Amtrak's Goals

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atrainguy60
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Amtrak's Goals

Unread post by atrainguy60 »

In response to Biden's infrastructure plans, Amtraks released some info on what they'd like to do over the next 15 years.

http://railfan.com/amtrak-30-new-routes ... -15-years/

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Re: Amtrak's Goals

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For us it looks like all three trains in Michigan would be enhanced. Also new service between Detroit and Toledo as well as Detroit and Toronto. Anything that adds trains works for me.
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Re: Amtrak's Goals

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ns8401 wrote:
Thu Apr 01, 2021 4:42 am
For us it looks like all three trains in Michigan would be enhanced. Also new service between Detroit and Toledo as well as Detroit and Toronto. Anything that adds trains works for me.
What does “enhanced” mean?

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Re: Amtrak's Goals

Unread post by DaveO »

The current network doesn't work. Fixing that should be priority one.
The on time performance is not acceptable as it is. Only some of that is due to the host railroad.
If a railroad expects Amtrak to enter their track at 9:00 and they show up at 9:30, how can you blame them if they let their freight trains loose at 9:05?

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Re: Amtrak's Goals

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LansingRailFan wrote:
Thu Apr 01, 2021 5:09 am
ns8401 wrote:
Thu Apr 01, 2021 4:42 am
For us it looks like all three trains in Michigan would be enhanced. Also new service between Detroit and Toledo as well as Detroit and Toronto. Anything that adds trains works for me.
What does “enhanced” mean?
Added frequency. It’s no secret that MDOT wants to go to 6 wolverines each way a day for example. And that Detroit-Toronto train may become Chicago to Toronto.
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Re: Amtrak's Goals

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30 new routes where future generations of tax payers will foot the bill to subsidize competing modes of transportation.

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Re: Amtrak's Goals

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PatAzo wrote:
Thu Apr 01, 2021 12:47 pm
30 new routes where future generations of tax payers will foot the bill to subsidize competing modes of transportation.
So I gather you're ok with also cutting subsidies to roads, buses, airports, seaports and canal locks? Fuel taxes alone don't begin to cover the full cost of maintaining highways.

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Re: Amtrak's Goals

Unread post by jrgerber »

An old article but just an example of how federal government hands out taxpayer dollars to other forms of transportation.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/christophe ... e208d86fb8

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Re: Amtrak's Goals

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So I gather you're ok with also cutting subsidies to roads, buses, airports, seaports and canal locks? Fuel taxes alone don't begin to cover the full cost of maintaining highways.
Ah, a happy taxpayer.

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Re: Amtrak's Goals

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R Bedell wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 6:42 am
So I gather you're ok with also cutting subsidies to roads, buses, airports, seaports and canal locks? Fuel taxes alone don't begin to cover the full cost of maintaining highways.
Ah, a happy taxpayer.
The price of existing in society. Amtrak itself has been underfunded for years on end. If the feds had been more amenable to it years ago some of these projects would have already happened.
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Re: Amtrak's Goals

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ns8401 wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 8:44 am
R Bedell wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 6:42 am
So I gather you're ok with also cutting subsidies to roads, buses, airports, seaports and canal locks? Fuel taxes alone don't begin to cover the full cost of maintaining highways.
Ah, a happy taxpayer.
The price of existing in society. Amtrak itself has been underfunded for years on end. If the feds had been more amenable to it years ago some of these projects would have already happened.
Funding levels are ultimately up to one's own opinion - there are lots of things some people will consider overfunded while others will scream just the opposite.

In terms of Amtrak, over or under funded depends on what you want them to be as an organization. They're adequately funded from an operational and fleet perspective, at least for the last 5-10 years, without any cuts except for during the pandemic - which I think would have been a good move even with full funding from Congress - everybody else in the passenger transportation business cut service, why would Amtrak be any different? No sense in running empty trains. Of course, they cut trains late in the game right as ridership was bouncing back - go figure.

In terms of funding between modes, there is and will never be a truly fair cross-comparison. That being said, one of the better comparisons would be subsidy per passenger mile. In that metric, Amtrak receives far more than the airlines, highways and mass transit. Amtrak receives around 30-40 cents per passenger mile in subsidy on average, good for $700+ per person travelling from Chicago to Seattle or Portland on the Empire Builder - or around $95 for somebody travelling from Detroit to Chicago. Now that's an average and includes capital expenditures on routes and equipment, but any other business would be required to foot the bill there, too.

Now airlines do get subsidies, mostly in the form of airports being constructed and maintained by governments. However, the airlines and their passengers - directly and by extension - typically pay fees to the airports as well, with many airport projects financed entirely through airport-held bonds which are paid off largely from these fees, rather than through direct taxpayer dollars. Ultimately, most estimates appear to pin taxpayer subsidy of US domestic airline travel at around 2 cents per passenger mile, or a measly $44 per flight from Chicago to Seattle.

Ultimately, Air and Highway travel costs are almost entirely born by users through excise taxes and fees. Yes, lots of general fund money is appropriated to highways, but there are so many passenger-miles that it really dilutes it. Meanwhile, for every dollar an Amtrak passenger pays, a near-equal amount is subsidized by federal and state sources. Mass Transit is worse, with all forms combined usually receiving 2-4 times their ticket revenue in taxpayer support.

Now it is not all bad to provide a subsidy. I'm a very right-leaning libertarian-esque guy but I recognize that subsidies are there to encourage certain behaviors. Not all dollars are traceable, but the argument always is that the subsidy returns a greater value in other economic activity, which is ultimately taxed as well, and encourages economic activity. The more dollars which change hands, the better of the country's people are and the more tax income received. The argument is that the $44 spent to support flying somebody from Chicago to Seattle will result in a significant economic impact, and perhaps even recover the costs through various taxes. Honestly, I can see that happening here. Even a few dinners and hotel nights would make it a net-win for government as a whole. Bonus points for the additional economic activities as a whole.

Now is there going to be enough to fully cover that $700 subsidy for the Amtrak passenger? Maybe, maybe not. I would presume on average, probably not. But that is just conjecture. Meanwhile, you have mass transit and commuting, the worst of the bunch. 2-4 times ticket costs sounds high, but then you have to look at the economic activity involved. If you're a suburb, you want people living in your town, so the subsidy to pay for running the trains and busses may be, and probably is, worth it to you. Some lower-density lines may be more fringe, but if you look at the RTA in Chicagoland, I would argue that the taxes paid to support the CTA, Metra and Pace are probably worth the benefit of the massive public transportation infrastructure which ties the entire metro area together.

To summarize, subsidies are all about encouraging desired behavior. Rarely to politicians speak and do in purely logical terms, but at the end of the day the idea of subsidizing transportation is pretty logical and on the whole strengthens the US economy on local, regional and national levels. All great societies have had great transportation networks, so it is ultimately something worth the cost, in my opinion. This is why infrastructure spending enjoys near-universal support. It is used by everybody, and everybody benefits. People use different parts of the systems so one could argue a farmer doesn't have much use for his money going to mass transit, but on the flipside those thousands of rural highway miles don't pay for themselves in gas taxes, either.

Now, if only this new $2 trillion spending plan was actually $2 trillion in capital expenditures on actual infrastructure. Oh man, a civil engineer's dream. Bah humbug.
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Re: Amtrak's Goals

Unread post by GP30M4216 »

I will say that one thing I am very excited about is the possibility of resuming Chicago-Michigan-Toronto passenger service:

https://www.clickondetroit.com/news/nat ... o-toronto/

Michigan sits conveniently between Canada’s largest city and the “second city” of the US, and we have several substantial burgs in the route ourselves. This would likely result in taking one Wolverine and extending it to Toronto via the Detroit tunnel and some track upgrades in Windsor to connect to the Chatham Sub. I imagine it would replace one of the daily Windsor/Toronto round trips as well.

Make it so!

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Re: Amtrak's Goals

Unread post by ns8401 »

Saturnalia wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:44 am
ns8401 wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 8:44 am
R Bedell wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 6:42 am


Ah, a happy taxpayer.
The price of existing in society. Amtrak itself has been underfunded for years on end. If the feds had been more amenable to it years ago some of these projects would have already happened.
Funding levels are ultimately up to one's own opinion - there are lots of things some people will consider overfunded while others will scream just the opposite.

In terms of Amtrak, over or under funded depends on what you want them to be as an organization. They're adequately funded from an operational and fleet perspective, at least for the last 5-10 years, without any cuts except for during the pandemic - which I think would have been a good move even with full funding from Congress - everybody else in the passenger transportation business cut service, why would Amtrak be any different? No sense in running empty trains. Of course, they cut trains late in the game right as ridership was bouncing back - go figure.

In terms of funding between modes, there is and will never be a truly fair cross-comparison. That being said, one of the better comparisons would be subsidy per passenger mile. In that metric, Amtrak receives far more than the airlines, highways and mass transit. Amtrak receives around 30-40 cents per passenger mile in subsidy on average, good for $700+ per person travelling from Chicago to Seattle or Portland on the Empire Builder - or around $95 for somebody travelling from Detroit to Chicago. Now that's an average and includes capital expenditures on routes and equipment, but any other business would be required to foot the bill there, too.

Now airlines do get subsidies, mostly in the form of airports being constructed and maintained by governments. However, the airlines and their passengers - directly and by extension - typically pay fees to the airports as well, with many airport projects financed entirely through airport-held bonds which are paid off largely from these fees, rather than through direct taxpayer dollars. Ultimately, most estimates appear to pin taxpayer subsidy of US domestic airline travel at around 2 cents per passenger mile, or a measly $44 per flight from Chicago to Seattle.

Ultimately, Air and Highway travel costs are almost entirely born by users through excise taxes and fees. Yes, lots of general fund money is appropriated to highways, but there are so many passenger-miles that it really dilutes it. Meanwhile, for every dollar an Amtrak passenger pays, a near-equal amount is subsidized by federal and state sources. Mass Transit is worse, with all forms combined usually receiving 2-4 times their ticket revenue in taxpayer support.

Now it is not all bad to provide a subsidy. I'm a very right-leaning libertarian-esque guy but I recognize that subsidies are there to encourage certain behaviors. Not all dollars are traceable, but the argument always is that the subsidy returns a greater value in other economic activity, which is ultimately taxed as well, and encourages economic activity. The more dollars which change hands, the better of the country's people are and the more tax income received. The argument is that the $44 spent to support flying somebody from Chicago to Seattle will result in a significant economic impact, and perhaps even recover the costs through various taxes. Honestly, I can see that happening here. Even a few dinners and hotel nights would make it a net-win for government as a whole. Bonus points for the additional economic activities as a whole.

Now is there going to be enough to fully cover that $700 subsidy for the Amtrak passenger? Maybe, maybe not. I would presume on average, probably not. But that is just conjecture. Meanwhile, you have mass transit and commuting, the worst of the bunch. 2-4 times ticket costs sounds high, but then you have to look at the economic activity involved. If you're a suburb, you want people living in your town, so the subsidy to pay for running the trains and busses may be, and probably is, worth it to you. Some lower-density lines may be more fringe, but if you look at the RTA in Chicagoland, I would argue that the taxes paid to support the CTA, Metra and Pace are probably worth the benefit of the massive public transportation infrastructure which ties the entire metro area together.

To summarize, subsidies are all about encouraging desired behavior. Rarely to politicians speak and do in purely logical terms, but at the end of the day the idea of subsidizing transportation is pretty logical and on the whole strengthens the US economy on local, regional and national levels. All great societies have had great transportation networks, so it is ultimately something worth the cost, in my opinion. This is why infrastructure spending enjoys near-universal support. It is used by everybody, and everybody benefits. People use different parts of the systems so one could argue a farmer doesn't have much use for his money going to mass transit, but on the flipside those thousands of rural highway miles don't pay for themselves in gas taxes, either.

Now, if only this new $2 trillion spending plan was actually $2 trillion in capital expenditures on actual infrastructure. Oh man, a civil engineer's dream. Bah humbug.
A large chunk of the $80 Billion for Amtrak is to catch up on deferred fleet Maintanance. That’s been an issue for a very long time.
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Re: Amtrak's Goals

Unread post by jrgerber »

A bit off track but are there funds in the plan for Chicago freight improvements and regional and shortline improvements?

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Re: Amtrak's Goals

Unread post by PatAzo »

Steve B wrote:
Thu Apr 01, 2021 6:16 pm
PatAzo wrote:
Thu Apr 01, 2021 12:47 pm
30 new routes where future generations of tax payers will foot the bill to subsidize competing modes of transportation.
So I gather you're ok with also cutting subsidies to roads, buses, airports, seaports and canal locks? Fuel taxes alone don't begin to cover the full cost of maintaining highways.
Did I say all of that? There are places rail makes sense. There are places it does not. What I am not in favor of is borrowing money to build out passenger service in markets that don't need it, won't utilize it and won't plan for how in the end it will be paid for. I've worked in Europe and Asia where they have excellent rail transportation and given the choice they drive. I watched trains in Germany on a hourly service run nearly empty. We won't be any different.

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Re: Amtrak's Goals

Unread post by dave989 »

I thought the ideal was for Amtrak to become profitable like Conrail back in the day. Silly me!! Well, at least the Chicago to Detroit corridor will get more attention.

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Re: Amtrak's Goals

Unread post by ns8401 »

dave989 wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 2:48 pm
I thought the ideal was for Amtrak to become profitable like Conrail back in the day. Silly me!! Well, at least the Chicago to Detroit corridor will get more attention.
Nobody makes money hauling people. It’s a service.
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Re: Amtrak's Goals

Unread post by Saturnalia »

ns8401 wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 4:51 pm
dave989 wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 2:48 pm
I thought the ideal was for Amtrak to become profitable like Conrail back in the day. Silly me!! Well, at least the Chicago to Detroit corridor will get more attention.
Nobody makes money hauling people. It’s a service.
The airlines do, but it’s a unique mix of critical mass, major cities and being the shortest travel time.
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Re: Amtrak's Goals

Unread post by PerRock »

Saturnalia wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 4:56 pm
ns8401 wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 4:51 pm
dave989 wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 2:48 pm
I thought the ideal was for Amtrak to become profitable like Conrail back in the day. Silly me!! Well, at least the Chicago to Detroit corridor will get more attention.
Nobody makes money hauling people. It’s a service.
The airlines do, but it’s a unique mix of critical mass, major cities and being the shortest travel time.
Airlines also don't pay for airports, ATC, etc*. You add in the cost of all of those & they're suddenly no making money.

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*They may pay for some, but not all.
Given the choice; I fly Amtrak.
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Re: Amtrak's Goals

Unread post by ns8401 »

Saturnalia wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 4:56 pm
ns8401 wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 4:51 pm
dave989 wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 2:48 pm
I thought the ideal was for Amtrak to become profitable like Conrail back in the day. Silly me!! Well, at least the Chicago to Detroit corridor will get more attention.
Nobody makes money hauling people. It’s a service.
The airlines do, but it’s a unique mix of critical mass, major cities and being the shortest travel time.
I wonder how much their cargo businesses make? The freight on buses and passenger trains used to be where the money was. Also cross-subsidizing smaller less or unprofitable routes with the profits of the major corridors to provide a robust network and better service. We’ve gotten away from that as a country and it’s to our detriment overall.
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