What is MODERN transportation?

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  • Member since
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What is MODERN transportation?
Posted by V.Payne on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 12:14 PM
MODERN… Well the Interstate Highways are 1950’s style transportation as well, are they MODERN? A group called Americans for Modern Transportation wants to be you know, MODERN, by advocating for longer pup truck trailers, destroying the usefulness of the existing intermodal car fleet and of course contributing nothing extra in taxes. Perhaps modern is overused, instead think about this reality of our transportation system.
 
Typically, I make a 400 mile trip between sites, which sometimes can be on corporate plane downtime, which otherwise costs about $8000 per block hour for an 8 seater, making this trip to be $1000 each way if it wasn’t downtime. I am afraid a lot of the legislature lives this reality as the context to transportation. A large group of the US lives near the few remaining hub airports and can book single stage travel on large jets to the other remaining hubs that “matter”, but the remaining network of regional jets is thinning out rapidly as fuel pushes higher and their access to slots at the large hubs will be a question once again as volume picks up.
 
However, recently the corporate plane was not available, so as a group of engineers we drove, as the going connecting airfare was $400 each way and it took about 5 hours for commercial aviation option versus 8 hours to drive with meal breaks. Even if we had woken at 3:30 AM to get on a 6 AM flight, we would not get to the site till 11 AM, meaning at least one night in a hotel would have been required.
 
By driving, the trip did in fact take all of the first productive day and was honestly exhausting as we dodged traffic in a large SUV. To get just one productive day of meetings and site visits, a full day on each end was spent driving and two hotel nights were needed for the driving trip.
 
The cost of this MODERN ground travel system we are left with worked out to $1300 roundtrip for each of the people making the trip, inclusive of our lost productive time driving. Of course at the Federal level $140 B will be transferred from the general fund to the highway trust fund by 2020, at which point another deal must be struck and this is atop the Federal disability and Medicaid programs funding the costs of most major accidents at a rate higher than the fuel tax collections.
 
The users of interstate highways have come nowhere near close to funding them through incremental fuel taxes collected between the exits (broad taxes on the use of locally funded roads do), yet Amtrak seems to have been structured to call out inquisition where highways get a free pass in their financial structure.
 
This has led to a continued push to MODERNIZE Amtrak’s offerings with no analysis of what that means or a true comparison to how poorly highways serve longer trips.
 
Contrast this to what had been the model of setout sleepers covering 400-600 mile trips between business centers, combined with a cab to a 9 AM appointment or early morning hop into a rental car to get further away and off one goes. The cost for the same trip would have been $300 each way, $600 total as opposed to $1300 for our ground option, using the historical figures. My grandfather used these to do engineering consulting very efficiently into the late 60’s. I would also submitt we have never really separated the decline of intercity rail as an attractive option with the malise of the cities in the late 60's through early 90's timeperiod in a point towards the reaquiring of a coffee taste of one of the other articles here on these pages.
 
I would contend that 200-300 mile day trips are not the only MODERN market for intercity rail as the comparisons often miss the realities described above of how poorly the connecting commercial aviation model suits travelers for 400-1000 mile trips that can largely  be made overnight.
 
OBB is looking to redesign an EU sleeper offering, Nightjet. It is being branded alongside their Railjet daytime offerings as a complementary product. Nightjet will include new equipment with expanded full bathroom sleeper rooms. They will have new individual pods as well, though a modern version of the slumbercoach as I have sketched out on these pages could be much better.
 
If a single night out overnight service offering was combined with an automated pallet express freight model, using pallet shuttle type sorting in route for quick loading at stops, the economics would be far superior than a corridor day train offering (not saying they shouldn't also exist). This combination would likely be a much better solution for the current 300 mile to 500 direct / 1000 mile connection trips that are poorly served in a gap between efficient flying and driving much of the US experiences.
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Posted by northeaster on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 1:25 PM

Great post, V. Payne, too bad so many of the ROW in/out of cities have been torn out and others now so narrowed and boxed as to make expansion near impossible. Also unfortunate is the attitude of freight railroad ownership/management toward innovative co existense with passenger operations. The heavy, long super freights running on "pipeline" systems of rail may not have a future as 3 D printing cuts into the massive shipments of goods worldwide. Granted, that is in the future but most other leading nations tend to think and plan for truly long term situations.

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Posted by Gramp on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 2:09 PM

Unfortunately or not, the "hole in the market" you describe is beginning to be filled with "new" flights; I suppose with less capital required than by rail.

https://www.jsonline.com/story/money/2017/10/03/onejet-plans-operating-base-mitchell-international-airport/712884001/

 

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Posted by V.Payne on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 3:28 PM

Good luck to this operator trying 8-seat business jets (also likely with $8000/hour block time costs) in an airline model, but I have seen several EAS operators in the last five years of cheaper fuel beg to get out of federal subsidy contracts early even when flying older RJs that seat 50 passengers. Once the RJ airframes hit the next cycle they will not be renewed in large number, making the connection timings worse through hubs.

 

Without a doubt a renewed single night out rail network is a complement to a daytime service, but it is certainly justifiable as true transportation, and would seem to serve the needs of travelers on intermediate distance intercity trips.

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Posted by Gramp on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 7:38 PM

Don't know the in's and out's of it.  Just familiar with Hoeksema.  A friend of my wife was his admin asst. for many years.  Midwest started as Kimberly Clark's airline based in Appleton.  Used to ferry KC people to their locations in Atlanta and elsewhere. Gradually expanded, was split from KC, moved most operations to MKE.  I figure he knows the arena very well.

Your idea of drop-off and on passenger pods is intriguing.  

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Posted by V.Payne on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 8:40 PM

To clarify, the pod is a new form of single traveler sleeper accomodation, called a couchette that OBB (Austria's) Nightjet is planing for a new equipment order. Various views of the proposed rooms are here.

The drop-off portion is just the setout of a complete occupied car on a station track, where 15-30 passengers could have customized, comfortable route plan, which used to be common until the mid-60's. This would be a way to get the most high-dollar revenue possible as actual intercity travel is pretty thin between most origin-destination city pairs.

 

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