Will Amtrak spend the extra money wisely ?

2374 views
19 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    December, 2007
  • From: Georgia USA SW of Atlanta
  • 8,741 posts
Will Amtrak spend the extra money wisely ?
Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, March 24, 2018 5:27 AM

Spending bill signed by the president increases funds to Amtrak by almost $1B from FY 2017 levels.  Since Amtrak was operating at the FY 2017 funding level until now it only has 6+ months to use the funds split between the NEC and national system.

NEC

Speed up NYP work ?   Empire corridor track work and SD bridge improvement?.  NHV- Springfield finish double tracking ?  Gateway projects Portal bridge and North river tunnels ?   Additional constant tension CAT ?  Additional funding for various engineering projects ? Repair any NEC rolling stock ?

  Long distance 

Repair any out of service rolling stock ?  Speed up CAF deliveries ?  Speed up Michigan track work ?  Maybe possible to speed up Siemens deliveries but find that unlikely ? 

Any other points will be added to this post!

 

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 5,904 posts
Posted by Overmod on Saturday, March 24, 2018 11:21 AM

Likely won't be 'Gateway' (at least the new tunnels and their approaches) until NY and NJ contribute their 'fair share'.  Without the uncertainties that nominally got Christie to pull out of ARC.

The whole Schumnthal-over-a-barrel routine (if we include Connecticut as a NYC-approach beneficiary too, which it is) is a bit unfortunate as the 'primary' purpose of the new tunnel layout (as I understand it) is to reduce delays for high-speed through service, shifting the 'regional' and commuter traffic to the existing tunnels (which would be remediated predominantly with trI-state and not Federal money as a result).  To the extent that regional service does use the new votes, and New York in particular benefits from faster better NEC access, the states should still chip in a fair share, but there is still considerable 'national' interest in the Gateway arrangement to justify significant Federal contribution now.

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 3,179 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, March 24, 2018 4:58 PM

Overmod
New York in particular benefits from faster better NEC access

With the two major Airports NYC has in combo with Newark, NJ Airport.    I think the entire country benefits from the rebuilt NEC tunnels.    Imagine if the current two operating tunnels became too unsafe to operate in and there was no replacement.    It means the NEC traffic has to shift to Air or Ferry's.    Likely they would shift to Air, which would quickly move NY and NJ airports to an over capacity condition........impacting the entire country during a weather event if not sooner.

So in my view, there should be a large Federal Contribution to this project.

  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: NS Main Line at MP12 Blairsville,Pa
  • 783 posts
Posted by conrailman on Monday, March 26, 2018 11:40 PM

Fresh order of Superliners Cars say 500 Brand New Car Order, and more Viewliners cars too.Big Smile

  • Member since
    August, 2006
  • From: South Dakota
  • 1,589 posts
Posted by Dakguy201 on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 9:35 AM

There is a newswire article today that indicates Amtrak is capacity constrained on the Kansas City/Chicago portion of the Southwest Chief.  Apparently, on many days they can not handle the coach demand due to lack of equipment.  I don't know what the situation is at Beach Grove with cars awaiting repair/rebuild; but if there is any saignificant waiting period there, it should be eliminated.

 

 

  • Member since
    September, 2011
  • 3,754 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 7:34 PM

It sounds like there may be enough demand for adding a daylight Chicago-Kansas City train.

  • Member since
    October, 2014
  • 187 posts
Posted by Gramp on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 10:57 PM

Have often wondered about the potential of Chi-KC. There’s no direct interstate between the two. Either go to Des Moines or St.Louis. A superb distance-saving mainline between the two. Also thought about auto ferrying option added to train. You can guffaw now. 

  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 10,739 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 6:45 AM

The problem with a direct Chicago-Kansas City train on the Santa Fe is that there isn't much of a middle to it.  Aside from Galesburg, there aren't any cities of size on the route.  Intermediate points would be dependent on bus connections.

Auto ferry is out of the question.  Loading and unloading would take too much time and location of those facilities could be a problem.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 14,544 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 8:00 AM

For every person that thinks Amtrak has spent a dollar wisely, there will be one or more people that consider that expenditure wasteful.

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

  • Member since
    July, 2010
  • 42 posts
Posted by gp18 on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 10:38 AM

First, the unions will demand higher wages. They won't get it. They'll strike. Amtrak will capitulate, raise wages, and lay off more people to compensate for the difference. Then there will be management bonuses all around for doing virtually nothing. Who loses?  We  all do.

  • Member since
    September, 2011
  • 3,754 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 7:44 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH

The problem with a direct Chicago-Kansas City train on the Santa Fe is that there isn't much of a middle to it.  Aside from Galesburg, there aren't any cities of size on the route.  Intermediate points would be dependent on bus connections.

Auto ferry is out of the question.  Loading and unloading would take too much time and location of those facilities could be a problem.

 

The NewsWire story said that the train started filling up in mid Missouri and there was more demand getting closer to Chicago.  A daylight additional (corridor) train westbound also may be more convinient and attract new riders to KC and intermediate points.  Since the eastbound SWC is already a morning train out of KC, an EB corridor train should probably leave closer to mid-day.

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 3,179 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, March 29, 2018 12:42 AM

In regards to increased service to KC.    Good luck you guys....lol.    KC has been waiting forever to get approval to spend PRIVATE FUNDS to improve it's Airport.    Many times local hotels and businesses have requested an express or shuttle service from the Airport to KC Union Station....Ride KC is too dumb to put it together or even see the advantage of how it would help the surrounding hotels and/or businesses. 

The Southwest Chief does have excellent times into KC........8:00 a.m. or so departure for Chicago and what approx 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. arrival back in KC.    However, got to tell you I spend quite a bit of free time at KC US when I travel to KC.     Never saw more than a handful of people waiting to board the Westbound Southwest Chief.    I guess I should get up early some day and see what the crowd is going to Chicago each day but my guess is not a lot.     Even the potential of extending the Heartland Flyer to KC ...........nobody in KC really seems to care.     So good luck with expanding service to KC.    I don't see any pubilc support for it by people that live there.

I think KC could be a regional transport hub, the city could be a lot more vibrant with new business locations and events but the folks that live there.....just seem to like the status quo.    It's airport is pretty old, Union Station would have been torn down a long time ago had they not made it into a Museum and still large sections of Union Station are not even used but in limbo state (like Chicago's Union Station)......KC Union Station has not really reached it's full potential yet and there is still lots of vacant and unleased space in the building unseen by the public.    I really wonder how close it is currently to not being self-sufficient.

  • Member since
    December, 2007
  • From: Georgia USA SW of Atlanta
  • 8,741 posts
Posted by blue streak 1 on Thursday, March 29, 2018 5:25 AM

If KC _ CHI has higher demand then why not a cut off coach(s) ?  Wait oh horrors that might require some different thinking ?

  • Member since
    December, 2006
  • 1,480 posts
Posted by YoHo1975 on Thursday, March 29, 2018 10:52 AM
Cutting off a coach would require more dwell time and also would still limit things to a single departure. A second regional train could attract more business than just an added coach, because of the change in departure time.
  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 14,544 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, March 29, 2018 11:22 AM

blue streak 1
If KC _ CHI has higher demand then why not a cut off coach(s) ?  Wait oh horrors that might require some different thinking ?

After the coach is cut off - what happens to it?  Does it stay on the Main Track until the appropriate train arrives to pick it up?  Is a yard crew required to move it to a position of safety?  If in a position of safety will personnel be needed to clean and service the car?  Will a yard crew be required to get the car attached to it's return train.  

Just cutting off a car ramps up expenses - will the revenue from the car justify the expenses in handling it and return a operating profit because of its operation?  If not, there is no use in having the car.

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

  • Member since
    February, 2016
  • From: Texas
  • 1,025 posts
Posted by PJS1 on Thursday, March 29, 2018 11:35 AM

BaltACD
 blue streak 1 If KC _ CHI has higher demand then why not a cut off coach(s) ?  Wait oh horrors that might require some different thinking ? 

After the coach is cut off - what happens to it?  Does it stay on the Main Track until the appropriate train arrives to pick it up?  Is a yard crew required to move it to a position of safety?  If in a position of safety will personnel be needed to clean and service the car?  Will a yard crew be required to get the car attached to it's return train.  

Just cutting off a car ramps up expenses - will the revenue from the car justify the expenses in handling it and return a operating profit because of its operation?  If not, there is no use in having the car. 

At one time, if I remember correctly, the third coach on the Texas Eagle was cut-off at St. Louis, at least during the off season, because of the relatively light loads south of there.  Now it goes through to San Antonio. 

On weekdays during the off season the third coach south of Fort Worth is closed frequently.  By the same token it may not be opened on the northbound train until Fort Worth.  

Presumably Amtrak concluded that it is more efficient to keep the third coach on the Eagle as opposed to cutting it off in St. Louis or another point. 

I ride the Eagle 8 to 10 times a year between San Antonio and Dallas.  Most of my trips are in the middle of the week.  On numerous occasions I have noticed that the third coach had been blocked south of Fort Worth.  

Rio Grande Valley, CFI,CFII

  • Member since
    August, 2005
  • From: At the Crossroads of the West
  • 9,434 posts
Posted by Deggesty on Thursday, March 29, 2018 11:45 AM

JPS1
Yes; I have the impression that the increased fuel cost to move the car between St. Louis and Fort Worth is far less than the cost to switch the car in St. Louis.

 

 
BaltACD
 blue streak 1 If KC _ CHI has higher demand then why not a cut off coach(s) ?  Wait oh horrors that might require some different thinking ? 

After the coach is cut off - what happens to it?  Does it stay on the Main Track until the appropriate train arrives to pick it up?  Is a yard crew required to move it to a position of safety?  If in a position of safety will personnel be needed to clean and service the car?  Will a yard crew be required to get the car attached to it's return train.  

Just cutting off a car ramps up expenses - will the revenue from the car justify the expenses in handling it and return a operating profit because of its operation?  If not, there is no use in having the car. 

 

At one time, if I remember correctly, the third coach on the Texas Eagle was cut-off at St. Louis, at least during the off season, because of the relatively light loads south of there.  Now it goes through to San Antonio. 

On weekdays during the off season the third coach south of Fort Worth is closed.  And I have been on the train departing San Antonio where the third coach is not opened until Fort Worth.  I ride the Eagle between San Antonio and Dallas 8 to 10 times a year.  Most of my trips are on weekdays during the off season.  I have seen this practice on numerous occasions. 

Presumably Amtrak concluded that it is more efficient to keep the third coach on the Eagle as opposed to cutting it off in St. Louis or another point. 

 

Johnny

  • Member since
    December, 2007
  • From: Georgia USA SW of Atlanta
  • 8,741 posts
Posted by blue streak 1 on Thursday, March 29, 2018 7:19 PM

Deggesty  --  Its not just fuel costs.  Wasn't it published somewhere that operating costs for a passenger car was $ 4.00 + per  mile ?

Does it appear that Amtrak does not have enough switchers system wide to do their own switching.  Can not remember where but saw an Amtrak switcher used by either inbound or outbound crew to do that work ?

When Amtrak used to do in ATL they rented a loco from NS but their own crew.

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 3,179 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, March 29, 2018 11:04 PM

BaltACD
After the coach is cut off - what happens to it?  Does it stay on the Main Track until the appropriate train arrives to pick it up?  Is a yard crew required to move it to a position of safety?  If in a position of safety will personnel be needed to clean and service the car?  Will a yard crew be required to get the car attached to it's return train.   Just cutting off a car ramps up expenses - will the revenue from the car justify the expenses in handling it and return a operating profit because of its operation?  If not, there is no use in having the car.

Kansas City Union Station has a large Private Car track (with private cars on it) and amazingly KC still has it's Union Terminal Railroad that would do the switching probably.    I think the issue is money, keeping a Superliner Coach in KC for 9-10 hours sitting idle might not be the best way to make money and with the lack of activity at US in KC it might be vandalized.

At St. Louis on the Texas Eagle they still add and remove the extra Coach from Chicago.   Amtrak does the switching though, they do not pay anyone to do it.   St. Louis has a larger Amtrak employee base because of the train frequency.  KC US is a ghost town in comparison.

Amtrak could probably also do the switching in KC US because they have two through tracks through the station platform exclusively for their use.    They could just leave the coach fouling one of the main through tracks as the train back to Chicago would arrive 8:00 a.m. and the KC mule does not arrive until afternoon I think.    Amtrak is the only one that uses the two station through tracks and they are signaled as well.   I don't know how safe that is with rules and what not and if they need derails to do that.......beats me.    I just think they don't do it for KC over concern leaving the car unattended and unwatched for critical night time hours when it is likely to get broken into or vandalized.

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 3,179 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, March 29, 2018 11:12 PM

blue streak 1
Does it appear that Amtrak does not have enough switchers system wide to do their own switching.  Can not remember where but saw an Amtrak switcher used by either inbound or outbound crew to do that work ?

They use Amtrak road locomotives to switch in St. Louis and Fort Worth.   They drop cars in Fort Worth for the Heartland Flyer sometimes depending on patronage, also keep a spare loco at Ft. Worth sometimes to protect that route.

They use Canadian Pacific to switch the Milwaukee Depot.    The observed problem I have noticed they have with using a Class I or Union Terminal Switching agreement is........the service is usually when the contracting railroad finds it convient vs when needed.    Several times in Milwaukee the CP RR crew has been late getting to the Depot with their locomotive and the car is  left on one of the sidings by CPRR and the Amtrak train it was scheduled on departs without it.     And the CP RR yard and engine facility is really not that far from the Depot in Milwaukee (few miles).    Just seems CP RR has it's own clock when it comes to switching Amtrak.     

CP does get called more than normal for Private Car switching at the Milwaukee Depot for the Friends of 261 Hiawatha Cars,  Charter Steel cars,  AARPCO charters using the two WSOR cars there, etc.    Used to have Quad Graphics as well but since Quadrucci died his train has been in storage at one of his plants and up for sale.

Join our Community!

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

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy