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(Seattle Times)   Amtrak reaches record ridership, on the way to profitability on the news gas prices suck, airlines resembling movie theaters and riding Greyhound is like playing Russian Roulette   (seattletimes.nwsource.com) divider line 143
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5747 clicks; posted to Main » on 21 Jun 2008 at 2:12 PM (6 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2008-06-21 03:01:15 PM
FTFA: But the railroad's labor contracts provide stiff penalties for dropping routes, and dropping states from its itinerary would hurt its political support, especially in the Senate, where thinly populated states are overrepresented relative to their population.

Is this guy a complete idiot? Of course they're "overrepresented" in the Senate, that's the whole bloody purpose of the Senate you blithering media moron! Don't Journalism students have to take US Government? Or did they just sleep through that because it wasn't revisionist enough?
 
2008-06-21 03:01:49 PM
eddyatwork: The problem with Amtrak is that they don't have dedicated rails and ride on privately owned tracks. The railroads give slow freight trains the right of way because they obviously generate a profit unlike Amtrak which doesn't pay so you'll have passenger trains sitting on a siding for hours while a two mile long coal train goes by. Give Amtrak the funding for their own dedicated rails and you'll have practical mass transit again.

THISx3
 
2008-06-21 03:02:52 PM
I think America actually ended around the year 2000.

What we have now...I don't really recognize anymore.
 
2008-06-21 03:07:13 PM
Doc Daneeka: From the original article in the NY Times (of which the Seattle Times article is just an abridged copy):

TFA: Scarcity is not all bad for the railroad, though. It has raised ticket prices, so that it recorded ticket revenues of $153.4 million in May, up 15.6 percent from $132.7 million in May 2006. That jump is higher than the ridership increase of 12.3 percent, to 2.58 million, from 2.30 million.

This is the problem right here.

Amtrak is faced with increasing demand, to the point where it is bumping up against capacity. Rather than expand service, and add add trains and rails, it is instead raising ticket prices.

I want to support American passenger rail. I really, really do. But when taking the train is slower than driving, and still, inexplicably, just as expensive as flying, it's a no-brainer. Any rational person has to conclude that the train is a poor alternative at present.

This is a time when Amtrak should be becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to flying. The rising cost of fuel should be creating an increasing disparity in pricing that should be giving train travel an edge. Instead, Amtrak raises its prices to keep pace with the airlines, negating any advantage that may have lured people away from flying.

It's frustrating. I really want to see a modern, high speed rail network in the US, that is at least somewhat more affordable than flying.


The problem with this is that Amtrak is still operating under the pressure to be self-sufficient. They're going to raise their prices as much as they can until they reach that point. Now, if we treated Amtrak like our Interstate highway system and left off the self-sufficiency part, Amtrak wouldn't be forced to continuously raise prices as ridership increases. Instead we treat Amtrak like an ugly step-child and look for reasons to make the system harder to operate.
 
2008-06-21 03:08:01 PM
Doc Daneeka: From the original article in the NY Times (of which the Seattle Times article is just an abridged copy):

TFA: Scarcity is not all bad for the railroad, though. It has raised ticket prices, so that it recorded ticket revenues of $153.4 million in May, up 15.6 percent from $132.7 million in May 2006. That jump is higher than the ridership increase of 12.3 percent, to 2.58 million, from 2.30 million.

This is the problem right here.

Amtrak is faced with increasing demand, to the point where it is bumping up against capacity. Rather than expand service, and add add trains and rails, it is instead raising ticket prices.

I want to support American passenger rail. I really, really do. But when taking the train is slower than driving, and still, inexplicably, just as expensive as flying, it's a no-brainer. Any rational person has to conclude that the train is a poor alternative at present.

This is a time when Amtrak should be becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to flying. The rising cost of fuel should be creating an increasing disparity in pricing that should be giving train travel an edge. Instead, Amtrak raises its prices to keep pace with the airlines, negating any advantage that may have lured people away from flying.

It's frustrating. I really want to see a modern, high speed rail network in the US, that is at least somewhat more affordable than flying.


SO This!!
 
2008-06-21 03:08:02 PM
General Vayo: Is this guy a complete idiot? Of course they're "overrepresented" in the Senate, that's the whole bloody purpose of the Senate you blithering media moron! Don't Journalism students have to take US Government? Or did they just sleep through that because it wasn't revisionist enough?

Don't forget the House.
 
2008-06-21 03:09:11 PM
I think we should keep up our railways and make them better. Railroads are much cheaper to maintain than highways, and have the possibility of being faster. We really need to go back to the rails.

I can ride the train from college to my parents house for $15 (the gas alone would cost $25, not to mention wear and tear on my car), and get there as fast as I would have by driving. Gotta love the Crescent.
 
2008-06-21 03:09:31 PM
Ron Paul Revere: General Vayo: Is this guy a complete idiot? Of course they're "overrepresented" in the Senate, that's the whole bloody purpose of the Senate you blithering media moron! Don't Journalism students have to take US Government? Or did they just sleep through that because it wasn't revisionist enough?

Don't forget the House.


epic. fail.
 
2008-06-21 03:11:20 PM
texastag: 22 hours on a train or 3 hours on the plane

Trains have the added advantages of not dealing with the TSA monkey squad, and stations are typically located in the middle of downtown in a major city. Add in the half hour ride to the airport, the compulsory two hours to make it through airport screening , an hour waiting for a runway to open up, a half hour to taxi up to an open gate when you get there, another half hour waiting for your bag to roll out, then another half hour to get from the airport to anywhere, and that three hours just became 8 or more.

/That is 22 hours of luxury though
//Hmmm...


I wouldn't call it luxury. Comfort and convenience, though.
 
2008-06-21 03:12:08 PM
Risky Business anyone?
 
2008-06-21 03:12:42 PM
studebaker hoch: I think America actually ended around the year 2000.

What we have now...I don't really recognize anymore.


I think the past 7 years will be treated the same as if you ask any German about WWII and the Holocaust. Everyone will just say we were all on vacation.
 
2008-06-21 03:14:05 PM
DreamWeaver: epic. fail.

Do states not get at least 3 representatives in the House, regardless of population?

Yes, yes they do.

Does this not mean that the representation afforded to a state like Wyoming means that they get more votes in the House per capita than a state like California?

Yes, yes it does.

The epic fail is with you, dummy.
 
2008-06-21 03:19:43 PM
Ron Paul Revere: DreamWeaver: epic. fail.

Do states not get at least 3 representatives in the House, regardless of population?

Yes, yes they do.

Does this not mean that the representation afforded to a state like Wyoming means that they get more votes in the House per capita than a state like California?

Yes, yes it does.

The epic fail is with you, dummy.


No, you get a minimum of 1. You're thinking of electoral votes, which is a minimum of 3 per state.
 
2008-06-21 03:19:52 PM
Ron Paul Revere: Do states not get at least 3 representatives in the House, regardless of population?

Yes, yes they do.


No, no they don't. Epic fail, dummy.
 
2008-06-21 03:19:59 PM
I took a train from Memphis to New Orleans before Katrina. There were a bunch of old people singing half the farkin time. Pissed me the fark off.
 
2008-06-21 03:23:54 PM
Once, I took the Greyhound from Portland OR, to Detroit MI. Never again. (>_
 
2008-06-21 03:24:59 PM
batsforsteadman: lazymojo: This is surely a sign of the apocalypse. Rail travel is a step towards communism, and a tool of the devil.

The 97,000 Portland MAX riders that occupy our light rail system on a daily basis would like to disagree...

http://www.lightrailnow.org/news/n_por_2005-01.htm


You thought I was serious? Come on now, I live in Chicago, not Tennessee. It's not that your sarcasm detector is weak... I'd say it's non-existent.
 
2008-06-21 03:25:12 PM
sarahlh3: "I drove for fifteen hours on this nasty Greyhound bus." - Better Than Ezra
"Hopped on the noon 'Hound to Philly." -Artist unknown.


But you have this instead (^)(not a rickroll)
 
2008-06-21 03:25:56 PM
chrissytine7

I never understood why more people didn't do it, and it didn't go to more places.

Asked and answered.
 
2008-06-21 03:33:11 PM
Vagpuncher: No, you get a minimum of 1. You're thinking of electoral votes, which is a minimum of 3 per state.

DreamWeaver: No, no they don't. Epic fail, dummy.

Someone serve me some humble pie. I admit I'm quite a dumbass and, for some reason, was under the impression the House followed the same format as the EC.

However, if my calculations are correct, Wyoming still gets more representation per capita than California.

Wyoming population: 515,004

Number of Reps: 1

California population: 36,457,549

Number of Reps: 53

That means 1 rep for every 515K people for Wyoming, while California gets 1 rep for ever 688K people (rounded up).

So yes, I was wrong about the mechanism, but correct that they get more representation per capita.
 
2008-06-21 03:36:27 PM
eddyatwork: Thank god they made those "rails to trails" back in the 80s. Great idea. Take rails which can take thousands of people and make them into trails that nobody uses.

You need to read up on the Rails-to-Trails program, because you don't understand the concept. The entire basis for them is to preserve the rail right-of-way for future rail use. If the unused tracks weren't converted to trails now, the rights of way would be turned over instead to developers for roads, shopping, houses, etc. Good luck ever getting rail again once buildings are up.
 
2008-06-21 03:37:45 PM
Cfreak, check out LimoLiner.com for Boston/NYC travel; basically a fancy bus, it's pretty nice.

Or, you can do the Fung Wah thing, if yer feeling lucky :)
 
2008-06-21 03:45:53 PM
Slu: flucto: eddyatwork: Give Amtrak the funding for their own dedicated rails and you'll have practical mass transit again.

But then everyone will be howling mad about the injustice of imminent domain because if you're going to lay that much track, you're going to displace a shiatload of people.

At least with imminent domain, you know it is coming very soon.


*giggle*

/was going to grammar-nazi the original post
//now feels no need to
 
2008-06-21 03:48:24 PM
Headline needs work.

Rails will pretty much always be slower than flight (short of some vacuum-tube uber-train) but I suspect it would be more common than cross-country commuting if it were more available.

My experience with AMTRAK was mixed, not the greatest but a damn sight better than driving myself the whole distance.
 
2008-06-21 03:53:35 PM
Lipo: Doc Daneeka: From the original article in the NY Times (of which the Seattle Times article is just an abridged copy):

TFA: Scarcity is not all bad for the railroad, though. It has raised ticket prices, so that it recorded ticket revenues of $153.4 million in May, up 15.6 percent from $132.7 million in May 2006. That jump is higher than the ridership increase of 12.3 percent, to 2.58 million, from 2.30 million.

This is the problem right here.

Amtrak is faced with increasing demand, to the point where it is bumping up against capacity. Rather than expand service, and add add trains and rails, it is instead raising ticket prices.

I want to support American passenger rail. I really, really do. But when taking the train is slower than driving, and still, inexplicably, just as expensive as flying, it's a no-brainer. Any rational person has to conclude that the train is a poor alternative at present.

This is a time when Amtrak should be becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to flying. The rising cost of fuel should be creating an increasing disparity in pricing that should be giving train travel an edge. Instead, Amtrak raises its prices to keep pace with the airlines, negating any advantage that may have lured people away from flying.

It's frustrating. I really want to see a modern, high speed rail network in the US, that is at least somewhat more affordable than flying.

The problem with this is that Amtrak is still operating under the pressure to be self-sufficient. They're going to raise their prices as much as they can until they reach that point. Now, if we treated Amtrak like our Interstate highway system and left off the self-sufficiency part, Amtrak wouldn't be forced to continuously raise prices as ridership increases. Instead we treat Amtrak like an ugly step-child and look for reasons to make the system harder to operate.


If we get the Federal Government out of the passenger train business then we would be getting somewhere and why shoudln't it be self sufficent? Let those who use it pay for it-seems simple enough. Lets sell off or give to the indivudal states what sections we can and close the unprofitable/unsellable portions. It is bad enough we have to bail out those airlines who continue to operate under a bad business model what is next a government airline?

The Northeast corridor remains about thee only really profitable section AMTRAK and I am sure we could find some private investors willing to take it over. If the demand for private rail is sufficient in the rest of tcountry I am sure you are going to find plenty of private investors willing to fork over the cash to start them up.

People who keep pointing to the European train system seem to miss important diffrences in the population density and distances to be travelled between Europe and the US. As screwed up as air travel is even th most optomistic plans for high speed rail that I have seen put forward for a route between Dallas and San Antonio could not beat flying by a discout carrier like Southwest.
 
2008-06-21 04:01:04 PM
chrissytine7: I used to take the Texas Eagle from Ft. Worth home from college. (2-3 years ago) I must say it was splendid. I never really had trouble with delays. It took the same amount of time to get there, and only cost me about 17 dollars each way. Plus the views were amazing. I never understood why more people didn't do it, and it didn't go to more places.

/Also met some crazy people.
//Like the man who talked to me about Absinthe for 3 hours.



Was it this guy?

i202.photobucket.com
 
2008-06-21 04:03:34 PM
Like the idea of high speed rail but I don't necessarily believe that is practical for all of the USA, too many major cities, too many different routes to take.

Should be very parctical in the north east with large population base. But the hardest part is finding the routes that work best to get the volume of passengers.

First requirement is dedicated tracks (years to build). Second is getting trains that can maintain 300-350mph, like the TGV or even the Sth Korean special version of the TGV (lighter & faster).
 
2008-06-21 04:03:42 PM
Thank God and Greyhound you're gone
I didn't know how much longer I could go on
Watching you take the respect out of me
Watching you make a total wreck out of me
That big diesel motor is a-playing my song
Thank God and Greyhound you're gone.
- Roy Clarke

(the guy with the red white and blue guitar on HeeHaw)
 
2008-06-21 04:07:12 PM
hasty ambush: Let those who use it pay for it-seems simple enough.

Funny how the Interstates don't work that way.

The Northeast corridor remains about thee only really profitable section AMTRAK and I am sure we could find some private investors willing to take it over.

Because, you know, as a taxpayer, my interests would so clearly be served by taking an asset that makes us money, and then making that asset vanish. Because we can't have a state-owned asset, you know, make money. All so we can replace a management structure that is accountable to our elected representatives with a new ownership group that would operate the rail system as a private monopoly. Genius.
 
2008-06-21 04:13:56 PM
Greyhound isn't THAT bad. My first experience was back in high school, South Florida to Lexington, KY for the NJCL Latin Competition. 17 hours, 15 some kids, good times. Yeah there was a guy in the back that had a different odor about him every few hours or so, but that just adds to the experience.

Orlando - South Florida isn't too bad, either, especially if you buy 2 weeks in advance. You'd spend about the same in gas, and no wear on your vehicle.
 
2008-06-21 04:27:19 PM
MedMan: eddyatwork: Thank god they made those "rails to trails" back in the 80s. Great idea. Take rails which can take thousands of people and make them into trails that nobody uses.

You need to read up on the Rails-to-Trails program, because you don't understand the concept. The entire basis for them is to preserve the rail right-of-way for future rail use. If the unused tracks weren't converted to trails now, the rights of way would be turned over instead to developers for roads, shopping, houses, etc. Good luck ever getting rail again once buildings are up.


Exactly. Part of the deal with the railroads allowing communities, counties or states to take out the rails and put a trail in it's place is that the railroad still owns the land and that if needed the railroad is allowed to convert it back to rails. Although this was discussed with the Wiouwash Trail in WI a few years ago, there was enough opposition from trail users that the Wisconsin Central decided to keep using the existing, longer, route.
 
2008-06-21 04:29:53 PM
studebaker hoch: I think America actually ended around the year 2000.

What we have now...I don't really recognize anymore.


My gf left for summer school yesterday, three hours away. Will everybody please quit trying to make me cry?
 
2008-06-21 04:32:09 PM
Ron Paul Revere seems to be a typical Ron Paul/"libertarian" voter -- i.e., ignorant of what the Constitution actually says, and totally oblivious to how the world works.
 
2008-06-21 04:34:03 PM
Jeremy Bates: Ron Paul Revere seems to be a typical Ron Paul/"libertarian" voter -- i.e., ignorant of what the Constitution actually says, and totally oblivious to how the world works.

Right, because one mis-recollection means everything else I know about and believe is wrong. Stunning use of logic right there. I suppose you've never been wrong, correct? How about the balls to admit it instead of running away?
 
2008-06-21 04:38:56 PM
hasty ambush: If we get the Federal Government out of the passenger train business then we would be getting somewhere and why shoudln't it be self sufficent?

Because:

1) No national passenger rail network in the world is self-sufficient. Why do we expect ours to be?

2) It's national transportation infrastructure, similar to the interstate highway system. It's quite obvious that such infrastructure falls under the responsibility of the government to build and mainstain.

I'll tell you, the interstate highways aren't self-sufficient either. Not by a long-shot. The federal government spends billions of dollars on highways every year. And gas taxes, occasional tolls, and other assorted usage fees don't even come close to covering that expenditure.

How come the people always demanding that Amtrak be privatized or run at a profit, never demand the same thing of the interstate highway system?
 
2008-06-21 04:47:04 PM
Did someone say RON PAUL!
 
2008-06-21 04:53:12 PM
Submitter says "On the way to profitability"? I read through the article twice and saw no reference to profitabilty at all with regard to Amtrack or anything else for that matter.
 
2008-06-21 04:56:44 PM
El Supe: Submitter says "On the way to profitability"? I read through the article twice and saw no reference to profitabilty at all with regard to Amtrack or anything else for that matter.

Welcome to Fark. Don't be so pedantic. It'll make your experience much more enjoyable.
 
2008-06-21 04:57:11 PM
Railroads built this damn country. Why there's not a subsidized out the ass 'going to the moon' level national initiative to augment the goddam railroad nationwide I'll never freakin' understand.
 
2008-06-21 04:59:34 PM
jbernie: Like the idea of high speed rail but I don't necessarily believe that is practical for all of the USA, too many major cities, too many different routes to take.

You're right. Look at Europe for example - not very big and they don't have many cities. To further complicate things they all speak the same language and use the same currency.
 
2008-06-21 05:00:15 PM
Doc Daneeka:
It's frustrating. I really want to see a modern, high speed rail network in the US, that is at least somewhat more affordable than flying.


Then write your congress(wo)man (if that will do any good) and let them know that you support rail subsidies. It's not that America can't possibly have a high-speed rail network (although travel between the east and west coast by train is probably always going to be a money-loser). It's that there's no way for Amtrak to independently finance the construction and purchasing they would need to get a modern trail network running. They are forced to run a number of ancient and unprofitable routes by Congress, and in return, they are given just enough money to stay solvent.

Yes, it will take subsidies. But every other mode of travel in this country is subsidized. The roads you travel? Built and maintained by government (often without tolls). Flying by plane? Airports and traffic control are largely operated on the public dime.

God forbid we should ever get to the point where there's not enough fuel to allow everyone to fly or drive where they need to go. If we get caught in such a situation, the government will have to knuckle under and expand passenger rail, but not in time to prevent a crushing economic blow.
 
2008-06-21 05:01:54 PM
I used to take Greyhound from St. Louis back to college at UMR back in 1990. Not too bad, but I had to be dropped at the airport, and no one was selling bus tickets there, so I had to get off the bus halfway there to buy them. About half the other passengers were army guys heading back to Ft. Leonard Wood. It was always an uneventful ride, I'd turn on a light and read a book.
 
2008-06-21 05:02:13 PM
i rode the texas eagle from austin to dallas two days ago. it was two hours late, making the trip eight instead of six hours. since i was in no hurry, that didn't bug me too much.

i didn't see any indication that my licensed handgun wasn't welcome. the guy running the concessions made an announcement that my personal beverages weren't welcome in the lounge car.

it cost $31.

i'll be repeating the experience. the screaming kids were just like the ones on the bus or the plane, except i could take a walk and get away from them.
 
2008-06-21 05:02:20 PM
We could have spent the money we spent in Iraq on a better train system, but then again we we wouldn't have received the benefits we received from being in Iraq. I'm not sure I want to give that up.
 
2008-06-21 05:13:57 PM
hasty ambush:
If we get the Federal Government out of the passenger train business then we would be getting somewhere and why shoudln't it be self sufficent? Let those who use it pay for it-seems simple enough. Lets sell off or give to the indivudal states what sections we can and close the unprofitable/unsellable portions. It is bad enough we have to bail out those airlines who continue to operate under a bad business model what is next a government airline?


I hear these same arguments about local public transit, and they're garbage then, too. Why? Because it's not the purpose of transit to be self-sufficient in a closed system.

Here in the town I live in, people argue that we should just shut the inadequate bus system we have down if it can't operate in the black on its passenger revenues. But yet the money used to "bail out" transit more than pays for itself in increased economic growth (at least according to economists, but what do they know?)

If you shut down the busses, there will be thousands of people that cannot afford to drive to where they work. The supply of available labor therefore shrinks significantly, and businesses will have to pay more for workers that do the same amount of work, or will suffer a hit in productivity because some of the more skilled workers will not be available.

The economy as a whole benefits from the availability of robust transportation; not just the individual passenger. The fact that the busses themselves don't run an operating profit does not mean that subsidy of transit is a waste of money.

The national economy also benefits greatly from the existence of a national interstate highway system... but most stretches of these roads do not carry tolls, and probably would not meet public need if we had sat around and waited for private enterprise to come up with a viable business model and the financing to build them.

I see what you're trying to do, and libertarian/anarchocapitalism has a certain romance to it on paper. Then again, so does communism.
 
2008-06-21 05:18:43 PM
JohnBigBootay: jbernie: Like the idea of high speed rail but I don't necessarily believe that is practical for all of the USA, too many major cities, too many different routes to take.

You're right. Look at Europe for example - not very big and they don't have many cities. To further complicate things they all speak the same language and use the same currency.


London to Rome - 891 miles
Los Angeles to Chicago - 1744 miles

Europe is way more compressed than the USA, major cities in the USA are too far apart to make it economical to build for distance travelled vs passenger numbers. London/Paris on Eurostar is likely to be a much better option than flying, flying is more practical for the bigger city pairs in the USA due to geography and distance.
 
2008-06-21 05:27:53 PM
Ghastly: High-speed rail is what North America should have been investing in long ago. The 80s farked us all over big time. All the progress towards a responsible national energy plan the fuel crisis of the 70s brought on undone in one decade of cheap fuel that made people foolishly believe another fuel crunch could never happen again.

I say we line up the boomers and cock punch the lot.

/I keed, I keed, I know many boomers equally outraged
//although they've probably still done something to deserve a cock punch.


No, I know it, I'm a boomer and I admit guilty. Goddammit.
 
2008-06-21 05:30:02 PM
jbernie:

London to Rome - 891 miles
Los Angeles to Chicago - 1744 miles


London to Athens - 1985 miles

You're right in that there are some sparse areas of the US between two big population regions (the East Coast/Great Lakes and the West Coast). It's probably much more cost effective to fly if you are going from New York to LA.

However, that doesn't mean that railroads from Florida to New England, Texas to Chicago, and San Diego to Seattle couldn't work.

I just checked the train routes between Tampa and New York and they're sold out or partially sold out for the next 2 - 3 weeks. Clearly, there's a demand for Amtrak on the east coast, and not just the DC - Boston circuit.
 
2008-06-21 05:34:12 PM
crazywisdom_uk: Ghastly: High-speed rail is what North America should have been investing in long ago. The 80s farked us all over big time. All the progress towards a responsible national energy plan the fuel crisis of the 70s brought on undone in one decade of cheap fuel that made people foolishly believe another fuel crunch could never happen again.

I say we line up the boomers and cock punch the lot.

/I keed, I keed, I know many boomers equally outraged
//although they've probably still done something to deserve a cock punch.

No, I know it, I'm a boomer and I admit guilty. Goddammit.


I'm not sure British boomers count. You guys have already learned to stop worrying and love government.
 
2008-06-21 05:37:46 PM
If you want to make rail work in the US, the 1st thing you're going to have to do is throw out all of the laws relating to them. There are clauses in just about every piece of legislation that have something to do with rail roads.

Then throw out the unions.

Start from scratch.

The unions did a good job for rail workers - a 100 years ago. For the last 50 years or so all they have done is screw things up.
 
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