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Snowguy716

Amtrak article

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A good story in Minneapolis' Star Tribune about Amtrak:

http://www.startribune.com/462/story/772460.html

The debate is strong here, because, as the article states, Jim Oberstar is the ranking democrat on the house transportation committee, and will be the ranking member if the Democrats take control.

His ideas on expanded rail travel are likely shared with many in this forum.

Do you think expanding Amtrak's service will increase profitability? What should be done to increase rail travel in the U.S (as a much cleaner way to travel than driving or flying)?

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As much as I love driving, I actually really like rail travel. It's comfortable and relaxing and is a great way to see the scenery. With gas where it is now, it's a wash whether I take rail somewhere or drive.

But I am nevertheless reluctant to ride AMTRAK rail in the US. Why? They're never, ever on time! It's especially bad down here in Texas because they rent rail space from Union Pacific, and the right of way is always given to the freight trains. I've never seen it less than an hour and a half late here. It's terrible and downright shameful to see.

I'd love to see AMTRAK service expand, but I think they need to work on the basics like on-time arrival first.

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I think if Americans were willing to pay for top of the line rail infrastructure, we'd see a huge increase in rail passengers. Unfortunately, like you just pointed out, there's always this problem with the rail companies and Amtrak with right of way issues, etc.

Private interests shouldn't own railroad tracks, in my opinion, any more than they should own roads. We need to update our railways to modern standards and then private ventures will be much more competitive on those new rails.

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I remember going down to the Amtrak station in Anniston a few years back. My parents were going to New Orleans and didnt' want to drive to Birmingham to get on the train since Anniston was closer. The train was an hour late because of delays in Atlanta.

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There's no doubt that the right-of-way issues seriously hamper Amtrak's on-time performance. I remember taking the Sunset Limited through Texas and being delayed over five hours. Of course, I once took the Pioneer from Portland to Chicago and had to spend the night in Salt Lake City due to the lateness of our train. We were to have connected with the California Zephyr, but they left without us. At least Amtrak paid for a decent hotel.

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I've never taken AMTRAK anywhere outside the Northeast Corridor and it's probably a good thing. Between DC and Boston they're usually pretty much on-time and if you miss one there'll be another in an hour or so. It seems elsewhere their on-time performance blows! At New York Penn Station I always hear announcements like "AMTRAK Train #29320 from Miami that was due to arrive at 5:00 will be arriving shortly" as I look at my watch and see it's after 9.

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with air travel as cheap as it's getting, i don't understand why anyone ever takes amtrak.

i travel between providence and philly a lot and have 3 options of mass transit: bus, train, air. the bus is the cheapest at something like $80 round trip, but it's at least 7 hours (there's always about an hour of waiting in new york). air is the fastest, but a bit more expensive and you have to deal with security and possible delays (especially because of PHL). amtrak is about the same amount of time as driving (about 5-6 hours), but it's really expensive at something like $80-120 one way. i fly one way for usually $50 on southwest. even with having to get to the airport about 1-1.5 hours early and a possible delay, the entire travel time is only usually 4 hours (which includes sitting in the airport waiting to leave, and adds in about an hours worth of delay).

i really don't see any reason to take amtrak here with prices like that and taking just as long as driving (since it has to stop in every city along the way).

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with air travel as cheap as it's getting, i don't understand why anyone ever takes amtrak.

i travel between providence and philly a lot and have 3 options of mass transit: bus, train, air. the bus is the cheapest at something like $80 round trip, but it's at least 7 hours (there's always about an hour of waiting in new york). air is the fastest, but a bit more expensive and you have to deal with security and possible delays (especially because of PHL). amtrak is about the same amount of time as driving (about 5-6 hours), but it's really expensive at something like $80-120 one way. i fly one way for usually $50 on southwest. even with having to get to the airport about 1-1.5 hours early and a possible delay, the entire travel time is only usually 4 hours (which includes sitting in the airport waiting to leave, and adds in about an hours worth of delay).

i really don't see any reason to take amtrak here with prices like that and taking just as long as driving (since it has to stop in every city along the way).

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The advantage AMTRAK has IMO is that it takes you from city center to city center. From Downtown Newark I can get to Downtown Washington in a little more than 3 hours. I don't have to deal with security, long lines, weather delays, transit from the airports to the city centers, etc. So for that trip, which I make often, AMTRAK is the best way for me to go.

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It makes lots of stops between NYC and DC too, but it's still faster than driving at most times of the day. I drove to Virginia two weekends ago and it took 2 hours to get through 10 miles of Delaware. Traffic around DC isn't so great either. The drive always takes longer than anticipated, which angers me and I'd just rather not deal with all of that. If a round-trip costs me $60 in gas, $25 in tolls, and $30+ in parking once I get there, I'd rather pay the $150 for a train ticket. The convenience and reliability are worth the extra $30-40 IMO. If what should be a 3-4 hour trip to DC expands to 9 hours because of traffic or air delays, I've lost more than $30-40.

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Taking the train has been determined to be competitive with flying at distances of 300-500 miles with fuel prices around what they have been (2-3 dollars/gallon) with conventional high speed trains that reach top speeds of 110mph.

If you build new tracks that can handle trains that travel up to 200mph, it becomes competitive up to the 700-800 mile range.

I personally prefer the train over a plane any day based on the experience.

If I had the choice of taking a high speed train from Minneapolis to Chicago over flying, I would do it any day.

I took high speed trains in Germany from Munich to Cologne several times, and I'll tell you, there's nothing like sitting in complete comfort as you fly past the cars on the Autobahn going 200mph.

Also, you can get up and grab a bite to eat.. you don't have to feel so confined like in an airplane. Plus there's something to look at out the window.

But this ideal will be very expensive for us.. but necessary. Unless we find something to run airplanes on that is economical, it will get more and more uneconomical to make flights of less than 1000 miles. We need to begin investing now in a rail infrastructure like that of the Northeast corridor with electrified trains and no at-grade crossings.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-oUc4QWjDA&NR

Here's a nice video of the Deutschebahn ICE train.

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Taking the train has been determined to be competitive with flying at distances of 300-500 miles with fuel prices around what they have been (2-3 dollars/gallon) with conventional high speed trains that reach top speeds of 110mph.

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Right now, there is not a whole lot to choosing Amtrak over other modes. But that is more to do with how Amtrak cyurrently works than anything. It's lik having one national passenger airline, but letting private airlines run cargo flights and own all the airports and control airspace. It's a very stupid idea, and passenger trraffic is going to suffer for it.

Everyone tries to compare planes and trains in terms of time. You will never beat aircraft on that. But you can beat them on improved service, convenience, and efficiency. A well run train service would be far more comfortable than a plane - you won't be stuck in too tight seats unable to move, with poorly recycled air. Imagine how much easier it could be going through the train station as opposed ot the airport.

There are also a lot of efficiencies to be had if they were given the same opportunities. Trainas don't have to loose throust to create lift, they can run one train with a crew instead of multiple planes with multiple crews, and it is much easier to service multiple locaions with one route by train than it is by plane.

The real question is when is the government going to make the same infrastructure investment in rail that is does in air traffic?

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I would take Amtrak in a heartbeat- if only they were on time (or just a little late), had more reasonable routes, and were cleaner.

Just this past weekend I drove from Tampa to Atlanta. The drive was 7 hours of steady highway. Before we left I considered Amtrak, but would have to go form Tampa to North Carolina, and then back down to Atlanta, many more hours than the drive.

The one time I did take the train from NC to Tampa, we were 6 hours late and ended up taking a bus from Lakeland to Tampa so that they could save some time on the remainder of the trip. There was no dining car and the rest of the train was old and musty. NOt exactly a way to make lifelong riders..

On the other hand, Amtrak is severly underfunded and have to give right of way to the freight companies.

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I get a 404 on that link unfortunatley, but after experiencing Amtrak for the first time ever last week (Fort Worth to San Antonio), I find the issue really interesting. Some personal observations (please keep in mind in British).

It was 4 hours late... what?! How?! How can a train be that late in a developed country like the US?

There is one a day... makes you wonder what the point of running it at all is...

It takes 8 hours to go 270 miles... how on earth does it take this long?!

Its very, very, very, cheap.

Its a lot of fun.

Of course y'all (sic) answer most of those in the comments above, UP apparently don't like AMTRAK very much. Once thing easily observed about the US is the amazing advantage that rail freight has over road. Its obvious i suppose; you can move 1000's of tons in one train at reasonable speeds as opposed to using using 100's of trucks each with a driver. Capitalising on this for passengers though is a whole different ball game; the track speeds are only as fast as they need to be for freight and to save money single track running is the norm; dispersed urban development patterns mean having train termini right in the heart of the cities isn't the big advantage it is in Europe; the very long distances are very obviously best served by air and shorter non dowtown to downtown trips by car... the list of barriers goes on.

So it would be very very difficult and extremley expensive to provide decent rail services in the south or central part of the US. The North East seaboard and west coast as Amtrak have proven are a different matter of course.

Hows about you all lobby at least for priority over freight trains that would improve it straight away? :-p

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Hows about you all lobby at least for priority over freight trains that would improve it straight away? :-p

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Yeah, that woudl do it i guess? I mean at least they'd be on time more often.

Do the freight companies get money from AMTRAK for the use of their tracks?

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Does it make sense to keep a transportation system like Amtrak which loses money each year and costs the taxpayer

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Does it make sense to keep a transportation system like Amtrak which loses money each year and costs the taxpayer

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Replace "Amtrak" with "U.S. Airlines" and your statement will be far more accurate.

Bailouts, ridiculous subsidies...another day in the life of the private airlines. Don't even get me started on highway funding....

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Replace "Amtrak" with "U.S. Airlines" and your statement will be far more accurate.

Bailouts, ridiculous subsidies...another day in the life of the private airlines. Don't even get me started on highway funding....

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i was gonna mention the airline industry, which gets some serious federal funding and subsidies.

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The problem with privatizing Amtrak is that most freight companies have no interest in running passenger train systems. This became apparent during the 1950s and '60s when ridership fell and the companies went bankrupt and begged the government to take the passenger services away.

In 2005, Amtrak had a record number of riders since its service began. Most of the inefficiencies come from the fact that freight companies build their tracks to haul freight at a minimum cost and don't take passenger rail into account at all. They also put their trains ahead of Amtrak. Private enterprise is getting in the way of a program that the government is trying to run.

Would it be fair for Federal Express to hijack an airport and put all passenger planes behind its planes? Or for trucking companies to demand that they have right of way on our interstates ahead of travellers/commuters?

Our rail infrastructure should be nationalized like our roads. It is no wonder that the best railroad tracks in this country are funded and maintained by public subsidies (the Northeast Corridor).

If we nationalize our railroad tracks and update them to provide efficient passenger travel between major cities and make rail travel work with airline travel, etc. as a mid-range travel option, then I see no reason why Amtrak couldn't be privatized.

If you privatize it right now, it would mean the end of rail travel in America except the Northeast Corridor and a few other small lines... and I don't see rail travel ever coming back anywhere else.

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The problem with privatizing Amtrak is that most freight companies have no interest in running passenger train systems. This became apparent during the 1950s and '60s when ridership fell and the companies went bankrupt and begged the government to take the passenger services away.

In 2005, Amtrak had a record number of riders since its service began. Most of the inefficiencies come from the fact that freight companies build their tracks to haul freight at a minimum cost and don't take passenger rail into account at all. They also put their trains ahead of Amtrak. Private enterprise is getting in the way of a program that the government is trying to run.

Would it be fair for Federal Express to hijack an airport and put all passenger planes behind its planes? Or for trucking companies to demand that they have right of way on our interstates ahead of travellers/commuters?

Our rail infrastructure should be nationalized like our roads. It is no wonder that the best railroad tracks in this country are funded and maintained by public subsidies (the Northeast Corridor).

If we nationalize our railroad tracks and update them to provide efficient passenger travel between major cities and make rail travel work with airline travel, etc. as a mid-range travel option, then I see no reason why Amtrak couldn't be privatized.

If you privatize it right now, it would mean the end of rail travel in America except the Northeast Corridor and a few other small lines... and I don't see rail travel ever coming back anywhere else.

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I don't know if I would nationalize the freight companies themselves. I don't see much benefit in that. I would only nationalize the infrastructure - the tracks and signaling. THAT is the critical piece here. Let the freight lines run as does Fed Ex or UPS - as shipping companies that can reach all over the network, instead of only servicing their own section of track. For that matter, though, perhaps the frieght railroads and delivery companies could partner or merge and provide a unified system.

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