.
          •  You have that reversed ... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            fiercefilms, elfling, Larsstephens

            ... Amtrak is following the route of the long haul heavy freight, not the other way around.

            Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

            by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 07:27:20 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Amtrak finances Coal Transport (0+ / 0-)

              BNSF/Buffett do not pay when taxpayer funding is available.  That determines how the coal trains are routed.  It's especially true when coal trains 24/7 are shoe horned onto a route built for Amtrak by taxpayers...

              •  Yes, that is exactly what I am ... (7+ / 0-)

                ... BS on, the insane claim that there is a single long distance corridor "paid for" by Amtrak. Amtrak trackage fees are a miniscule portion of the revenues of a Class I railroad.

                Its a fine story to tell, but throwing around numbers does not imply that the numbrs add up. Amtrak routes are shoehorned onto the long distance routes that exist to haul long haul freight. If the Class I railroads had their way, Amtrak long distance trains would simply be cancelled.

                Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

                by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 08:30:24 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                  •  No, Amtrak was not there ... (9+ / 0-)

                    ... before the Great Northern was there. Amtrak was formed in 1971. The Great Northern was completed in 1893.

                    Great Northern: Wikipedia

                    The Great Northern Railway (reporting mark GN), running from Saint Paul, Minnesota, to Seattle, Washington — more than 1,700 miles (2,736 km) — was the creation of the 19th century railroad tycoon James J. Hill and was developed from the Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad. The Great Northern's route was the northernmost transcontinental railroad route in the United States. It was completed on January 6, 1893, at Scenic, Washington.

                    The Great Northern was the only privately funded, and successfully built, transcontinental railroad in United States history. No federal land grants were used during its construction, unlike every other transcontinental railroad built. It was one of the few transcontinental railroads to avoid receivership following the Panic of 1893.

                    The Great Northern Railway also fell victim to the deadliest avalanche in United States history, at the site of the now non-existent town of Wellington, Washington (later renamed, due to the disaster, to Tye, Washington).

                    At the end of 1967 GN operated 8282 route-miles, not including class II subsidiaries MA&CR (3 miles) and PC (32 miles).

                    Your argument is that spending public money on current bottlenecks to passenger service ~ in your particular example, the money is spent building a bypass for the Cascade Corridor to take to avoid the route used by heavy freight ~ coal, timber, wheat ~ taken to the port of Seattle ~ is a subsidy to the freight railroad.

                    However: the heavy freight does not run on the bypass, the passenger trains do.

                    And if the bypass is not built, the heavy freight continues to go through. The difference is that the passenger trains are stuck in a siding going nowhere, waiting for the freight train to pass.

                    Now, not completing the bypass might slow down the heavy freight trains a bit, but the whole point of the heavy freight ghetto that railroads were forced into by the massive subsidies to truck freight since the 1930's is that lumps of coal do not much mind waiting an hour or two. They are, after all, lumps of coal, and if they are not waiting at that bottleneck, they will be waiting for the coal loader, or be dumped into a big pile of coal and wait there to be loaded into the bulk carriers.

                    And that is not Amtrak spending. The Cascades Corridor is operated by Amtrak, but the service is subsidized and the trains are owned by Washington State and Oregon, and the funding for the bypass was an application by Washington State. Amtrak funding for trackwork goes to the Northeast Corridor, that is publicly owned, where freight railroads have to pay the public for the right to use the corridor, and mostly late at night because the corridor is being used during the train for various intercity and commuter passenger trains.

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                    by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 09:18:20 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Do you know more about WA routes? (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      We feel we are getting the shaft as Obama's Clean Coal Export policy is implemented here in Bellingham WA.  We are looking at about 24-25 coal trains/day.  Please provide any insights on that.  You seem very knowledgeable.
                      My first job was with the Great Northern as a extra board switchman.  We did have passenger service then, in 1964.

                      •  You had passenger service in 1964 ... (4+ / 0-)

                        ... because it was a regulatory requirement on the railways. When Amtrak was formed in 1971, those private railways that signed the agreement were relieved of those responsibilities in return for Amtrak having trackage rights on what had been their passenger routes. That's why Amtrak originally ran the Empire Builder.

                        I do not know much off the top of my head about rail in East Washington along the Great Northern alignment, as the dominant flow of truck freight heads off in a more southwesterly direction, which is why the Steel Interstate from Seattle and Portland connects east/west via Salt Lake City in that Steel Interstate map.

                        But I have a Sunday Train coming up on placing carbon taxes on coal exports to help find electrical transport, so I'll have it look at the Coal Export policy itself before then.

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                        by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 10:51:35 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

          •  Ntocie the shell game in the last ... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            spacecadet1, Larsstephens

            ... part of this argument:

            ... and even then, at the cost of current freight and passenger rail capacity.

            Shouldn’t we expect at least a refund from BNSF, if they are not going to provide us what we paid them for?

            The Cascade Corridor runs north and south. The Great Northern route runes east and west. Its not as if coal being exported to China from Montana goes to Seattle and then is sent down to California to leave out of Oakland or Long Beach ~ it goes out of the Port of Seattle. It crosses the Cascade Corridor.

            If the Cascades Corridor gains the service frequency and improved on-time performance Washington State projected in their application for funds, then they got what they paid for.

            Delays to the Empire Corridor due to coal trains to the port of Seattle does not affect that, since what the state of Washington paid for was improved north-to-south service frequency and better on time performance.

            The semantic shell game here is:

            • Cascade Corridor = passenger rail
            • The Empire Builder = passenger rail
            • Paying to improve the Cascade corridor = paying to improve passenger rail
            • Freight interference with the Empire Builder on tracks built for, and maintained by, revenues from freight hauling is "not improved passenger rail
            • So we paid for improved passenger rail (over here, where we will be getting it), and did not receive it (over there, where we did not pay for it).

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            by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 10:13:38 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Coal not exported from Seattle (0+ / 0-)

              Coal exports are currently only at White Rock, BC.  Read up on how the trains are routed.  I don't know about the "semantic shell games" but you do seem very informed on this.  Are you a consultant or engineer?

              Powder River Routing

              •  Just a regional economist ... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                ... I've been writing the Sunday Train for a few years now, which is a lot of weekends spent picking up this and that about trains and other potentially sustainable transport and sharing it around.

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                by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 10:52:41 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Communitywise Bellingham (0+ / 0-)

                  Communitywise Bellingham is one part of my community's response to Obama/Buffett/Gates assault.  It is 100% local ad hoc put together to push back against the corporate moguls.  Check it out and see what they have done with zero support from those who should be.  Much of the funding comes from a recycled building materials operation and store.
                  Like Ken Kesey wrote in Sometimes a Great Notion, "Never give an inch!"

  •  I've taken the Zephyr and Cardinal, in sleepers (15+ / 0-)

    Over 20 years ago. It was fun. I took the Zephyr from Chicago to SF (Oakland, technically), and the Cardinal on the way back from Chicago to NYC. They were segments a cross-country train trip that also included the now defunct Broadway Limited from NYC to Chicago, and the still-running Coast Starlight from SF (er, Oakland) to Portland and Empire Builder from Portland to Chicago.

    I thought the Cardinal was very scenic, and I'm surprised that it doesn't have much end to end ridership since it always seems to be booked when I check Amtrak's web site out of curiosity (I'm one of those people who read train schedules under the covers as a kid). I took it in the dead of winter, but I'm guessing that spring and fall are the best times to take it.

    The Zephyr was nice too, but much of it was long stretches through the Nevada desert. The Rockies part was spectacular, especially the climb up the front range from Denver, and along the Colorado river.

    It's embarrassing and shameful that our passenger rail system is so threadbare. In Europe they have several trains a day on most such routes, with sleek coach seats, excellent dining and affordable bunk sleeper accomodations. We used to lead the world in passenger rail. Now we're a joke. It's so sad.

    This will change eventually, perhaps sooner than we think. It has to. Not so much long haul, as mid haul. Fast regular rail and superfast high speed rail are going to be part of how we rebuild this country's economy and make it competitive again. It'll ease our dependence on cars and fossil fuels, and connect the country again. But damn, it shouldn't be taking so long.

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 09:50:42 PM PDT

    •  When we first took our son to Spain he was 7 years (10+ / 0-)

      old and had never ridden a passenger train.  We took a train from Madrid to Barcelona, first class.  He was totally delighted.  Then, last year when he and I were in Spain, we took trains from Madrid to Cadiz and from Madrid to Santander.  First class.  Again, he was thrilled.  He is a confirmed european rail rider and when he asked why we can't travel like this in the US, that is, with efficient, fast, comfortable rail that has great customer service, he doesn't understand the explanation that I give, which is "the big oil companies and car makers don't want people taking trains because then they'd lose money."  

      And of course his confusion is completely on the mark.  What's astounding to me is that more Americans aren't confused by private companies' blocking of energy and transport development plans that would give people more options and make this country stronger economically and less reliant on foreign oil.  

      That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

      by concernedamerican on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 04:22:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The scenic trip demand ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kovie, Larsstephens

      ... is likely to be most of the Chicago/DC passengers, since the Capitol Ltd is a faster service between the two. But endpoint to endpoint is NYC/Chicago.

      Daily trips would increase revenue from that market, since more sleepers would be available. Dorm/Baggage cars would increase it more, by allowing crews to sleep in crew dorms and free up sleeper roomettes for revenue service.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 07:36:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Internal rumblings have the Cardinal (0+ / 0-)

        ending up with a second sleeper, a dorm, and a full diner.

        No idea how official these rumblings are though.  

        Registered in NY-02, College CT-01, Spent most of the rest of my life on the border of NY-08 and NY-15

        by R30A on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 09:00:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The media in California has done a hatchet job (7+ / 0-)

    on the California HSR. They have gotten public opinion totally against it.

    "Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is." - George W Bush

    by jfern on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 10:03:31 PM PDT

    •  That is really too bad. It was (0+ / 0-)

      the one shining spot on the horizon.  Is it still on track to be built?  God I hope so, we need it to be finished and running and then, like out light rail here in Denver, once people use it, it will become SOOOO popular.

      I plan to fly there specifically to take the train from Sacremento to LA

      •  We will find out this summer ... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mr Robert, Larsstephens, Floande

        ... the opponents are playing a strong public relations game, but there is lots of inside pushing in favor of it ~ including, for instance the Mouse pushing for it in Orange County, which earlier this year pulled the Orange County transit authority back from some political posturing they were doing to pander to ideological opponents.

        Indeed, where there's smoke, there's fire: if there weren't strong prospects of the State Legislature approving the start of construction, there wouldn't be such a ferocious anti-HSR propaganda campaign being waged by the so-called journalists acting as dictation taking toadies for Big Oil funded think tanks.

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        by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 02:27:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Cardinal & Zephyr... (13+ / 0-)

    ...should be marketed as scenic "rail cruise" lines. I am actually considering a trip from Florida to D.C. on the Silver Meteor and then the Cardinal to Chicago simply to enjoy the scenery of the New River Gorge.

    When I graduated from high school in 1978, I took the the Zephyr from Chicago to Reno. Back then, the Denver & Rio Grand Western still operated its own passenger service from Denver to Salt Lake City, through the most scenic part of the Rockies, but its schedule didn't match up with the Zephyr's. Now that the Zephyr uses the old D&RGW route, it's a much more inviting trip.

    I also believe it's essential that the New Orleans to Florida segment of the Sunset Limited be restored. As it now stands, the only connection between Florida and anywhere beyond the northeast requires at least a trip to North Carolina, and in all practicality, Washington or New York. I find that absurd.

    I vote we run Rick Scott out of Florida on a high-speed rail.

    by ObamOcala on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 10:24:43 PM PDT

    •  Atlanta, actually, ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... ought to be a gateway. At present the ideologues in the outer suburbs of Atlanta have Georgia locked down, but over this decade the demographic shift may allow a coalition of urban and inner suburban and the smaller towns and cities through the state to break through - especially with the example of NC to follow. A state corridor Atlanta / Savannah, and a through service to Jacksonville and Miami naturally follows.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 07:44:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree Atlanta is the logical gateway... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Nespolo, BruceMcF, Larsstephens all points in the southeast, just as it is for air travel. I noticed that the "Steel Interstate" map in the diary shows a direct line from Miami up the Florida east coast to Jacksonville, then on to Chicago via Atlanta. This would be an excellent route for me to use to visit relatives in Milwaukee, but Amtrak has been shut out of Atlanta as a gateway between Florida and Chicago since its inception in 1971.

        The old Floridian (which I also rode on my 1978 post-high school trip) had to get to Chicago via Alabama because Atlanta refused to host Amtrak (Amtrak only got in when Southern Railway finally dropped the Crescent and Amtrak took it over).

        I hope you're right - that demographic shifts in Atlanta will break down the resistance to using that city as a southeastern rail hub. But that's going to take some time. The NOLA to FLA segment of the Sunset could be restored immediately, if Amtrak could get the funds to do it.

        An interesting note on the Florida east coast route. Amtrak made a big splash a couple of years ago with a special on the FEC route to demonstrate the feasibility of adding such a service. But since then, our governor (who is openly hostile to rail except when it comes to whatever CSX wants) has apparently not been cooperative. That's led Florida East Coast Industries to begin planning to set up the passenger service itself. The first phase would connect Miami and Orlando via a line up the east coast and then over. Eventual plans call for extending the service all the way up the FEC to Jacksonville, and from Orlando to Tampa.

        The irony of FECI's plan is that FEC was the first Class 1 railroad to drop passenger service in the 1960s, using a massive strike as cover for getting the government to go along. Now it could very well be the first Class 1 to bring passenger service back under its own flag. To me, this is the best indicator anyone could have as to the shift in public support for passenger rail.

        I vote we run Rick Scott out of Florida on a high-speed rail.

        by ObamOcala on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 08:58:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It may happen sooner than you think ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          ... with the "why do they get good stuff?" examples coming in both North Carolina and Florida, Chambers of Commerce in cities in other parts of Georgia, as well as small town Chambers of Commerce that might hope to get a stop, are likely to increase their already existing lobbying for the routes to the northwest and southeast of Atlanta, and its a lot easier to get intercity corridor trains through a state legislature with lots of Republicans than it is to get mass transit for a big city.

          Savannah is going to be pushing especially strong once the private Florida Express train between Orlando and Miami gets a service extension to Jacksonville.

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          by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 09:58:17 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  The Zephyr is a scenic route. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BruceMcF, Larsstephens

      You sleep across Nebraska, go through the Colorado Rockies and along the Colorado river during the day, sleep across Utah and Nevada, and follow Donner's Pass across the Sierra Nevada during the day. Marketing it as a scenic rail cruise is a good idea.

  •  I loved taking the Zephyr home (10+ / 0-)

    from Yearly Kos/Chicago in 2007. This is the diary I wrote way back then:

    It was rather like a cruise, I suppose, but it was a really nice way to come home, relaxing from our 'vacation' instead of the nasty stress of air travel. I read, I ate, I slept, I photographed, I typed, and I talked to all kinds of people.

    Give me reliable wireless internet and I'd do it all the time. No one would have to know I was gone! :-)

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 10:35:11 PM PDT

  •  University towns would seem to be (7+ / 0-)

    ideal for rail service, as long as the stop is sometime during plausible waking hours. Add a shuttle to campus and voila.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 10:37:20 PM PDT

  •  The crazy part is that randroids (7+ / 0-)

    always forget just what business Dagny Taggart was in when discussing high-speed rail....

    I'm from Italy, we just now got a L-shaped high speed line that does Rome-Florence-Milan-Venice and it's fantastic: for most people it's faster than the corresponding airplane if you factor in traveling to the airport (we don't have TSA stupidity except on flights headed towards the US or Israel, fortunately), it generally involves changing vehicles fewer times because you end up having to take a train from airport to city anyway, and you can use your cell phone while in transit.

    So yes, it works and it works well. America has a lot of empty flat space, much like France and Germany, and trains could easily get to 400KPH on normal rails.

    More oddly, Lyndon Larouche and band are big proponents of HSR, pretty much the only thing I agree about with my Rouchie friend.

    (Progressive should at lest read the cliffs notes for Atlas Shrugged, or at least visit the tvtropes page to catch all the marysueisms).

    I am an electrical engineer, run a reasonably high traffic server, and build autopilots and drones for a living. If you have technical questions, ask away and I will try to give a cogent answer.

    by spiritplumber on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 11:09:28 PM PDT

    •  Friends of mine who live about 45 minutes by (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Utahrd, BruceMcF, Larsstephens

      local ("cercanias") train outside Madrid were lamenting recently the government's targeting of lots of funds to expand HSR, but its corresponding decisions to cut off funds to maintain certain local train connections.  There is a growing number of little towns in Spain that are no longer served by any kind of train and from which, if you don't have a car, it is impossible to travel because buses don't stop there either.  The HSR stations that are being added are wonderful, but what do the little towns that are being left behind do?

      That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

      by concernedamerican on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 04:27:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I travel to Italy one a year or so (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BruceMcF, Larsstephens

      and I always wind up traveling by train.  I love it!  I also travel by Amtrak whenever I need to go somewhere on the Northeast corridor.  Not as convenient or cheap as Italian trains, but it's still my preferred mode of long-distance transportation.

      "We *can* go back to the Dark Ages! The crust of learning and good manners and tolerance is so thin!" -- Sinclair Lewis

      by Nespolo on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 09:28:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Free wifi? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, Larsstephens

    You didn't mention that, but I assume it would be available?

    "The disturbing footage depicts piglets being drop kicked and swung by their hind legs. Sows are seen being kicked and shoved as they resist leaving their piglets."

    by Bush Bites on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 05:13:59 AM PDT

    •  Depends heavily on territory ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fiercefilms, Larsstephens

      ... you are running through. Along the Steel Interstate corridors, certainly, and when running along corridor service routes (eg, Capitol Corridor in CA). Elsewhere may depend on availability of mobile broadband bandwidth.

      Of course, WiFi can be used for an in-train server ~ a deal with Hulu & Netflix could make for a much broader range of entertainment than "in flight movies", as well as boring things like cache and collect email / texts while passing through a town.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 08:05:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Anyway, I think they have to focus... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...on non-red states.

    They'll never get the operating funds from red states.

    "The disturbing footage depicts piglets being drop kicked and swung by their hind legs. Sows are seen being kicked and shoved as they resist leaving their piglets."

    by Bush Bites on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 05:16:04 AM PDT

    •  Kay Bailey Hutchinson saved the Texas Eagle ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fuzzyguy, Larsstephens

      ... there's ideological opposition, but Amtrak is a logroll between long hau routes serving rural America, the Northeast corridor, and those states providing corridor services of their own, and while Indiana, say, might not subsidize the Hoosier State, there will be Congressmen and Senators from Indiana doing deals to keep the Cardinal running.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 08:12:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Living in South Bend we've seen (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The South Shore line which runs from here to Chicago totally decimated for funding. As a result what used to cost next to nothing to take a train into down town Chicago has not gotten actually more expensive than driving in.

    It now costs pretty equal to drive in, park than it used to riding the train in and taking the El or corresponding bus. Which honestly makes no damn sense.

    I think if we are to have any sort of HSR in this nation it is almost going to be a requirement that new steel will have to be placed down. There is no way it can utilize any sort of the old freight lines without detrimentally affecting either the HSR portion or the freight portion.

    Hell I have a friend who works at the freight junction locally here in Elkhart IN and he says that much of the old freight lines already operate well over capacity.

    --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

    by idbecrazyif on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 05:43:33 AM PDT

    •  Are You Including (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, Odysseus, Larsstephens

      the cost of parking for a day in Chicago?

      It's tough to find a parking garage for less than $20 per day. street parking is a joke, more or less impossible.

      "The private economy is doing fine". President Obama 6.8.2012

      by Superpole on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 05:54:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  But once per day passenger trains ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nina Katarina, Larsstephens

      ... cannot make the case for new track, so the have to rely on some other transport task to fund those, like the multiple train per day corridor services to Chicago, and now the 110mph versions of those services.

      The Steel Interstates, described in much more detail last week, justify new track, throug or Express passing track, to get the 60mph and 90mph fast freight through for time-to-schedule sensitve freight markets now dominated by long haul trucking.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 08:20:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There is a strong case for multiple runs though (0+ / 0-)

        Indeed many people like myself would transit the rail if it were economically within our means.

        --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

        by idbecrazyif on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 10:32:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  South Bend to Chicago, sure, ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... though that is not a Long Distance train ...

          ... but it requires beneficiaries other than passengers to pay their fare share, and the State of Indiana seems to prefer free riding on the passengers backs.

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          by BruceMcF on Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 04:44:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  a little sad (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, Larsstephens

    I'm a little sad that part of this plan is retiring the last of the Heritage fleet.  I rode the rails once a month back in the 80s, DC to Boston, and was lucky enough to ride a couple of the old rainbow trains before everything was standardized to metroliner blah.  Sure they were showing their ages, but I remember a few really wonderful cars.

    One came from one of the old southwestern rail lines.  Native American art on the walls all down the side of the train.  The chairs were big and deep and had footrests that let you recline almost flat.  

    Another had these funky fold down tables on the walls, and every other row could swivel to make a conversational grouping with the chairs behind it.

    I guess they ran out of replacement parts for many of these cars decades ago.  But taking them off the rails is a victory for homogenization, and so I am sad.

    •  I believe some of the new ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nina Katarina, Larsstephens

      ... trains include the reversible coach chairs.

      And I do have a notion that they could provide those Daynighter seats in every second row in coach, as part of that.

      See, demand for the short distance trips trails away as you are running through stations at 3am in the morning. So you would book shorter daytime trips in the reversible seats, and longer distance through coach passenger in the other row. As the short distance rows cleared for the evening, the coach attendant would shift the reversible row forward, and unlock the full recline for the fixed seats.

      Just as with the long distance Australian tourist trains, those coaches would have shower / changing rooms as well as toilet facilities.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 11:01:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The California Zephyr (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, Larsstephens, roadbear

    I have made a number of trips from Iowa to the SF Bay area by car, and one delightful trip by the Zephyr.

    I read a comment on another forum stating "AMTRAK is inconvenient, slow, and expensive.  Much better to drive."

    My response:

    Inconvenient? It depends on where you live relative to the stations. Where I live in western Iowa, the distance to the nearest Amtrak station is the same as the distance to the nearest airport.

    Slow? Yes, compared with air travel. Compared with driving, it depends. Traveling from Iowa to the S.F. Bay area there's not a big difference for me. When we drive, we stay overnight twice (at least) so while the actual time on the road is less, the overall time is slightly more driving.

    Expensive? For one person in a car, Amtrak is cheaper. For three or more people in a vehicle, driving is cheaper. That's because you provide the labor. With Amtrak, you're paying someone else to drive so you can sit back and relax.

    Safe? Oops, you didn't mention that. Amtrak (or air travel) is much safer than driving.

  •  I have been enjoying the rail related videos (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, Larsstephens

    but I can't believe this one has been left out so far:

    I think a guy named Willie also did a version of this...

  •  Just booked my roundtrip (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, Larsstephens

    ...on the Lake Shore Limited to Rochester, NY.  Going there to see uncle and cousins I haven't seen in 20-30 years, celebrating my father's 75th birthday and his brother's 82nd.

    My lovely wife hates to fly, so we often take Amtrak when we can (we live west of Chicago).  We have taken the California Zephyr to Denver, and the Capitol Limited to DC, and the City of New Orleans to NO many times.

    GOP Agenda: Repeal 20th Century.

    by NormAl1792 on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 01:20:44 PM PDT

  •  Love these train diaries - thanks! (0+ / 0-)

    For a better America, vote the GOP out of office whenever and wherever possible and as soon (and as often) as possible!

    by dagnome on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 07:43:17 PM PDT

  •  I want a train from Albuquerque (0+ / 0-)

    to Las Vegas.

    I don't care about speed, just convenience.

    Used to go on rail vacations with my mom -- from Duluth to Chicago, or out to Seattle, back through Vancouver via Canadian Pacific, one trip from Thunder Bay to Toronto on CP. Even coach it's much better than flying. The travel is part of the vacation.

    Vegas is the only place I go regularly (to visit friends) and I spend as much time at the airport (more on the return trip) as I do in the air. Airports don't count as a quality travel experience for me. And I detest the sardines-in-a-can feeling of airplanes.

    Right now I could take the SW Chief as far as Needles, and have my friends drive down to pick me up -- a bit after MIDNIGHT, with no station, just a platform. No thank you.

    In my book, civilized countries have useful passenger rail.

    "I've had all I can stands, and I can't stands no more." - Popeye the Sailor Man

    by congenitalefty on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 08:18:24 PM PDT

    •  used to be a LA/Las Vegas train ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... the City of LA, but it came from Chicago by way of Utah. It was revived as the Amtrak Desert Wind, which didn't survive the 1997 budget cuts, but that wouldn't get you Albuquerque / LV.

      Though with the proposed California / Las Vegas train running through Barstow, one could see a junction there to drop off some Vegas cars to be run to Vegas along the proposed Desert Xpress corridor.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 05:13:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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