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af773atmsp
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Amtrak turns 50

Sun May 02, 2021 1:51 am

50 years ago today the passenger rail network of the US forever changed with the formation of Amtrak. With the federal government's heavy investment in roads, highways, and airports, the railroads were left to fend for themselves. Through the 40s, 50s, and 60s, the passenger rail network across the US was cut significantly, and eventually the feds couldn't ignore it anymore, especially with the private freight railroads who operated the passenger services being in deep financial trouble. While Amtrak saved the passenger rail network in the US, what was left in 1971 was a skeleton of what had been an enormous network across the country operated by diverse railroads. In some areas passenger rail has improved since Amtrak formed, but in others it's either been stagnate or there's been cuts. With "Amtrak Joe" now president, we'll see if the political climate will be more in Amtrak's favor and it can come out of the pandemic stronger than its ever been. I won't get my hopes up too high on that though, since Obama also promised to bring major changes to Amtrak that either didn't happen or were in reality very minor.
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TWA772LR
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Sun May 02, 2021 5:10 am

Hopefully they push for inter regional HSR. Investing in Amtrak is cool but it still takes 2 days and a bus connection to go from Denver to San Francisco, via Emeryville.
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DIRECTFLT
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Sun May 02, 2021 8:36 pm

Amtrak 50th Anniversary - A Year of Celebration Official Video (1:47)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bxJAbbAR2w

They show a map (from 1971?) that seems to show service from DFW up past Wichita to Newton, Kansas, which is on the Southwest Chief Line.

Image
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ArchGuy1
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Tue May 04, 2021 4:10 am

Hope they can make America's passenger train system like what it was 100 years ago.
 
Bostrom
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Tue May 04, 2021 11:48 am

ArchGuy1 wrote:
Hope they can make America's passenger train system like what it was 100 years ago.


Steam powered? :)
 
frmrCapCadet
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Tue May 04, 2021 2:55 pm

AF77... Good summary.

My overview: except for the Boston New York Washington service I don't see a need for much true HSR. There is a need for faster trains and more frequency. Example, there is a long run from Vancouver BC, Everett, Seattle, Tacoma etc all the way down to San Diego. It now is mostly served but minimally and slow. It 'rents' shared tracks with freight operations. The tracks need to be augmented and improved so that passenger trains could average 80 mph. Much of the increase in speeds could be attained with (portable?) car level boarding at all stations. Then there are a lot of choke points. Aside: most improvements in RR times are getting rid of choke points. In my example, There are probably 30 or so stops between Vancouver and San Diego. That is both a strong point and a weak point. Strong in that a single train can provide a lot of point to point service in that 1400 miles. Weak, in that airlines can do it better if a passenger is going more than 400 miles (and close enough to a served airport). There are other reasons that persons may prefer a train to a plane: some illnesses, fear of flying, close to home and destination, recreation, sometimes faster, or more convenient.



I also see upgraded buses integrated with and augmenting rail service. There should be a 3 abreast and 2 abreast seating available, and the schedule flexible enough to intersect with rail service. These buses would also help assess the need to possible rail expansion. Some towns and rural areas will never get rail service.
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DiamondFlyer
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Tue May 04, 2021 3:27 pm

Bostrom wrote:
ArchGuy1 wrote:
Hope they can make America's passenger train system like what it was 100 years ago.


Steam powered? :)


They would be faster... NYC & PRR routinely ran faster 80 years ago with steam equipment than Amtrak does today...
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DIRECTFLT
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Tue May 04, 2021 4:12 pm

Bostrom wrote:
ArchGuy1 wrote:
Hope they can make America's passenger train system like what it was 100 years ago.


Steam powered? :)


Wouldn't steam power be kinder to the environment, or, would it be worse??
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DiamondFlyer
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Tue May 04, 2021 4:30 pm

DIRECTFLT wrote:
Bostrom wrote:
ArchGuy1 wrote:
Hope they can make America's passenger train system like what it was 100 years ago.


Steam powered? :)


Wouldn't steam power be kinder to the environment, or, would it be worse??


No, steam locomotives were able to convert roughly 10% of the energy produced into tractive effort. Diesel electrics can do 40% or so, so they're much more efficient.
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acecrackshot
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Tue May 04, 2021 4:58 pm

ArchGuy1 wrote:
Hope they can make America's passenger train system like what it was 100 years ago.


A model of an oligarchy?

A completely inflexible infrastructure that stifled growth?

This is like decrying the fall of the British Imperial air ship program.
 
Wacker1000
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Tue May 04, 2021 7:02 pm

af773atmsp wrote:
With "Amtrak Joe" now president, we'll see if the political climate will be more in Amtrak's favor and it can come out of the pandemic stronger than its ever been. I won't get my hopes up too high on that though, since Obama also promised to bring major changes to Amtrak that either didn't happen or were in reality very minor.


Just because an aging socialist that remembers the glory days of American rail supports it, doesn't mean its a good idea. The fact that Amtrak is less profitable than an airline speaks to the lack of demand stemming from the lack of network. It will never get public support unless they can cost effectively turn it into a product that people actually want to use.
 
PHLspecial
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Tue May 04, 2021 7:12 pm

Wacker1000 wrote:
af773atmsp wrote:
With "Amtrak Joe" now president, we'll see if the political climate will be more in Amtrak's favor and it can come out of the pandemic stronger than its ever been. I won't get my hopes up too high on that though, since Obama also promised to bring major changes to Amtrak that either didn't happen or were in reality very minor.


Just because an aging socialist that remembers the glory days of American rail supports it, doesn't mean its a good idea. The fact that Amtrak is less profitable than an airline speaks to the lack of demand stemming from the lack of network. It will never get public support unless they can cost effectively turn it into a product that people actually want to use.

Are highways profitable? (hint look at the highway trust fund)
 
Wacker1000
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Tue May 04, 2021 7:22 pm

PHLspecial wrote:
Wacker1000 wrote:
af773atmsp wrote:
With "Amtrak Joe" now president, we'll see if the political climate will be more in Amtrak's favor and it can come out of the pandemic stronger than its ever been. I won't get my hopes up too high on that though, since Obama also promised to bring major changes to Amtrak that either didn't happen or were in reality very minor.


Just because an aging socialist that remembers the glory days of American rail supports it, doesn't mean its a good idea. The fact that Amtrak is less profitable than an airline speaks to the lack of demand stemming from the lack of network. It will never get public support unless they can cost effectively turn it into a product that people actually want to use.

Are highways profitable? (hint look at the highway trust fund)


They serve a much greater percentage of the population and there is a demand for them. I cannot count the number of times I've used a federally funded highway this year but I can tell you how many Amtrak trains I've been on.
 
PHLspecial
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Tue May 04, 2021 7:36 pm

Wacker1000 wrote:
PHLspecial wrote:
Wacker1000 wrote:

Just because an aging socialist that remembers the glory days of American rail supports it, doesn't mean its a good idea. The fact that Amtrak is less profitable than an airline speaks to the lack of demand stemming from the lack of network. It will never get public support unless they can cost effectively turn it into a product that people actually want to use.

Are highways profitable? (hint look at the highway trust fund)


They serve a much greater percentage of the population and there is a demand for them. I cannot count the number of times I've used a federally funded highway this year but I can tell you how many Amtrak trains I've been on.

I don't get why you care about profitability for Amtrak. Amtrak has a steady amount of growing users as well. Again why do care about profit if trains can move people. Are highways profitable?
 
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ER757
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Tue May 04, 2021 7:37 pm

Wacker1000 wrote:
af773atmsp wrote:
With "Amtrak Joe" now president, we'll see if the political climate will be more in Amtrak's favor and it can come out of the pandemic stronger than its ever been. I won't get my hopes up too high on that though, since Obama also promised to bring major changes to Amtrak that either didn't happen or were in reality very minor.


Just because an aging socialist that remembers the glory days of American rail supports it, doesn't mean its a good idea. The fact that Amtrak is less profitable than an airline speaks to the lack of demand stemming from the lack of network. It will never get public support unless they can cost effectively turn it into a product that people actually want to use.

The idea of a passenger rail system in the US is good but in practice it's neither convenient nor cost effective for lot of folks on a lot of routes. I'll just give you a personal example. I live in the southern suburbs of Seattle, my sister lives just north of Portland. Amtrak runs a train several times per day between Seattle and Portland. There's a station about five miles north of me where it stops, but the parking there is pretty much only for commuters on the local run from Tacoma to Seattle that makes a stop there. Closest station to my destination is downtown Portland and no one in their right mind relishes the drive north across the river. The train trip takes over three hours even on the rare occasion it runs on schedule. I can drive door to door in 2.5 hours max unless it's afternoon commute time through Tacoma (and Lord knows I'd never start a trip at that time of day). It's 165 miles and if I get 30 MPG (I actually get slightly better) that's 5 gallons of gas - even at $4.00 a gallon that's only $20 each way, It's a no brainer. No Earthly reason to take Amtrack
 
Wacker1000
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Tue May 04, 2021 7:39 pm

PHLspecial wrote:
Wacker1000 wrote:
PHLspecial wrote:
Are highways profitable? (hint look at the highway trust fund)


They serve a much greater percentage of the population and there is a demand for them. I cannot count the number of times I've used a federally funded highway this year but I can tell you how many Amtrak trains I've been on.

I don't get why you care about profitability for Amtrak. Amtrak has a steady amount of growing users as well. Again why do care about profit if trains can move people. Are highways profitable?



Because I don't enjoy more of my paycheck going to ever increases taxes and nothing good coming of it. It is a massive money pit and those funds have plenty of other good uses.
 
PHLspecial
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Tue May 04, 2021 7:48 pm

ER757 wrote:
The idea of a passenger rail system in the US is good but in practice it's neither convenient nor cost effective for lot of folks on a lot of routes. I'll just give you a personal example. I live in the southern suburbs of Seattle, my sister lives just north of Portland. Amtrak runs a train several times per day between Seattle and Portland. There's a station about five miles north of me where it stops, but the parking there is pretty much only for commuters on the local run from Tacoma to Seattle that makes a stop there. Closest station to my destination is downtown Portland and no one in their right mind relishes the drive north across the river. The train trip takes over three hours even on the rare occasion it runs on schedule. I can drive door to door in 2.5 hours max unless it's afternoon commute time through Tacoma (and Lord knows I'd never start a trip at that time of day). It's 165 miles and if I get 30 MPG (I actually get slightly better) that's 5 gallons of gas - even at $4.00 a gallon that's only $20 each way, It's a no brainer. No Earthly reason to take Amtrack

That is a case of you should drive then. Like highways Amtrak is just a different mode of transport. I don't know when tracks was laid down but my guess that highways was built after the tracks have been long laid down. Of course tons of development is off highways and therefore you probably should drive. First the Portland, Seattle, Vancouver train needs serious track upgrades to reach 125 mph. Second the stations need development around them to support the usage as well. So yes Amtrak is not perfect but we need to change our development and let developers build around train stations. You are correct to drive.
 
DiamondFlyer
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Tue May 04, 2021 7:54 pm

Wacker1000 wrote:
PHLspecial wrote:
Wacker1000 wrote:

They serve a much greater percentage of the population and there is a demand for them. I cannot count the number of times I've used a federally funded highway this year but I can tell you how many Amtrak trains I've been on.

I don't get why you care about profitability for Amtrak. Amtrak has a steady amount of growing users as well. Again why do care about profit if trains can move people. Are highways profitable?



Because I don't enjoy more of my paycheck going to ever increases taxes and nothing good coming of it. It is a massive money pit and those funds have plenty of other good uses.


So Amtrak is where you want to start, not any other wasteful programs? EAS is substantially bigger waste of money... Amtrak isn't a waste of money, its a viable form of transportation, that's just been mismanaged since it became a political football.
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PHLspecial
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Tue May 04, 2021 7:58 pm

Wacker1000 wrote:
PHLspecial wrote:
Wacker1000 wrote:

They serve a much greater percentage of the population and there is a demand for them. I cannot count the number of times I've used a federally funded highway this year but I can tell you how many Amtrak trains I've been on.

I don't get why you care about profitability for Amtrak. Amtrak has a steady amount of growing users as well. Again why do care about profit if trains can move people. Are highways profitable?



Because I don't enjoy more of my paycheck going to ever increases taxes and nothing good coming of it. It is a massive money pit and those funds have plenty of other good uses.

Your taxes and my taxes don't do enough to support the highways we drive on. Mind you we roughly 80% on roads vs 20% on rail


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frmrCapCadet
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Tue May 04, 2021 9:47 pm

Upgrading RR tracks does not just help the admittedly marginal passenger trains, it also improves freight trains economics. That freight traffic is an essential part of US transportation, and given improvements could do even better.
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af773atmsp
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Wed May 05, 2021 12:28 am

frmrCapCadet wrote:
Upgrading RR tracks does not just help the admittedly marginal passenger trains, it also improves freight trains economics. That freight traffic is an essential part of US transportation, and given improvements could do even better.


Exactly. The freight railroads have cut a lot of track capacity since they began hurting from competition by highways (which I would like to point out were a government investment). They've cut so much capacity that now they're probably regretting turning some double-track mainlines into single-track and abandoning certain routes. Since the freight railroads probably won't pay for it themselves unless their traffic is bursting at the seams, then pushing for those improvements alongside increased passenger rail is the next best thing.
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PHLspecial
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Wed May 05, 2021 1:46 am

af773atmsp wrote:
frmrCapCadet wrote:
Upgrading RR tracks does not just help the admittedly marginal passenger trains, it also improves freight trains economics. That freight traffic is an essential part of US transportation, and given improvements could do even better.


Exactly. The freight railroads have cut a lot of track capacity since they began hurting from competition by highways (which I would like to point out were a government investment). They've cut so much capacity that now they're probably regretting turning some double-track mainlines into single-track and abandoning certain routes. Since the freight railroads probably won't pay for it themselves unless their traffic is bursting at the seams, then pushing for those improvements alongside increased passenger rail is the next best thing.

You can kinda thank precision scheduled railroading for that. Honestly with how little freight rail companies does maintenance there is a disaster waiting to happen. PSR had good intentions but bad rail freight CEOs. But yes highways and the suburban movement hurts the rail freight industry.
 
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DIRECTFLT
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Wed May 05, 2021 3:50 am

Wacker1000 wrote:
PHLspecial wrote:
Wacker1000 wrote:

They serve a much greater percentage of the population and there is a demand for them. I cannot count the number of times I've used a federally funded highway this year but I can tell you how many Amtrak trains I've been on.

I don't get why you care about profitability for Amtrak. Amtrak has a steady amount of growing users as well. Again why do care about profit if trains can move people. Are highways profitable?



Because I don't enjoy more of my paycheck going to ever increases taxes and nothing good coming of it. It is a massive money pit and those funds have plenty of other good uses.


It's a personal choice for me. I'd rather see my tax dollars "wasted" on rail transportation, than wasted on over-priced college tuition.
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Wed May 05, 2021 7:09 am

ArchGuy1 wrote:
Hope they can make America's passenger train system like what it was 100 years ago.

It can only be achieve by forbidding interstate automobile traffic on highway and also ground all domestic flights along any railway corridor
Whether it is a good idea is another question
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PHLspecial
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Wed May 05, 2021 5:30 pm

Wacker1000 wrote:
PHLspecial wrote:
Wacker1000 wrote:

They serve a much greater percentage of the population and there is a demand for them. I cannot count the number of times I've used a federally funded highway this year but I can tell you how many Amtrak trains I've been on.

I don't get why you care about profitability for Amtrak. Amtrak has a steady amount of growing users as well. Again why do care about profit if trains can move people. Are highways profitable?



Because I don't enjoy more of my paycheck going to ever increases taxes and nothing good coming of it. It is a massive money pit and those funds have plenty of other good uses.


Looks at the airline industry who just got 50 billion dollars. Who also got bailed out after 9/11. Remember airliners private companies as well. Look at the essential air service program. Is that a waste of money as well? Not much flying demand from the small communities as well.
Amtrak serves to connect people like airliners do. To call Amtrak a waste sad. Both Amtrak and the essential air service program help keep communities connected to the rest of the U.S.
 
Wacker1000
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Wed May 05, 2021 6:37 pm

PHLspecial wrote:
Wacker1000 wrote:
PHLspecial wrote:
I don't get why you care about profitability for Amtrak. Amtrak has a steady amount of growing users as well. Again why do care about profit if trains can move people. Are highways profitable?



Because I don't enjoy more of my paycheck going to ever increases taxes and nothing good coming of it. It is a massive money pit and those funds have plenty of other good uses.


Looks at the airline industry who just got 50 billion dollars. Who also got bailed out after 9/11. Remember airliners private companies as well. Look at the essential air service program. Is that a waste of money as well? Not much flying demand from the small communities as well.
Amtrak serves to connect people like airliners do. To call Amtrak a waste sad. Both Amtrak and the essential air service program help keep communities connected to the rest of the U.S.


Bailing out airlines was and will always be a mistake. They should have been allowed to fail like companies in every other industry. Someone would have picked up the pieces, the industry would have readjusted to the correct size, life would have gone on, and the surviving companies would have been there because they were the best and not because they were large enough to keep competition out. I was really hoping that after some consolidation and a decade of financial success they would have been in much stronger positions but the same idiots that ran the companies into the ground before are still running the show and they're still only looking at short term returns rather than long term longevity all while spewing corporate cliches to convince everyone that the "new" trend isn't the same one that didn't work in the 90s and 00s.

The government buying the remains of a failed and antiquated industry like passenger rail was an even dumber financial decision. Why don't we buy the remains of every company that offered a product that is no longer in demand just to keep that industry going? I really hate computers - could go for a good mechanical typewriter right about now.....

If whatever all of you support dumping into Amtrak was dumped into highways, it would benefit everyone across the US rather than the few people with a rail fetish or are lucky enough to live in the north east corridor.
 
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DIRECTFLT
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Re: Amtrak turns 50

Sat May 08, 2021 3:39 pm

PHLspecial wrote:
Wacker1000 wrote:
PHLspecial wrote:
I don't get why you care about profitability for Amtrak. Amtrak has a steady amount of growing users as well. Again why do care about profit if trains can move people. Are highways profitable?



Because I don't enjoy more of my paycheck going to ever increases taxes and nothing good coming of it. It is a massive money pit and those funds have plenty of other good uses.


Looks at the airline industry who just got 50 billion dollars. Who also got bailed out after 9/11. Remember airliners private companies as well. Look at the essential air service program. Is that a waste of money as well? Not much flying demand from the small communities as well.
Amtrak serves to connect people like airliners do. To call Amtrak a waste sad. Both Amtrak and the essential air service program help keep communities connected to the rest of the U.S.


And Airlines have.... Stock Holders....

As to passenger rail on undedicated / shared track with freight rail companies. Here's a sample of delays from the last few days from the Amtrak Alerts Twitter feed:

The Empire Builder#8, that left Seattle on 5/6 was being delayed due to single tracking operations and freight train interference. Currently operating approx. 4 hours late.

California Zephyr Train 6 that departed Emeryville (EMY) on 5/6 is currently operating approx. 5 hours late due to earlier freight train interference, police activity and speed restrictions east of Winnemucca (WNN).

Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle Train 1/421 that departed New Orleans (NOL)/Chicago (CHI) on 5/5 / 5/4 is being delayed between Palm Springs (PSN) and Ontario (ONA) due to heavy freight train interference in the area.

Auto Train 53 that departed Lorton (LOR) on 5/5 is back on the move operating approx. 14hr 30min late following an earlier disabled freight train that was blocking the tracks south of Florence (FLO) and a crew change.
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