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Re: [carfree_cities] Re: Amtrak

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  • Robert James Madison, III
    ... Do that, and you: 1) Wind up needing lost more equipment to cover the same route mileage, and 2) Kill ridership by forcing connections where they currently
    Message 1 of 33 , Jan 6, 2005
      on 06-Jan-05 22:11 emccaughrin said the following:

      >--- In carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, "John Bredin" <jbbredin@h...>
      >>The "long-haul service in the western part of the country" you
      >>blithely condemn makes perfect sense because a long-distance route
      >>is essentially a series of corridor operations laid end to end. A
      >>Chicago-San Francisco train is not like a Chicago-San Francisco
      >>flight: by making stops at cities along the tracks, it is also a
      >>Chicago-Omaha, Omaha-Denver, Denver-Salt Lake City, etc. train.
      >The long-distance routes as currently configured make absolutely no
      >sense from an operational standpoint. Because of their incredible
      >length, it is difficult for them to stay on schedule and as a result
      >the service is far too unreliable. At the very least, they should be
      >split into shorter segments (i.e. no more than 12 hrs, like in

      Do that, and you:
      1) Wind up needing lost more equipment to cover the same route mileage, and
      2) Kill ridership by forcing connections where they currently don't exist.

      Trains that operate over Union Pacific tracks tend to frequently (or,
      all the time) run late. That's more a problem with Union Pacific than
      anything else. However, trains like the Empire Builder and Southwest
      Chief, which are just as long (2200+ miles), have pretty good on-time

      And, suppose you did break up trains into 12 hour segments. Where do
      you break them? What about people that live on one side of the "break"
      and want to go just to the other side?

      Even in transit, systems often find that interlining, or routing buses
      and trains through is far more efficient and convenient than having
      multiple short routes that turn back. Amtrak's distances are much
      greater, but the efficiency of running something through is still there.

      >>Nobody is advocating the same level of service for the long-
      >>distance routes as for the great corridors.
      >No, but that is essentially what Amtrak is doing. For example: fully-
      >staffed stations along lines that see at most 2 trains/day. And full-
      >blown baggage handling service (Europe did away with its baggage
      >cars long ago).

      What do you propose be done with all the baggage, then? People do use
      Amtrak for transportation, you know. And besides, Amtrak has de-staffed
      many of its smaller stations (as part of its budget crunch of a couple
      of years ago). The answer isn't to close stations or reduce services,
      but to add more trains so that the costs can be spread over more
      services and more passengers. One doesn't need hourly service across
      Montana to make good use of station services. A couple of trains per
      day would be sufficient.

      >>"Amtrak's operations have often been so inept," as you say,
      >>because Amtrak is grossly underfunded and cannot afford either the
      >>equipment or the expert personnel that allow a commuter operation
      >>like Chicago's famously efficient Metra to run like clockwork.
      >Metra is "famously efficient"?? Now I've heard it all.

      So, then, tell me what's wrong with Metra.

      Robert Madison
      Milwaukee, WI

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    • Doug Salzmann
      OK, one more time -- then I m finished with this one. ... Well, that s two ;^) I have no problem with competitive rail service in the west. Indeed, I m a fan
      Message 33 of 33 , Jan 7, 2005
        OK, one more time -- then I'm finished with this one.

        On Fri, 7 Jan 2005, emccaughrin wrote:

        > > Yes, but we were talking about rail service in vast, unpopulated
        > > rural places.
        > Um, no. The discussion is about rail service to cities in the west,
        > not to some cattle ranch way out in the plains somewhere. There are
        > large metropolitan areas in the west -- Denver, Salt Lake City, to
        > name a few -- with populations large enough to justify rail service,
        > and not so far apart that rail cannot be competitive.

        Well, that's two ;^)

        I have no problem with competitive rail service in the west. Indeed, I'm a fan and have ridden many of the long-haul trains in the region. I'd simply rather spend the subsidy money in more productive ways (I have a list).

        Of course, if passenger service between those city pairs really is competitive, the railroads will be eager to provide it.

        > Norway has 300k km^2 and a population of 4.5 million. If one were to
        > go by a naive interpretation of its 15 persons/km^2 density, Norway
        > has no business running passenger rail because at it isn't "dense"
        > enough -- and yet it runs comprehensive, 140mph rail service that is
        > far better than anything you will find in even the most heavily
        > populated US metropolitan area.

        Come on, now. Norway's rail system is heavily concentrated in the more-populated southern part of the country. To the extent that it does serve the northern portions (does it extend beyond Bodo?), let's remember that we're talking about a long, very narrow corridor.

        To put things in perspective (again), the Norwegian national rail network totals about 2,500 miles of track -- just a little more than the route of our oft-cited, lonely American long-haul, the Empire Builder.

        Not to let this end without further (perhaps naive) reference to population density, the state of Montana, alone, is larger than Norway and, at 2.39 persons per square kilometer, is about *one-sixth* as densely populated.

        I just don't think the arguments for subsidizing rural passenger rail service in the US are persuasive, definitely not in a resource-constrained world. Certainly, there are many other subsidies on which I'd merrily pull the plug, also (autos, airlines, ranchers and loggers, warmongers and arms merchants...), but, if given the chance to divert the handout from Amtrak to a really useful urban project, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

        I suppose I should close by confessing that it would be fine with me if *all* long-distance travel was relatively difficult and (at least) moderately expensive. In a world of six-plus billion humans with an emerging permanent energy crunch, it is dangerous folly to encourage casual gallivanting around the globe.



        Doug Salzmann
        P.O. Box 307
        Corte Madera, CA
        94976-0307 USA

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