Tag Archives: railroad

NARP: “Investment: the logic behind Amtrak’s Acela RFP”

In revenue service, a shroud covers the front coupler so they don’t look so ugly.

Article: National Association of Railroad Passengers – Investment: the logic behind Amtrak’s Acela RFP.

As a general rule, passenger trains in North America don’t make money.  That’s been true for a lot longer than people realize – it goes back to the 1930s and even the 1920s.  All those streamliners before and after WW2?  Railroads trying to get travelers back from the automobile.  By the time the Post Office Department (as the USPS was called then) pulled most of the railroad mail contracts in 1967, it’s was pretty much all over, with all but three railroads relieved of their common carrier passengers obligations by Amtrak a few years later.

But I digress.  The Northeast Corridor has lots of trains, the fastest of which are Amtrak’s Acela which spends most of its time running at 120-135 mph with gusts to 150 up in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  With hourly service most of the day between Washington, DC, New York, and Boston, it’s very popular.  So popular that it’s now covering its “above the rail” cost.  “Above the rail” means labor and other operating costs but not the capital costs of replacing the trains (usually)  or, most importantly the cost of the 456-mile-long right of way.  This is kind of new for Amtrak and it’s not clear that they are equipped to handle it.


Fiasco: “Report on NJ Transit’s gridlock at Super Bowl is overdue”

AP Photo – Football fans make their way to trains on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in Secaucus. – See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/news/report-on-nj-transit-s-gridlock-at-super-bowl-is-overdue-1.1046299#sthash.SjTd7J93.dpuf


Article: Report on NJ Transit’s gridlock at Super Bowl is overdue – News – NorthJersey.com.

What a fiasco.  As my acquaintance, the Lackawanna Coalition‘s David Peter Alan says, this whole deal was to benefit the NFL, not the taxpayers of New Jersey, yet New Jersey Transit voted to pay over One Meelion Dollars to a consultancy for whom NJT’s director once worked.

And they blew the estimates big time as indicated by the hours-long wait fans suffered through post-game.

My question, of course, is where was the state’s governor in all this?

“Indiana replaces Amtrak as ‘Hoosier State’ service provider”

Trains News Wire EXCLUSIVE: Indiana replaces Amtrak as ‘Hoosier State’ service provider – TRAINS Magazine.

(This is behind a paywall so I don’t know if you’ll be able to see this, but the publisher put the Share This button there so blame Kalmbach …)

The headline is inaccurate.  Corridor Capital LLC may be providing locomotives and rolling stock for the quad-weekly Hoosier State that runs between Chicago and Indianapolis on the days that the Cardinal doesn’t run.  The trains will have Amtrak crews and will, presumably, still carry Amtrak numbers and be in the Amtrak reservation system.

Amtrak’s main overhaul shop is in Beech Grove, Ind., a suburb of Indianapolis so the main function of the train in past years has been to move locomotives and rolling stock to and from the shop to Chicago on days the Cardinal didn’t run.  However, 2008’s PRIIA, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, forced changes in the Hoosier State and other short-distance trains.

Among other things, the law mandates that trains operated at the request of state governments must have a common cost structure.  This is good because as it was, different states paid different amounts for service that wasn’t always at the same level – i.e. the states where the Penn Central ran (NY, NJ, PA primarily) seemed to pay a lot less than other states like Oklahoma and even Maine, both of whom sponsor trains.  The law set the lower limit for “long distance” trains at 750 miles (see below for a list of those that exceed 750 miles), though, so many trains that formerly cost states $0 were now going to cost them a bunch more.

The law also included a provision that allowed “unbundling” of services, meaning that states were free to purchase service from companies other than Amtrak.  I’m not clear on this point because while Amtrak once had a legal monopoly on intercity passenger trains, that hasn’t been the case since at least 1997.  Regardless, the governor of Indiana really wanted to halt funding of the Hoosier State, which would have result in the train’s cancellation, but his constituents had other ideas.  Instead, he’s trying very hard to make sure that Amtrak isn’t the contractor, or at least not the sole contractor.

And that’s OK.  Amtrak, on the whole, provides a decent basic service, but has never been consistently run and has had, and continues to have, some poor business practices.  Contracting entire services or even portions thereof will, hopefully, cause them to “straighten up an fly right”.  The problem is that the attitude always seems to be that if they just hang on that those particular Congressmen will go away and everything will go back to normal.  So far, that’s worked.




The trains that have routes over 750 miles are:

  • Silver Meteor/Silver Star/Palmetto, NYC to Savannah and points in Florida
  • Lake Shore Ltd, NYC and Boston to Chicago
  • Cardinal, NYC to Chicago via Cincinnati
  • Crescent, NYC to New Orleans via Atlanta
  • Capitol Ltd, Chicago to Washington, DC, via Cleveland and Pittsburgh
  • City of New Orleans, Chicago to New Orleans
  • Empire Builder, Chicago to Seattle and Portland via St Paul
  • Sunset Ltd, New Orleans to LA via Houston, El Paso, and Tucson
  • California Zephyr, Chicago to the Bay Area via Denver
  • Southwest Chief, Chicago to LA via KC and Albuquerque
  • Texas Eagle, Chicago to San Antonio via St Louis and Dallas/Ft Worth
  • Coast Starlight, Seattle to LA
  • Auto Train, near Washington, DC to near Orlando, Fla.