THE magazine of railroading

SEARCH TRAINSMAG.COM

Enter keywords or a search phrase below:

"Off the Rails, Again and Again" The City Journal's Plea to End Long Distance Trains

1718 views
31 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • 1,268 posts
"Off the Rails, Again and Again" The City Journal's Plea to End Long Distance Trains
Posted by Victrola1 on Thursday, April 20, 2017 2:13 PM

Here’s the reality that a New York representative like Schumer should certainly understand. The safety and convenience of passengers on the heavily traveled Northeast Corridor of Amtrak, including NJ Transit and Long Island Rail Road commuters who ride on trains using Amtrak infrastructure, are being sacrificed for the quixotic notion of maintaining a long-distance national rail system. That system, which includes many lightly traveled lines, has drained Amtrak of its resources for years, sending hundreds of millions of dollars in profits that Amtrak actually earns in the Northeast Corridor to other areas of the country and requiring the train system to go to Congress when it needs money for additional infrastructure investment.

https://www.city-journal.org/html/rails-again-and-again-15142.html

An article from the City Journal on ending long distance passenger trains to concentrate resources on the Northeast Corridor. 

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • 702 posts
Posted by NKP guy on Thursday, April 20, 2017 4:19 PM

Some points I'd suggest as a reply to the City Journal article:

1.  Desiring, funding, and operating a national long distance network of Amtrak trains is most certainly not quixotic as far as their customers are concerned, and hasn't been for over 45 years.

2.  There will be no national support in Congress from any state outside the NEC to support Amtrak whatsoever.  Why would they?  How would Congressmen justifty their continued support?

3.  Therefore the proposed death of the LD trains will lead directly to the death of Amtrak.  

4.  Passengers on whatever trains remain in the NEC will pay dramatically higher fares; are NJT and MetroNorth prepared to operate and maintain Penn Station, the Hell Gate and Portal bridges, to say nothing of paying for the new sub-Hudson tunnels?

5.  People on the East Coast need to support Long Distance trains so people in Ohio and elsewhere will give a damn about trains that serve only the NEC.

Capice?

 

 

  • Member since
    September, 2010
  • 834 posts
Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Thursday, April 20, 2017 4:55 PM

+1

  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: Denver / La Junta
  • 8,540 posts
Posted by mudchicken on Thursday, April 20, 2017 5:06 PM

+2

ps - Where are these under-utilized LD trains the witless wonder babbles-on about? ... and I assume this sheltered clown has never been west of the Alleghenies?

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
  • Member since
    November, 2005
  • 3,575 posts
Posted by wanswheel on Thursday, April 20, 2017 5:27 PM

The author of the article in 2010

  • Member since
    April, 2016
  • 80 posts
Posted by Philly Amtrak Fan on Thursday, April 20, 2017 6:07 PM

NKP guy

Some points I'd suggest as a reply to the City Journal article:

5.  People on the East Coast need to support Long Distance trains so people in Ohio and elsewhere will give a damn about trains that serve only the NEC.

Capice?

Give us in Philly a direct train to Chicago (and no the Cardinal which takes forever) and we might ride it.

I like the LD system. I've taken Amtrak from Philly to California 3 times the past 20 years. But there are some worthless trains that travel hundreds of miles through the middle of nowhere. If they were replaced with trains that served more people the LD system would be more popular.

ACY
  • Member since
    August, 2013
  • 2,838 posts
Posted by ACY on Thursday, April 20, 2017 7:24 PM

This is myopia at its finest: the plaintive plea of a big city dweller who does not understand that this country extends all the way to the Pacific Ocean and does not end at the Hudson River. Just because his own needs are satisfied by the short distance trains, does not mean his fellow citizens in less populous States should go without rail transportation service. He needs to go back to school and learn that living in a Society means the needs of all citizens must be met --- not just those relatively few who happen to live in the big cities of the East.

Tom 

  • Member since
    March, 2013
  • 284 posts
Posted by CJtrainguy on Thursday, April 20, 2017 7:28 PM

Philly Amtrak Fan

I like the LD system. I've taken Amtrak from Philly to California 3 times the past 20 years. But there are some worthless trains that travel hundreds of miles through the middle of nowhere. If they were replaced with trains that served more people the LD system would be more popular.

Just out of curiosity, which are those "worthless" LD lines?

Any Amtrak train traveling "hundreds of miles through the middle of nowhere" would at first glance seem to refer to one or more of these: The Sunset Limited, the Southwest Chief, the California Zephyr, the Empire Builder. Certainly it can't refer to any LD train east of the Mississippi, or any of the West Coast trains.

I've traveled Chicago-LA on the Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited and LA-Chicago on the Southwest Chief and while there are stretches of magnificent open space and mountains, it's not fair to say there's hundreds of miles of nothing. People got on and off at every station along the way, often many more than I thought would be traveling to a station I barely knew existed prior to my trip.

I've only traveled Osceola, IA-Denver on the California Zephyr, but it too was well frequented. Driving along I-80 Omaha - Denver seemingly passes a whole lot of nothing, but there are still towns and people out there.

  • Member since
    April, 2016
  • 80 posts
Posted by Philly Amtrak Fan on Thursday, April 20, 2017 8:37 PM

CJtrainguy

 

 
Philly Amtrak Fan

I like the LD system. I've taken Amtrak from Philly to California 3 times the past 20 years. But there are some worthless trains that travel hundreds of miles through the middle of nowhere. If they were replaced with trains that served more people the LD system would be more popular.

 

 

Just out of curiosity, which are those "worthless" LD lines?

Any Amtrak train traveling "hundreds of miles through the middle of nowhere" would at first glance seem to refer to one or more of these: The Sunset Limited, the Southwest Chief, the California Zephyr, the Empire Builder. Certainly it can't refer to any LD train east of the Mississippi, or any of the West Coast trains.

I've traveled Chicago-LA on the Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited and LA-Chicago on the Southwest Chief and while there are stretches of magnificent open space and mountains, it's not fair to say there's hundreds of miles of nothing. People got on and off at every station along the way, often many more than I thought would be traveling to a station I barely knew existed prior to my trip.

I've only traveled Osceola, IA-Denver on the California Zephyr, but it too was well frequented. Driving along I-80 Omaha - Denver seemingly passes a whole lot of nothing, but there are still towns and people out there.

 

I've been on the SWC and CZ. The SWC is a connection from Chicago (and anywhere east of Chicago) to get to LA while the CZ is the same from Chicago to the Bay Area (and also includes Denver and Salt Lake City). Not worthless. The Sunset Limited doesn't have good ridership and revenue but is the only connection between the two most populous states in the US (although the train leaves San Antonio late at night and arrives in Los Angeles before 6am). It would be better with a better schedule (and go back to serving Phoenix) but it serves a purpose.

On the other hand, the Empire Builder is Chicago to Seattle/Portland which is way less populous and IMO less of an tourist attraction. The only other major markets between are Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Spokane. Amtrak is better off running separate trains between Chicago-Milwaukee-Minneapolis and Seattle-Spokane. Between Minneapolis and Spokane is worthless. Montana and North Dakota are two of the least populous states in the country and the train travels over 500 miles through Montana for a population less than a million. Seattle is two days away from Chicago. So is Florida, a way more attractive destination (and the Floridian also passed through Louisville and Nashville, neither of which have Amtrak service anymore). Now Chicago (and west) passengers to Florida now have to travel to Washington and transfer there (the City of New Orleans would be an option if there was service between New Orleans and Florida).

I would consider the Palmetto worthless. It goes all the way down south to Savannah and stops. That would be like the Lake Shore Limited stopping in South Bend or the Southwest Chief stopping in Flagstaff. But the train does have good ridership (but mostly between New York and Washington).

And the most worthless train to me actually is east of the Mississippi, the Cardinal. We have a Chicago to New York train already and we have a Chicago to Washington train already. If you wanted a second Chicago to New York train, go through Pittsburgh and Philadelphia like the old Broadway Limited/Three Rivers which took about six hours less than the Cardinal. So bypass most of Pennsylvania and force Harrisburg and Lancaster passengers to transfer in Pittsburgh (a horrible transfer, a four hour wait in Pittsburgh westbound) to get to Chicago, run the train another 200 miles and six extra hours and for what? To serve another small population state, West Virginia. The train goes through Indianapolis and Cincinnati but Cincinnati in the graveyard shift both ways and Indy not much better. So we in PA lost our train to Chicago so West Virginia passengers can go to Chicago (or New York)? You can't go from Lancaster or Harrisburg to Chicago but you can go from White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia or Rugby, North Dakota to Chicago? Nashville, Louisville, Columbus, and Las Vegas don't have any trains but Shelby, Montana does? And we're paying tax money for that service. If Amtrak doesn't realize Las Vegas is more important than Thurmond, West Virginia they're idiots. The only reason the Cardinal was chosen instead of the Broadway Limited (or other trains) was because of Senator Byrd so I refer to the Cardinal as "Byrd Crap".

Last time I returned from Chicago, the Capitol Limited was about 3-4 hours late, I missed my connection to Philly and had to wait in a long line to change my ticket. I shouldn't have had to transfer or spend a ton of time on the Cardinal (I actually made it back before the Cardinal even with the delay). The Broadway Limited/Three Rivers should still be running today instead of Byrd Crap.

  • Member since
    February, 2016
  • 398 posts
Posted by JPS1 on Thursday, April 20, 2017 9:02 PM

If the long distance trains are a critical for small town America, how come they don't serve the following communities in Texas:  Abilene, Midland, Odessa, Corpus Christi, Harlingen, Brownsville, McAllen, Amarillo, and Lubbock?  All these cities have substantial populations.  Their only commercial passenger transport services are provided by buses or airlines. The argument that Amtrak’s long distance trains provide a vital service that could not be provided by buses or better air service is not supported by the data. 

Meanwhile, the long distance trains have been the largest contributor to Amtrak’s continuing operating losses for decades.  Whereas the NEC and the State Support trains have the potential to cover most if not all of their fully allocated costs, I cannot think of anyone who believes that the long distance trains will ever get there.
 
The answer to the regional political support argument is simple.  Privatize Amtrak.  It probably could make a go of it in the NEC, especially if an third party took control of the infrastructure.  And several of the state corridors, with the right price and expense controls, probably could make a go of it in their corridors.  But the long distance trains probably will never make a go of it.
 
Why should the federal government be in the passenger railroad business?  It let numerous airlines and at least one major intercity bus company fold because they failed.  It did not establish a national airline or a national bus company.  It should get out of the railroad passenger business.  
 

Rio Grande Valley, CFI,CFII

ACY
  • Member since
    August, 2013
  • 2,838 posts
Posted by ACY on Thursday, April 20, 2017 9:55 PM

JPS1

If the long distance trains are a critical for small town America, how come they don't serve the following communities in Texas:  Abilene, Midland, Odessa, Corpus Christi, Harlingen, Brownsville, McAllen, Amarillo, and Lubbock?  All these cities have substantial populations. 

Amtrak also doesn't serve my town of Hagerstown, Maryland. Nor does it serve my home town of Akron, Ohio. Nor even the State Capitals of Ohio and Arizona. Nor the entire State of South Dakota. Amtrak does what it can with the limited resources at its disposal. Just because it doesn't do everything you want is no resason to conclude it doesn't do anything anybody wants. 

 
Why should the federal government be in the passenger railroad business? It should get out of the railroad passenger business. 
 
Indeed. And why should the Federal Government provide an Interstate Highway System at taxpayer expense? And why don't the airlines provide their own air traffic control system instead of relying on the Federal Government and Federal employees? And why don't the Mississippi River barge companies dredge the river to keep the channels clear, instead of relying on the Army Corps of Engineers?
 
The US Government has a lot of transportation policies that can be questioned if you want to look for them. Why single out Amtrak?  
 
 

Tom

 

  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 9,798 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Friday, April 21, 2017 6:41 AM

It should be noted that the "City Journal" is published by the Manhattan Institute, a think tank with a decidedly conservative point of view.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    December, 2008
  • From: Toronto, Canada
  • 882 posts
Posted by 54light15 on Friday, April 21, 2017 8:20 AM

This is probably a dumb question but could the NEC exist on its own as a profitable company? Boston to Washington or only NYC-Wash? NY-Phil? 

  • Member since
    February, 2016
  • 398 posts
Posted by JPS1 on Friday, April 21, 2017 11:52 AM

[quote user="ACY"] Why single out Amtrak? /quote]

In part because Amtrak, which is a commercial business owned by the federal government, is the only commercial transport entity that I know of that gets a large cash subsidy directly from the federal government.  For 2010 through 2015 it averaged $1.8 billion per year.  In addition, Amtrak was able to borrow $616 million of low cost, federally subsidized loans through the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program.

My argument is not against passenger trains.  It is against the long distance trains, which serve less than one percent of intercity travelers. 

For the NEC, as well as other potentially viable corridors, privatization of Amtrak could result in a better outcome.  This would be especially true if an independent third party owned the infrastructure, and operations were opened to competition. Amtrak is a failed enterprise.  It has lost more than $32.5 billion before restatement in 2009 constant dollars.  It is time to try something else.     

Highways, airways, waterways, etc., for the most part, are not commercial businesses.  They are infrastructure open to commercial and noncommercial users.  They are not expected to earn a profit, but most of the users ultimately pay for them.  Arguably the commercial users pay their fair share of the cost of the infrastructure. 

The government is not in the intercity bus, airline, waterway, etc. businesses.  Why should it be in the passenger railroad business?

Whether the government's policies regarding airways, highways, waterways, etc. are optimized is irrelevant.  The question is how much money should be devoted to passenger rail?  And where should it be invested?

Rio Grande Valley, CFI,CFII

  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • 1,268 posts
Posted by Victrola1 on Friday, April 21, 2017 12:22 PM
ACY
  • Member since
    August, 2013
  • 2,838 posts
Posted by ACY on Friday, April 21, 2017 1:47 PM

    

Highways, airways, waterways, etc., for the most part, are not commercial businesses.  They are infrastructure open to commercial and noncommercial users.  They are not expected to earn a profit, but most of the users ultimately pay for them.  Arguably the commercial users pay their fair share of the cost of the infrastructure. 

The government is not in the intercity bus, airline, waterway, etc. businesses.  

 

[/quote]

I disagree with your premise. Highways, airways, and waterways may not be commercial businesses, but trucking lines, bus lines, airlines, air freight companies, and barge lines are. If the Government subsidizes them, then the Government is participating in those businesses. To suggest that these commercial users actually repay 100% of what the Government spends to serve them (or anything close to that) is laughable. Just look at he Highway Trust Fund and the need to spend extra money on highways year after year to compensate for its shortcomings. It has been amply proven that the lion's share of damage to highways is caused by heavy trucks, and damage from automobiles is almost negligible. 

Compared to this, Amtrak L-D is a drop in the bucket. 

Tom

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 2,340 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, April 21, 2017 1:59 PM

We would not have an airline industry without a Department of Defense to keep the airline manufacturers afloat with defense orders.     No way would they survive on commercial orders alone.    Europeans found out about that a long time ago when they formed Airbus and tried to have it stay purely commercial.    Didn't work out for them.

Further, as in the privately run passenger train days, a lot of the airline flights in the United States are only marginally profitable and the only item making them profitable is the air cargo or the mail they carry in the hold.    60 minutes or some national news mag did a story pre-911 before they started all these BS charges on how some flights would fly a long distance roundtrip and only early approx $800-1100 in revenue, then when the mail and some air cargo was added in the revenue increased.

Here is a good documentary:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdleHhes748

It's ironic but we might come to see a day when there are no U.S. Airlines.

  • Member since
    February, 2016
  • 398 posts
Posted by JPS1 on Friday, April 21, 2017 2:45 PM

54light15

This is probably a dumb question but could the NEC exist on its own as a profitable company? Boston to Washington or only NYC-Wash? NY-Phil? 

In 2016 the NEC had an operating profit of $478.7 million or 24 cents per passenger mile.  This was an increase of 829.5 percent over the 2010 results.  

 
What were the bottom line results on a fully allocated cost basis?  We don’t know.  Amtrak does not reveal how it allocates its capital expenses (depreciation, interest, and miscellaneous items) by service line.
 
Speculating that the NEC wears 80 percent of Amtrak’s capital expenses, and further assuming that none of the operating profit flows to support the other two service lines, the fully allocated NEC loss in 2016 would have been $225 million or 11 cents per passenger mile.
 
There are hundreds of variables that would have to be considered in NEC pricing and expenses for it to breakeven.   Most probably it would take a combination of price increases, always difficult given the alternatives to Amtrak in the NEC, plus labor and other expense savings.  Labor is the biggie.
 
The good news is the NEC has been moving steady toward self-sufficiency since 2010.  Two stumbling blocks could prevent it from getting there:  the capital improvements required to upgrade the NEC and politics. 
 
The best way to eliminate or at least reduce the politics is to privatize the NEC and open it to rail competition.   Doing so could result in a successor to Amtrak that could cut it as an investor owned, market driven entity.

Rio Grande Valley, CFI,CFII

ACY
  • Member since
    August, 2013
  • 2,838 posts
Posted by ACY on Friday, April 21, 2017 6:36 PM

JPS1:

Your argument relies strictly on profit and loss. It's another way of restating the old and discredited idea that Government ought to be run just like a business. If the function of Government is to serve the needs of the people, then there are some Government activities that will be necessary, but won't pay for themselves. That's reality. 

I agree that Amtrak ought to be run as efficiently as possible, but your draconian approach just ignores the realities of National needs as they meet practicalities. 

Tom

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 11,292 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Friday, April 21, 2017 6:54 PM

I know they protect the country and all - but just how much profit has the military turned in the past century?  Congress, do they turn a profit for the country?  We have been deficit spending for eons.

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

  • Member since
    September, 2011
  • 2,954 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Friday, April 21, 2017 10:36 PM

54light15

This is probably a dumb question but could the NEC exist on its own as a profitable company? Boston to Washington or only NYC-Wash? NY-Phil? 

 

While Amtrak says they make their "above the rail costs", they need big subsidies for track, catenary, draw bridges, tunnels, rolling stock, etc.  And they need tens of $billions to bring the corridor up to a state of good repair and modern standards.  If the corridor was privatized, they would have to pay property taxes in some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 2,340 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, April 22, 2017 12:59 AM

BaltACD

I know they protect the country and all - but just how much profit has the military turned in the past century?  Congress, do they turn a profit for the country?  We have been deficit spending for eons. 

Indirectly they do in areas but they are not allowed to keep it.    For example, even though the Federal Reserve is private because of the monetary intermediation, it is estimated they profit about $20-30 Billion a year at times but that money is returned into the Treasury because they are not allowed to keep money they make over their Federal role of intermediation.     Likewise when the Pentagon or DoD invades a country like Iraq they obtain substantial amount of money in various assets such as currency and gold but again it pales in comparison to the invasion cost and likewise they are not allowed to keep the money.    Also some additional trade is effected a well.    Also, like NASA some DoD inventions say like GPS (and even the Internet) have made it over to the civilian side but the Pentagon is not allowed to license it or profit from it.

A lot of the business and IT programming langugages were created by the DoD Pentagon.   COBOL - Navy Dept - Adm Grace Hopper, Assembler - Navy Dept - Adm Grace Hopper, a few more.

Only point I am making is the money does not all go down some dark hole, we do see Economic and sometimes financial returns from some of the government money spent.   It's also not a total loss because they are not allowed to license or make a profit on it because even without the profit our Economy gains from the innovation and invention.     On the other hand there is also very substantial waste.    I would be curious how the equation balances out between waste and innovation benefits but nobody tracks it.

Also when I was in the Army in the early to mid-1980's their imaging technology was on a par much greater than you saw in the movie Star Wars at the time.   Today it is even more advanced with FLIR.   But I could scan the landscape with a TOW II thermal sight and there was no where a human being could hide without me being able to detect the thermal signature and outline.    The sight was so powerful it could see the human body's thermal signature through brush, some types of camoflage netting as well as cardboard.    Even when the human was in a house, if they got anywhere near a window I could pick them out.    It was pretty amazing back then.    I can't even begin to guess how much better FLIR technology is.    Warfare is very deadly these days due to our technology and thats why you see the high body counts on the opposing side when we go to war......someday that same technology will be used against us by a rival power like China or Russia.    We have  been very lucky so far our fights have only been against third world countries with mostly obsolete technology.    Very lucky.

Went to the 101st Airborne 2009 reunion and the Active Duty soldiers that were still using the TOW now called ITAS TOW, said the Afghans referred to it as "the Finger of God" because of how precisely accurate it was and the casualties it would inflict.

  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • 784 posts
Posted by CandOforprogress2 on Sunday, April 23, 2017 4:52 PM

Who is the "City Journal" and why should I care?

https://www.city-journal.org/  Seems like another front for the CATO Institute.

If I want to read about transit I will read "Metro Magazine" http://www.metro-magazine.com/ BTW went from all bus to mix of rail and bus 15 years ago

  • Member since
    February, 2016
  • 398 posts
Posted by JPS1 on Monday, April 24, 2017 1:44 PM

MidlandMike
 

While Amtrak says they make their "above the rail costs", they need big subsidies for track, catenary, draw bridges, tunnels, rolling stock, etc.  And they need tens of $billions to bring the corridor up to a state of good repair and modern standards.  If the corridor was privatized, they would have to pay property taxes in some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

Based on 2016 figures, if all the operating profit earned on the NEC were dedicated to it, the capital shortage would have been about $225 million, which probably could be covered through a combination of fare increases and expense control.

One way to privatize the NEC would be to spin the infrastructure off to a separate non-profit entity.  Give it the same tax advantages enjoyed by airports and highways, ie. no taxes, low cost financing, etc.  This would put it on a level platform with other modes of transportation.

Some capital upgrades are needed for the NEC.  Whether everything on the wish list is needed or at least needs to be done sooner rather than later is debatable.  The capital upgrades, however, should be ultimately paid for by the users.     

Open the system to any potential operator that meets the operating and safety standards.  If an operator wants to run a bare bones coach train along the NEC, with only peanuts and beverages at a passenger's seat, let him give it a go.  Or if an operator wants to run a non-stop train from Washington to New York, with two bottles of booze included in the ticket price, let her have a go at it. Let the market place decide!  Just like it has for commercial air, buses, etc.

Rio Grande Valley, CFI,CFII

  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: Chicagoland
  • 441 posts
Posted by cbq9911a on Monday, April 24, 2017 3:28 PM

Victrola1

Here’s the reality that a New York representative like Schumer should certainly understand. The safety and convenience of passengers on the heavily traveled Northeast Corridor of Amtrak, including NJ Transit and Long Island Rail Road commuters who ride on trains using Amtrak infrastructure, are being sacrificed for the quixotic notion of maintaining a long-distance national rail system. That system, which includes many lightly traveled lines, has drained Amtrak of its resources for years, sending hundreds of millions of dollars in profits that Amtrak actually earns in the Northeast Corridor to other areas of the country and requiring the train system to go to Congress when it needs money for additional infrastructure investment.

https://www.city-journal.org/html/rails-again-and-again-15142.html

An article from the City Journal on ending long distance passenger trains to concentrate resources on the Northeast Corridor. 

The reality is that long distance trains serve a real transportation function.  They serve places that don't have the population to support air service.  They serve places where driving is dangerous at certain times.

Example - the Empire Builder between Minneapolis and Spokane.    The 22 stops between the two cities provide enough traffic to justify a train.  Maybe 4 of the stops can justify air service.

  • Member since
    October, 2008
  • From: Calgary
  • 1,416 posts
Posted by cx500 on Monday, April 24, 2017 4:18 PM

"One way to privatize the NEC would be to spin the infrastructure off to a separate non-profit entity.  Give it the same tax advantages enjoyed by airports and highways, ie. no taxes, low cost financing, etc.  This would put it on a level platform with other modes of transportation."

Glad you are recognizing that all forms of transportation are being subsidized, even if I don't quite understand why it is only bad if it is certain types of passenger rail.  And if the same benefits were provided to the long distant routes and flowed back to Amtrak, their financials would improve dramatically too.

 

  • Member since
    April, 2016
  • 80 posts
Posted by Philly Amtrak Fan on Monday, April 24, 2017 6:06 PM

cbq9911a
The reality is that long distance trains serve a real transportation function.  They serve places that don't have the population to support air service.  They serve places where driving is dangerous at certain times. Example - the Empire Builder between Minneapolis and Spokane.    The 22 stops between the two cities provide enough traffic to justify a train.  Maybe 4 of the stops can justify air service.

What is your destination of "justifying a train" as opposed to "justifying air service"? Unless you've been on the EB, you probably can't name most of the 22 towns between them. Nobody lives there, nobody wants to go there, so no they don't deserve rail service, at least federally funded. If Montana and North Dakota wants trains, they should have to pay for it. They're not paying for the Pennsylvanian, why should be in Pennsylvania have to pay for their worthless crap?

  • Member since
    July, 2015
  • 27 posts
Posted by forester6291 on Monday, April 24, 2017 8:26 PM

JPS1

If the long distance trains are a critical for small town America, how come they don't serve the following communities in Texas:  Abilene, Midland, Odessa, Corpus Christi, Harlingen, Brownsville, McAllen, Amarillo, and Lubbock?  All these cities have substantial populations.  Their only commercial passenger transport services are provided by buses or airlines. The argument that Amtrak’s long distance trains provide a vital service that could not be provided by buses or better air service is not supported by the data. 

Meanwhile, the long distance trains have been the largest contributor to Amtrak’s continuing operating losses for decades.  Whereas the NEC and the State Support trains have the potential to cover most if not all of their fully allocated costs, I cannot think of anyone who believes that the long distance trains will ever get there.
 
The answer to the regional political support argument is simple.  Privatize Amtrak.  It probably could make a go of it in the NEC, especially if an third party took control of the infrastructure.  And several of the state corridors, with the right price and expense controls, probably could make a go of it in their corridors.  But the long distance trains probably will never make a go of it.
 
Why should the federal government be in the passenger railroad business?  It let numerous airlines and at least one major intercity bus company fold because they failed.  It did not establish a national airline or a national bus company.  It should get out of the railroad passenger business.  
 
 

how much govt money do the highways get, and the airline industry?

  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • 784 posts
Posted by CandOforprogress2 on Monday, April 24, 2017 8:51 PM

The infrastucture of the Northeast Corridor is also used by several local commuter authorities as well. Break up the NEC and you will jam highways from Albany NY to Richmond VA

  • Member since
    August, 2012
  • 3 posts
Posted by RichEye on Monday, April 24, 2017 8:53 PM

Let's not forget why Amtrak was created. Private rail companies, mandated to run passenger trains were losing substantial revenue and the only viable way fo overcome this was for the federal government to take over what was/is a vital mode if transportation.  Rail transportation infrastructure remains important to a vital economy.  Mr. Shumer is self interested and short-sighted as his concrns are limited to his arrogant posture to protect only his constituents (NY residents). His gift of oratory is no excuse for killing passenger rail across the US.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Trains free email newsletter
NEWS » PHOTOS » VIDEOS » HOT TOPICS & MORE
GET OUR WEEKLY NEWSLETTER DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Connect with us
ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER

Search the Community