News Wire: Senators' amendment pressures Amtrak to honor 'Southwest Chief' pledge

1881 views
26 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
Moderator
  • Member since
    January, 2011
  • From: Wisconsin
  • 1,015 posts
Posted by Brian Schmidt on Monday, June 11, 2018 9:31 AM

WASHINGTON — An amendment offered by two U.S. senators, pressuring Amtrak for its effort to add conditions to its pledge of funding for work on the route of the Southwest Chief, has advanced in the Senate Appropriations Committee. A Friday news...

http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2018/06/11-senators-amendment-pressures-amtrak-to-honor-southwest-chief-pledge

Brian Schmidt, Associate Editor Trains Magazine

  • Member since
    September, 2014
  • 1,132 posts
Posted by ROBERT WILLISON on Monday, June 11, 2018 3:24 PM

Isn't amazing that when you threaten some ones station agents, hot meals or passenger train, the politicans come out and finally supports thier service.

Amtrak's new CEO will soon find out it was far easier to discontinue flights than it will to kill the Southwest Chief.

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 3,229 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, June 11, 2018 6:12 PM

ROBERT WILLISON

Isn't amazing that when you threaten some ones station agents, hot meals or passenger train, the politicans come out and finally supports thier service.

Amtrak's new CEO will soon find out it was far easier to discontinue flights than it will to kill the Southwest Chief.

The Amendment has to pass first.   New Mexico and Kansas are two impoverished states that have problems balancing their state budgets.    CEO of Amtrak is right to be concerned about the very shaky agreement Boardman setup because neither NM or KS has really a strong constituency for being able to afford or support passenger train service.     In NM it's a miracle they got the RoadRunner built but even now there is talk of dismantling it as something they can not afford and if you talk to folks that live in NM, it is pointed to as a money pit.

I think if they could bring in Colorado and Missouri to the agreement, it would help alleviate some of the Amtrak CEO's concerns about sustainability.     Even then though the agreement is kind of shakey.   Best would be a multi-state rail compact created legally between the states that established a more permanent funding and contracting vehicle.    Like the Midwest has (which Amtrak is comfortable with). 

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 14,692 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Monday, June 11, 2018 7:46 PM

ROBERT WILLISON
Isn't amazing that when you threaten some ones station agents, hot meals or passenger train, the politicans come out and finally supports thier service.

Amtrak's new CEO will soon find out it was far easier to discontinue flights than it will to kill the Southwest Chief.

Glad Trains believes talk of railroads can be apolitical.

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

  • Member since
    January, 2001
  • From: Atlanta
  • 11,128 posts
Posted by oltmannd on Monday, June 11, 2018 7:55 PM

ROBERT WILLISON
Isn't amazing that when you threaten some ones station agents, hot meals or passenger train, the politicans come out and finally supports thier service. Amtrak's new CEO will soon find out it was far easier to discontinue flights than it will to kill the Southwest Chief.

Gee, we've never seen THAT before!  Wink

Just gotta horse-trade at the state level...  Trade Kansas in the middle of the night for a second KC - Chicago train and throw in Thruway bus connections across the gap meeting both trains.  Everyone wins! Might need a barrel of cash for BNSF, too...

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 3,229 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, June 11, 2018 10:18 PM

oltmannd
Gee, we've never seen THAT before!   Just gotta horse-trade at the state level...  Trade Kansas in the middle of the night for a second KC - Chicago train and throw in Thruway bus connections across the gap meeting both trains.  Everyone wins! Might need a barrel of cash for BNSF, too...

Wouldn't also make sense since Amtrak and the states are paying for this isolated line with limited traffic to possibly reroute the California Zephyr to run Chicago to KC first then over the state maintained line............then up the joint line to Denver?    How much additional time would that take vs the potential speed improvement?      Colorado would get the Pueblo stop without rerouting the SW Chief.

Maybe install ATS on the line after KC all the way to Colorado and increase speed again?

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,099 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 9:11 AM

The joint line is congested,  Stops west of Raton would be missed.

  • Member since
    January, 2001
  • From: Atlanta
  • 11,128 posts
Posted by oltmannd on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 10:21 AM

daveklepper
The joint line is congested,

You'd have to bring a dump truck full of money!

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 3,229 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, June 17, 2018 1:09 PM

daveklepper
The joint line is congested

Often stated in the Trains Forums but never with any real evidence, that it is really a unsurmountable obstacle.

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,099 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 6:32 AM

There was evidence a while back.  An observer noting stationary trains waiting for track space.

  • Member since
    August, 2015
  • 27 posts
Posted by DOUG D OHLEMEIER on Friday, June 22, 2018 7:05 PM

For your information, the states of KS, CO & NM joined the BNSF and Amtrak to fund the needed track improvements.

But Airline Anderson, in his infinite "wisdom," decided to renege on Amtrak's pledge to financially support the route.


Now, this feckless leader is running around like a chicken without its head, acting like Amtrak isn't getting any funding and ordering the ending of this great (and successful) route.

The SW Chief is one of Amtrak's Top 5 long distance trains in revenue and ridership. There's no reason to discontinue it and turn it into a BUS ROUTE.

Time for Airline Anderson to go.

 

 

CMStPnP
ROBERT WILLISON

Isn't amazing that when you threaten some ones station agents, hot meals or passenger train, the politicans come out and finally supports thier service.

Amtrak's new CEO will soon find out it was far easier to discontinue flights than it will to kill the Southwest Chief.

 

The Amendment has to pass first.   New Mexico and Kansas are two impoverished states that have problems balancing their state budgets.    CEO of Amtrak is right to be concerned about the very shaky agreement Boardman setup because neither NM or KS has really a strong constituency for being able to afford or support passenger train service.     In NM it's a miracle they got the RoadRunner built but even now there is talk of dismantling it as something they can not afford and if you talk to folks that live in NM, it is pointed to as a money pit.

I think if they could bring in Colorado and Missouri to the agreement, it would help alleviate some of the Amtrak CEO's concerns about sustainability.     Even then though the agreement is kind of shakey.   Best would be a multi-state rail compact created legally between the states that established a more permanent funding and contracting vehicle.    Like the Midwest has (which Amtrak is comfortable with). 

 

  • Member since
    November, 2015
  • 1,087 posts
Posted by ATSFGuy on Saturday, June 23, 2018 2:55 PM

So what's the latest on this topic?

  • Member since
    August, 2004
  • From: The 17th hole at TPC
  • 1,629 posts
Posted by n012944 on Saturday, June 23, 2018 5:36 PM

daveklepper

There was evidence a while back.  An observer noting stationary trains waiting for track space.

 

 

A couple of people have posted to the congestion on the joint line.  Buslist had a lot of information on it, unfortunately he is no longer with us.

  • Member since
    September, 2011
  • 3,790 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Saturday, June 23, 2018 7:36 PM

ATSFGuy

So what's the latest on this topic?

 

http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2018/06/22-amtraks-anderson-reveals-plan-to-truncate-southwest-chief

If you don't have access to NewsWire, Amtrak's Anderson said that they did not intend to run trains on a "sole use segment" such as the Raton Rass to Albuquerque area.  There might be a bus connection between LaJunta and Albuquerque, to join the truncated trains from CHI and LAX

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 2,325 posts
Posted by PNWRMNM on Saturday, June 23, 2018 8:23 PM

MidlandMike

 Amtrak's Anderson said that they did not intend to run trains on a "sole use segment" such as the Raton Rass to Albuquerque area.  There might be a bus connection between LaJunta and Albuquerque, to join the truncated trains from CHI and LAX

That is becuase they have to pay the full cost of maintaining such line segments. In plain language, "If we cant get a free ride, we aint gona' run no stinking train."

  • Member since
    August, 2015
  • 27 posts
Posted by DOUG D OHLEMEIER on Sunday, June 24, 2018 7:34 PM

This makes little sense. The direct CHI-DEN route is popular. Going through KS & southern CO, which already has a train, isn't necessary and would eliminate service to IA and NE, which also, like other areas, deserve passenger service.

Never wise to cannibalize one successful service for another.

 

CMStPnP
 
oltmannd
Gee, we've never seen THAT before!   Just gotta horse-trade at the state level...  Trade Kansas in the middle of the night for a second KC - Chicago train and throw in Thruway bus connections across the gap meeting both trains.  Everyone wins! Might need a barrel of cash for BNSF, too...

 

Wouldn't also make sense since Amtrak and the states are paying for this isolated line with limited traffic to possibly reroute the California Zephyr to run Chicago to KC first then over the state maintained line............then up the joint line to Denver?    How much additional time would that take vs the potential speed improvement?      Colorado would get the Pueblo stop without rerouting the SW Chief.

Maybe install ATS on the line after KC all the way to Colorado and increase speed again?

 

  • Member since
    September, 2011
  • 3,790 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Sunday, June 24, 2018 9:02 PM

Amtrak would only have had to pay a small part of of it.  Other federal grants, the states, and even BNSF were willing to pay its upkeep.  The fact that BNSF was willing to contribute tells me that they were not willing to let Raton go yet, or maybe they just wanted to keep the SWC off the southern Transcon.

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,099 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Monday, June 25, 2018 12:25 AM

For BNSF, a bit of both.  I approve of this ammendment.  I think it is just plain nuts to think a permanent bus bridge can replace the Raton Pass route, might as well just drop the train competely.  I used the train(s?) six or seven times, (Super Chief, El Capitan, Southwestern Chief) before and after 1 May 1971, but would certainly have picked a different route if there had been a bus bridge in the middle.  (Most frequent routing used the D&RGW one or anoher way each side, and the only "bus bridge"encountered was the occasional van or taxi or clients car to or from Ogden, when real rail service was not availablel Salt Lake - Ogden and the SP used west of Ogden.)

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 2,325 posts
Posted by PNWRMNM on Monday, June 25, 2018 6:32 AM

MidlandMike

The fact that BNSF was willing to contribute tells me that they were not willing to let Raton go yet, or maybe they just wanted to keep the SWC off the southern Transcon.

Or they were willing to pay blackmail money to not be seen locally as the big bad railroad that killed the poor little passenger train.

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: KS
  • 787 posts
Posted by SFbrkmn on Friday, June 29, 2018 4:43 PM

I stopped in @ the Amtrak office in Newton and had a talk w/Michelle concerning  possible service changes. Agency offices in Ft. Madison, Topeka, Garden City, La Junta and Lamy have already closed or will soon be closing. This leaves Newton as the only open agency between Kan City and Abluquerque. The only thing keeping Newton open is the bus connection to/from Oklcit.                                               I am approaching this w/an open mind. As Train Wire reported, a possible reformat could find a daytime/evening Chief from either LaJunt or Dodge to Chicago. I would take that over the nonsense overnight dead of night train stops in Newton.

  • Member since
    August, 2015
  • 27 posts
Posted by DOUG D OHLEMEIER on Friday, June 29, 2018 8:59 PM

The route is successful. The overnight stops aren't "nonsense."

For an LD train, which travels across the country, some cities will have overnight service. The solution is to institute a 2nd frequency, approximately 12 hours apart from the main train.

May people ride the train, which is one of Amtrak's most successful long-distance or short-distance trains.

Some facts about the Southwest Chief:

* At 63 percent, the train's load factor (percent of seats filled) is higher than the Northeast Corridor's 57 percent and the state corridors' 40 percent;

* The train is 2nd in seat miles and passenger miles among all 15 Amtrak long-distance trains;

* It carries more passenger miles (length of trip) than any other Amtrak short-distance train outside of the Northeast Corridor and California's Pacific Surfliner trains; and

* The train is 7th in terms of ridership and 4th in ticket revenue (among the long-distance routes).

 

 

 

 

SFbrkmn

I stopped in @ the Amtrak office in Newton and had a talk w/Michelle concerning  possible service changes. Agency offices in Ft. Madison, Topeka, Garden City, La Junta and Lamy have already closed or will soon be closing. This leaves Newton as the only open agency between Kan City and Abluquerque. The only thing keeping Newton open is the bus connection to/from Oklcit.                                               I am approaching this w/an open mind. As Train Wire reported, a possible reformat could find a daytime/evening Chief from either LaJunt or Dodge to Chicago. I would take that over the nonsense overnight dead of night train stops in Newton.

 

  • Member since
    February, 2016
  • From: Texas
  • 1,069 posts
Posted by PJS1 on Saturday, June 30, 2018 1:41 PM

DOUG D OHLEMEIER
 The route is successful. The overnight stops aren't "nonsense." 

“Successful” depends on the criteria used to define it.
 
In FY17 the Southwest Chief (SWC) lost $54.1 million before depreciation, interest, etc.  Only the California Zephyr had a larger Adjusted Operating loss.  It lost $58.4 million.
 
The average loss per passenger on the SWC was approximately $149, which was substantially more than the $106.47 average loss per passenger for the long-distance train category.   The average loss per passenger mile for the SWC was 17.8 cents, which is slightly better than the 19.1 cents for the long-distance train category.
 
Adding another train to any of the long-distance routes probably would boost the long-distance train losses even more.  In FY17 they had Adjusted Operating losses of $500.3 million whereas the NEC had Adjusted Operating profits of $471.7 million.
 
Randomly selected examples of the daily average number of riders that got on the SWC at points between Kansas City and Albuquerque don’t indicate a large rider demand for this train: Lawrence 13, Dodge 8, Garden City 9, La Junta 10, Trinidad 8, Lamy 15, Las Vegas 7.  Assuming roughly half of the riders got on the eastbound SWC and half got on the westbound SWC, the number of riders getting on each train is pretty small.  To argue that the SWC is a vital transportation link for these cities is a stretch.
 
Unlike the NEC, where the typical train was on-time 76.7 percent of the time, the SWC was only on time at its end points 53.8 percent of the time.  The intermediate station performance was even worse.  In the fourth quarter of FY17, as an example, it was only on-time at its intermediate stations 43.4 percent of the time.  So, not only would many of the passengers boarding the train between Kansas City and Albuquerque have to get up at odd hours, they could look forward to sitting around waiting for a late train.   

Rio Grande Valley, CFI,CFII

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 3,229 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, June 30, 2018 8:24 PM

PNWRMNM
That is becuase they have to pay the full cost of maintaining such line segments. In plain language, "If we cant get a free ride, we aint gona' run no stinking train."

Though I think one could make an argument that the line to Phoenix and the City of Phoenix stop was abandoned for a similar reason by a previous Amtrak management instead of preserving it.     Also seemed to be some concern over safety of a line with only one passenger train running on it......in the Phoenix case.

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 3,229 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, June 30, 2018 8:37 PM

DOUG D OHLEMEIER
The route is successful. The overnight stops aren't "nonsense."

I think he was referring to the OKC connection in Newton which brings me to potentially option #2.     Cancel the SW Chief West of Newton and run it on the former Lone Star route, South of Newton to Fort Worth (via OKC).     Terminate in Fort Worth.      You could kill the Heartland Flyer as well if you timed the run correctly and pickup the state subsidies from TX and OK, it would improve the financials of the train and make OK happier to have a KC & Chicago connection at last.   Plus you can still use the connection to the Sunset Limited via the Texas Eagle to go to LA via a transfer in Fort Worth in daylight.

You could essentially kill the unprofitable part of the SW Chief and the Heartland Flyer with just one reroute, which only has a small portion without passenger service currently.    I don't see the logic in three LD trains to California that span the sparsely populated West.    I would prefer the Southwest Limited be cancelled over the Chief.   Running two Chicago to LA trains over two seperate routes I think is a little wasteful.

  • Member since
    August, 2015
  • 27 posts
Posted by DOUG D OHLEMEIER on Saturday, June 30, 2018 8:38 PM
The SW Chief's load factor (percent of seats filled) is 63 percent, which is very high, compared to the pathetic load factors of the state corridors, the trains LD haters claim are "the future." The SW Chief's load factor is higher than the Northeast Corridor's 57 percent and the state corridors' 40 percent. Each segment, short and long-distance, has its benefits. Each should be kept.
  • Member since
    August, 2015
  • 27 posts
Posted by DOUG D OHLEMEIER on Saturday, June 30, 2018 8:39 PM

Don't kid yourself. Amtrak has no intention of adding Oklahoma service, or Front Range service.
Deceptive Dick Anderson knows very well that, under the law, states (not Amtrak) are required to support corridor routes under 750 miles.

Another bait and switch by Propeller Head.

CMStPnP

 

 
DOUG D OHLEMEIER
The route is successful. The overnight stops aren't "nonsense."

 

I think he was referring to the OKC connection in Newton which brings me to potentially option #2.     Cancel the SW Chief West of Newton and run it on the former Lone Star route, South of Newton to Fort Worth (via OKC).     Terminate in Fort Worth.      You could kill the Heartland Flyer as well if you timed the run correctly and pickup the state subsidies from TX and OK, it would improve the financials of the train and make OK happier to have a KC & Chicago connection at last.   Plus you can still use the connection to the Sunset Limited via the Texas Eagle to go to LA via a transfer in Fort Worth in daylight.

 

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 3,229 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, June 30, 2018 8:44 PM

DOUG D OHLEMEIER
Don't kid yourself. Amtrak has no intention of adding Oklahoma service, or Front Range service. Deceptive Dick Anderson knows very well that, under the law, states (not Amtrak) are required to support corridor routes under 750 miles. Another bait and switch by Propeller Head.

Except that Amtrak is also working with KS & OK currently to bring that connection to Newton or eventually KC about.     The idea was Boardmans not Anderson's.    So far it is still being discussed.

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