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Amtrak Acela Express Trains - Threat To US And DL?  
User currently offlineUa815 From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 60 posts, RR: 0
Posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 4832 times:

As Amtrak ramps-up its Acela Express high-speed train service in the NE (Boston – NYC – Washington), has there been any impact on the DL and US shuttles?

Amtrak presently has 5 Acela trains each-way between Boston and NY with 302 seats each; about the capacity of 10 shuttle flights. The run time from BOS to NYC is 3hr, 30min (not, by my definition, “high-speed”.) As more equipment is delivered and accepted, Amtrak will ramp-up to 10 trains each way.

The stated goal of the Acela train service is to grab the business traveler from the air shuttles in much the same way that the TGV high-speed train has taken control of the short distance intercity market in France. My impression so far is that Amtrak is still too slow and too unreliable to be a threat to the shuttles, but I do not have the occasion to ride either, so it is a second hand opinion. I suspect DL and US are far more concerned with AirTran, Jet Blue, and Southwest than Amtrak, but I would be interested in any first-hand impressions, especially those who have ridden both services.


22 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinePmk From United States of America, joined May 1999, 664 posts, RR: 2
Reply 1, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 4752 times:

Take the actual travel times, and add at least one hour each segment for check in, etc. Acela, walk on, go, walk off. Must more efficient.

Peter


User currently offlineBA From United States of America, joined May 2000, 11153 posts, RR: 59
Reply 2, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 4748 times:

I do think that US and DL are affected slightly by Amtrak's Acela Express service. Afterall, it is faster if you include going to, and through the airport if you fly.
Flying time may be less, but the Acela Express will still get you there faster. Its really a shame though, the track limits the 150MPH Acela Express to 125MPH. Hopefully that will change soon when Amtrak improves the tracks.

Regards.



"Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need." - Khalil Gibran
User currently offlineUS330 From United States of America, joined Aug 2000, 3873 posts, RR: 13
Reply 3, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 4737 times:

From the recent Wall Street Journal article on the Acela, it would seem to me that Amtrak would need to do some major track maintenence before Acela ever becomes the threat they want/need it to become. In that article, it said that the Acela only reaches its top speed in a single 35 mile stretch, otherwise, it is forced to be at the same speed as commuter trains, and this mainly has to do with the tracks and bridges they must use, as many are at least 50 years old, and the same tracks and bridges are used by the commuter trains, so congestion becomes a problem as well.

User currently offlineDeltAirlines From United States of America, joined May 1999, 8912 posts, RR: 12
Reply 4, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 4714 times:

It does not take that much time on the shuttle. You don't need to be there an hour before the flight, I show up 15-30 minutes before. You just need to be at the gate 3 minutes before pushback. Then there is no hassle with baggage claim for the most part, since most travellers take their bags as carryon. So it's not as bad on the shuttles, and the shuttles still win by about an hour or so.

Jeff


User currently offlineMark_D. From Canada, joined Aug 2001, 1447 posts, RR: 5
Reply 5, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 4710 times:


DeltaAirlines and the shuttles still win by about an hour or so

It can be close though, if there're hassles not just with weather or airport delays, but even just car traffic getting to and from the departure and arrival airports.

Granted passenger rail travel in the States, --even in the Northeast corridor -- has not gotten much political support over the past decades (all kinds of reasons depending upon whom you talk to or want to believe, right up to the big automakers, truck and oil lobby guys weighing in to crowd train travel as far out of the picture as possible), but it seems like Amtrak in its bid to somehow someday become profitable is committing itself to its Acela service now, and is getting set for some political capital to go on to the next level when there'll be the infrastructure expenditures approved, so it can start to get the kind of support that the TGV and other high-speed trains count on elsewhere.

In the next ten years or so, especially if the ATC situation remains fairly crowded as it is in the Northeast, seems like rail travel might make yet more inroads in that market, even for business travelers. And maybe even extending out, for 500mile or less segments, to the Pennsylavania-Ohio-Michigan-Illinois areas and to Chicago, someday.


User currently offlineBoeing in pdx From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 4706 times:

yeah they still win if the can get flying but with american air travel in the state its in they will probably see boston before you do. and also i have been on Acela and it is ten times beter than an airliner in comfort. Plus you get to see the scenary

User currently onlineSTT757 From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 16892 posts, RR: 51
Reply 7, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 4676 times:

Right now Amtrak has 40% of the total NY-WAS market (that includes all flights,all airports and Greyhound), Acela Express is limited NY-WAS to 135 MPH due to the overhead caternary wires which power the trains and are about 70 years old. Right now NY-WAS on Acela Express is just over two hours (two hours twenty minutes) which is very competitive downtown to downtown with the airlines, in a few years that will be dropped to less than two hours (one hour forty-one hour fifty minutes) which will make Acela Express the fastest mode of transport NY-D.C. .

From NY to New Haven Connecticut the overhead wires are even older than the NY-WAS wires (80+ years), and due to the fact that those tracks are owned by Metro North Commuter railroad speeds are restrcited between NY and New Haven to 90 mph. The State of Connecticut is replacing those wires and should have the project done by 2010. That will increase speeds NY-New Haven CT. to around 125-135 mphs, New Haven -BOS has new wires and speeds reach 150 mph in three or four areas in Rhode Island, Massachsusetts and Northern CT. What restricts the speed of the trains North of New Haven to 150 in only a few areas is not track or wire conditiosn but the fact that there are too many tight curves and hills which the trains (even with there tilting technology) have to slow down for.

So to sum it all up, right now Amtrak has the largest share of the NY-WAS market of any SINGLE entity, and that share will grow in the next ten years as trips from Mid-Town Manhattan to Washington D.C. will drop below the magic 2 hour time. 2 hours is the magic number because that makes Acela Express QUICKER than the air shuttles with a nice cushion.

NY-BOS will drop to about two and a half hours making NY-BOS as competitive as Amtrak is today NY-WAS which as I stated before they get 40% of the business head to head with the airlines out of EWR,LGA and JFK plus Greyhound accounting for the other 60%.

But Amtrak's market is not just NY-WAS or NY-BOS, it's NY-Philly,Philly-Baltimore,Wilmington DE-NY,Wilmington DE.-WAS, Philly-WAS,Providence-Boston etc.. Check out the airlines' schedules and you'll see Amtrak has a near monopoly on these City pairs



Eastern Air lines flt # 701, EWR-MCO Boeing 757
User currently offlineWatewate From Canada, joined Nov 2000, 2284 posts, RR: 1
Reply 8, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 4663 times:

There was an article on one of the car magazines. The paticipants competed to see who would get to downtown NY first. They took US Air shuttle, Acela, Greyhound and a compact car, respectively. US Shuttle won over Acela to NYC (from DC, if I'm correct).

As stated before, Acela can't reach top speeds due to antique infrastructure it's forced to work with. The tracks are not even designed for high speed trains, so unless they build dedicated tracks (or revamp the tracks- which will still cost a bundle), Acela will always be held back a little.
At least the shuttles have the FF miles to entice riders...


User currently offlineBA From United States of America, joined May 2000, 11153 posts, RR: 59
Reply 9, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 4657 times:

Amtrak will slowly replace the current tracks with special high-speed tracks from Alstom. Same tracks as the ones that the French TGV runs on at high-speeds.

They're also going to replace the overhead catenary's with new Alstom ones.

Regards.



"Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need." - Khalil Gibran
User currently offlineDelta-flyer From United States of America, joined Jul 2001, 2676 posts, RR: 6
Reply 10, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 4645 times:

I think ultimately the Acela will carry the lion's share of traffic in the Northeast. It will be more economical, more environment-friendly, and even faster since two airports can be eliminated from the itinerary.

It will also free up airlines to do what they do best -- carry people on trips of over 300 miles.


User currently onlineSTT757 From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 16892 posts, RR: 51
Reply 11, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 4633 times:

Right now Amtrak has 40% of the total NY-WAS market (that includes all flights,all airports and Greyhound), Acela Express is limited NY-WAS to 135 MPH due to the overhead caternary wires which power the trains and are about 70 years old. Right now NY-WAS on Acela Express is just over two hours (two hours twenty minutes) which is very competitive downtown to downtown with the airlines, in a few years that will be dropped to less than two hours (one hour forty-one hour fifty minutes) which will make Acela Express the fastest mode of transport NY-D.C. .

From NY to New Haven Connecticut the overhead wires are even older than the NY-WAS wires (80+ years), and due to the fact that those tracks are owned by Metro North Commuter railroad speeds are restrcited between NY and New Haven to 90 mph. The State of Connecticut is replacing those wires and should have the project done by 2010. That will increase speeds NY-New Haven CT. to around 125-135 mphs, New Haven -BOS has new wires and speeds reach 150 mph in three or four areas in Rhode Island, Massachsusetts and Northern CT. What restricts the speed of the trains North of New Haven to 150 in only a few areas is not track or wire conditiosn but the fact that there are too many tight curves and hills which the trains (even with there tilting technology) have to slow down for.

So to sum it all up, right now Amtrak has the largest share of the NY-WAS market of any SINGLE entity, and that share will grow in the next ten years as trips from Mid-Town Manhattan to Washington D.C. will drop below the magic 2 hour time. 2 hours is the magic number because that makes Acela Express QUICKER than the air shuttles with a nice cushion.

NY-BOS will drop to about two and a half hours making NY-BOS as competitive as Amtrak is today NY-WAS which as I stated before they get 40% of the business head to head with the airlines out of EWR,LGA and JFK plus Greyhound accounting for the other 60%.

But Amtrak's market is not just NY-WAS or NY-BOS, it's NY-Philly,Philly-Baltimore,Wilmington DE-NY,Wilmington DE.-WAS, Philly-WAS,Providence-Boston etc.. Check out the airlines' schedules and you'll see Amtrak has a near monopoly on these City pairs



Eastern Air lines flt # 701, EWR-MCO Boeing 757
User currently offlineMeister808 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 973 posts, RR: 1
Reply 12, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 4632 times:

I think that, given a chance, high-speed train could be as much of a market-sector in the U.S. as it is in Europe. Right now, all we have thought about is the problems with putting it in the Northeast and all, but think about getting those trains out between some cities in the Midwest.. like OH, IN, IL, KY, MO, KS, and so on... they could engineer the trains to run faster, since they could easily run straight and fairly level on the plains... that would be an extremely lucrative market, since trains are so much more convenient that planes.. In France, the TGV is so much better than the planes, but the local airlines are not suffering too bad.

Oh well. I think that it is a threat, but only in a good sense.

-Meister



Twin Cessna 812 Victor, Minneapolis Center, we observe your operation in the immediate vicinity of extreme precipitation
User currently onlineSTT757 From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 16892 posts, RR: 51
Reply 13, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 4632 times:

Right now Amtrak has 40% of the total NY-WAS market (that includes all flights,all airports and Greyhound), Acela Express is limited NY-WAS to 135 MPH due to the overhead caternary wires which power the trains and are about 70 years old. Right now NY-WAS on Acela Express is just over two hours (two hours twenty minutes) which is very competitive downtown to downtown with the airlines, in a few years that will be dropped to less than two hours (one hour forty-one hour fifty minutes) which will make Acela Express the fastest mode of transport NY-D.C. .

From NY to New Haven Connecticut the overhead wires are even older than the NY-WAS wires (80+ years), and due to the fact that those tracks are owned by Metro North Commuter railroad speeds are restrcited between NY and New Haven to 90 mph. The State of Connecticut is replacing those wires and should have the project done by 2010. That will increase speeds NY-New Haven CT. to around 125-135 mphs, New Haven -BOS has new wires and speeds reach 150 mph in three or four areas in Rhode Island, Massachsusetts and Northern CT. What restricts the speed of the trains North of New Haven to 150 in only a few areas is not track or wire conditiosn but the fact that there are too many tight curves and hills which the trains (even with there tilting technology) have to slow down for.

So to sum it all up, right now Amtrak has the largest share of the NY-WAS market of any SINGLE entity, and that share will grow in the next ten years as trips from Mid-Town Manhattan to Washington D.C. will drop below the magic 2 hour time. 2 hours is the magic number because that makes Acela Express QUICKER than the air shuttles with a nice cushion.

NY-BOS will drop to about two and a half hours making NY-BOS as competitive as Amtrak is today NY-WAS which as I stated before they get 40% of the business head to head with the airlines out of EWR,LGA and JFK plus Greyhound accounting for the other 60%.

But Amtrak's market is not just NY-WAS or NY-BOS, it's NY-Philly,Philly-Baltimore,Wilmington DE-NY,Wilmington DE.-WAS, Philly-WAS,Providence-Boston etc.. Check out the airlines' schedules and you'll see Amtrak has a near monopoly on these City pairs



Eastern Air lines flt # 701, EWR-MCO Boeing 757
User currently offlineCba From United States of America, joined Jul 2000, 4531 posts, RR: 3
Reply 14, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 4608 times:

>>The stated goal of the Acela train service is to grab the business traveler from the air shuttles in much the same way that the TGV high-speed train has taken control of the short distance intercity market in France.

If the Acela train wants to do what was stated above, it needs to go a heck of a lot faster. The French TGV can go upwards of 250mph with the proper track. 125 or even 150mph is not even coming close.


User currently onlineSTT757 From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 16892 posts, RR: 51
Reply 15, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 4595 times:

The most important factor in high speed trains is not their top speed but their average speed.

If they can get the travel times down between NY and Washington to 1 hour 30 minutes or one hour 45 minutes that will make it much faster than the shuttles when you factor in the trips to and from the airports. Plus it's a more relaxed trip for business travelers to sit on the train all the way to mid-town Manhattan and work or rest along the way. On the shuttle you have to put up with transportation (either a cab,car service or subway) to get to and from the airport to your meeting etc..

Another thing to keep in mind though is that in this Country our airlines are private and have to make profits, if they don't they go out of business. Congress is trying to mold Amtrak into the same business for profity kind of company. The probelm is it can't, people hail the modern high speed trains of Europe or Japan. Problem is those rail lines are money losers big time. All passenger rail transportation whether the Paris subway, NYC Subway, French TGV or Japanese bullet trains all lose money. None of them makes a profit when you factor in the Billions it costs to build and maintain those thousands of miles of tracks and vast fleets of rail cars and pensions and benefits of the employees.

They're basically subsidized entity's providing the public with transportation and at the same time subsidizing various industry's from steel (tracks, rail equipment) to electronics (signals, communication,electric motors etc..) Basically European rail is just Airbus on a larger scale, they're there to provide jobs to European industry first, public transport second.

For what it cost the US to build one or two stealth Bombers (about $1-$2 Billion), that money could be used to upgrade high speed rail between BOS-NY-WAS on the NEC to the point where there would be travel times of 1 hour 20 minutes to DC and 1 hour 45 minutes NY BOS. Another two stealth bombers ($4 billon) would get you high speed mid-West rail corridors linking Chicago,Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus,Indianapolis etc.. Another $2 Billion would get you a South East high speed rail corridor linking DC-Richmond-Raleigh ,Greesnboro , Charlotte-Atlanta, Birmingham, New Orleans. Another $1 Billion would get you a high speed rail corridor linking Houston-Dallas-Austin-San Antonio-New Orleans. Another $ Billion would get you high speed corridor in Florida and so on and so on.

But after you build all these high speed rail corridors you still would have to subsized them because they'll still lose money and need constant upkeep.



Eastern Air lines flt # 701, EWR-MCO Boeing 757
User currently offlineSrbmod From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 16, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 4574 times:

Wow, Amtrak thinks Acela could be a threat to the airlines. In alot of ways, if Amtrak does become a threat to airlines' in the NEC, the airlines should ask for subsidies like what Amtrak gets. Amtrak was supposed to be self-supporting after a setdate, and has yet do so,and that date has come and gone. The government has not qualms about subsidising the only passenger railroad (one that they forced upon the railroads in the 1970s), but won't help airlines when they need help (example, George Bush and Eastern Airlines in the early 1990s). If some of the quasi-governmental agencies (Amtrak, the Post Office) were publicly held companies, their stockholders would have been yelling for people's heads years ago. Amtrak has never posted a profit in its' nearly 30 year exsistance, and the Post Office keeps raising postage rates and yet still losing money. The only way Amtrak could really cut into the airlines would be to offer a faster product at a cheaper price. Amtrak on the Washington-NY route costs $250 roundtrip with a each way time of 2 hours and 45 minutes (2 week advance purchase). Delta and U.S. Airways both offer a fare of $308 with a flight time ranging from 1 hour to 90 minutes. That $58 costs equates into over an hour savings in travel time. But some of that time saved is lost in getting into New York City from LGA. Penn Station is right in New York City, and an added advantage for Amtrak is no weather delays (except for heavy snows) to delay flights. Once Amtrak is able to get the travel times down to around what the airlines offer, they will not attract as many folks as they wished. Initially, they attracted folks with the novelity factor, they just need to maintain these folks with superior service and a better value than what the airlines' offer. Train travel will still have a place in the U.S.; not everybody likes to fly, and not everyone likes to go Greyhound.

User currently offlineSailorOrion From Germany, joined Feb 2001, 2058 posts, RR: 6
Reply 17, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 4574 times:

Well, people mentioned that the TGV traffic in France have captured more or less all the short-range air traffic. I don't quite agree with that statement as Air France, for exsample, operates hourly flight from Orly to Marseille and offers multiple daily connections from CDG to Marseille. Also the aircraft operated on this routes are 320-family aircraft, so there is a lot domestic air traffic even in France (#1 in Europe according to AEA).

Seeing the problem in Germany, where rail traffic gets loads of political support, it seems that high-speed trains are simply too expensive to operate, or why the heck should I buy a $150 round-trip train ticket (if I'm lucky) Munich-Hamburg when I can get a LH flight on that very same route for little more than half the price?


User currently offlineAirblue From San Marino, joined May 2001, 1825 posts, RR: 11
Reply 18, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 4564 times:

An real high-speed train service between NYC and WAS can be very interesting as feed to Newark and Baltimore BWI airports. I think CO can take a big advantage to take passengers from WAS, Philadelphia, Trenton, Baltimore to Newark and put them on its intercontinental network. If I remember I read somewhere that a connection between Newark Amtrack station and EWR will be ready very soon.

User currently offlineGsoflyer From United States of America, joined May 2001, 1093 posts, RR: 1
Reply 19, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 4543 times:

The only other areas I've heard of probably getting high speed rail service in the near future (next ten years) is the DC->RIC->RDU->GSO->CLT->ATL route. They are currently upgrading the track, crossings, eliminating crossings, etc down here in preperation.

Also, for everyone that says Acela could be used in other places. Not really, Acela works by drawing electricity fdrom overhead or from a 3rd rail (depending on setup). This is a problem when you get off the NE Corridor. The entire NE rail corridor is owned by Amtrak or small commuter rail companies. Amtrak will have a hard time selling the freight railroads on allowing amtrak or states to upgrade the tracks to get this high speed service. In fact, the Freight Railroads depise Amtrak.

That is why the RIC->RDU->GSO->CLT corridor is being looked at. The NC routes are owned by NCDOT, and RIC to RDU is abandoned.

But either way, this will not compete with the airlines down here. There is no way, even high speed rail, can compete with air travel. Especially with the high speed rail has to run the N-S length of NC and then a good portion ofthe E-W length then go north to DC. Not really feasible.


User currently offlineMark_D. From Canada, joined Aug 2001, 1447 posts, RR: 5
Reply 20, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 4539 times:


Well the juggernaut hasn't happened just yet, so it's not like anybody has to worry, really  Big grin

Passenger-rail travel, and especially the newfangled-high-speed variety, of course is a very politically broad-based endeavour, just because of the --generally publicly-funded-- rail infrastructure and upkeep investments required. It's not such a surprise, no matter how much window-dressing gets put on, like in the States and Canada, for the operating companies to be profitable or even public companies.

It's just part of life though, the air-travel industry has huge capitalisation too, just not anything fixed and tied down to the physical laneways, so way more configurable that way, and suitable for a truer competitive business environment among the companies participating. Doesn't mean that one's inherently more preferable to another, especially given the apple-and-oranges difficulty in making the comparison, but just that both are realities and will continue to evolve. Even if one gets displaced a bit at the expense of the other, for certain overlapping service niches.

Rail travel's still a tough sell in the States, especially with the fits and starts Amtrak still has to work with (and unrealistic Congressional expectations of 'showing profitability'). But this isn't anything etched in stone, and as needs, priorities and even political realities change, so too might the nature of rail transportation in the country.

In practical terms I figure the Northeast corridor will see more high-speed rail service this decade, even without big rail infrastructure upgrades attached. Next decade after that though, seems to me there'll be a lot of that going on, and not just in the Northeast either, but those other zones mentioned as well. Even Florida, Texas and Southern California'll probably get their own within-state networks for up-to-date rail service, in the next twenty or thirty years.

So of course down the road, travelers in those areas and especially for trips 500 miles or less, are going to have a lot more options to choose from. Just not immediately though.


User currently offlineZRB2 From United States of America, joined May 2000, 896 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 4 days ago) and read 4513 times:

I just flew from DCA to LGA two weeks ago and then I drove to NYC last weekend. Here's my take...

The flight was a last minute business emergency. I was in a cab at 10:20am to DCA, I was entering the terminal at 10:50am and I literally walked onto the USAirways shuttle that promptly pushed back at 11:00am and tookoff by 11:10. We landed at LGA by 11:45 and I was in a NYC cab heading over the Triborough Bridge by Noon. You can't beat that with Acela or anything! Now i have to add that there were no weather delays and ATC was running smoothly. The return flight later that evening was just as efficient.

I drove from D.C last weekend and got stuck in traffic hell on I-95 and the NJ Turnpike. It was due to heavy volume. the drive took me 5 1/2 hours each way and I'm told it should have been a 4 hour drive. No Way, I'd take the shuttle everytime if I could.


User currently offlineGsoflyer From United States of America, joined May 2001, 1093 posts, RR: 1
Reply 22, posted (13 years 3 months 1 week 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 4505 times:

One nice thing about Amtrak.... when it snows its not really a bother. Amtrak has heated switches across much of the NEC. And with virtually no weather delays from DC to BOS, Amtrak would be a definate Winter Plus.

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