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imported_joewelcome

i am... AMTRACULA!

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so who's keeping up with the Amtrak news? i'm not sure what to think- friends who work for the company say that Amtrak issued their 'threat' of cutting service so that the feds can deicide on more funding by fall. it might be great to have regional passenger travel back, but then again maybe not. it's important to note that the Boston/Washington route is the only leg turning a profit in the country. it was heavily aided by September 11, but rail travel is slimming down again on that route.

 

i know someone's gonna say, "oh yeah, maybe they won't buff the trains now" but this is pretty serious news. railroad travel (or any non-auto) travel in this country is pitiful compared to the rest of the world and this issue could result in a major transportation change for the US.

 

here's the latest story....

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A congressional advisory panel said Thursday that private companies should be allowed to compete with Amtrak for the chance to improve U.S. passenger train service.

 

Brushing aside Amtrak's request for hundreds of millions of dollars in new subsidies, the Amtrak Reform Council said the agency, officially named the National Railroad Passenger Corp., should be broken into three units.

 

One would oversee key decisions for planning, operations and funding, while a second unit would manage and maintain tracks, property and stations Amtrak owns in the Boston-Washington Northeast Corridor. A third would operate trains around the country. After two to five years, private companies would be allowed to compete with Amtrak for the right to operate various routes.

 

"The system we have today, the old Amtrak, has not worked and is not working," said Gilbert Carmichael, chairman of the reform council. Amtrak's problems stem not from a crisis in funding, he said, but from "an organization that is obsolete, can't do all the things it is supposed to do and has to change."

 

Amtrak officials criticized the report.

 

"I think this report should be rejected out of hand," said Amtrak Chairman Michael Dukakis, the former Massachusetts governor.

 

Dukakis called the decentralization plan recommended by the reform council "a prescription for bureaucratic paralysis" and said the real issue is money.

 

Amtrak, which lost a record $1.1 billion in 2001, says it has a $5.8 billion backlog in work on equipment, tracks and stations.

 

Last week, Amtrak said it would cut long-distance routes unless it receives $1.2 billion in the 2003 budget year, which begins in October. President Bush has proposed $521 million.

 

In a statement, Amtrak said it faces a "policy problem, not an Amtrak performance problem."

 

Over the last five years, Amtrak's operating support has been cut by more than 80 percent, the agency said.

(Chicago Tribune)

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Personally I think the collapse isnt going to happen. Not to a big degree anyways, in the 11th hour somthing will happen to stave of the dogs for at least a little while longer. Trains Magazine has been really on point with its writing on the subject lately.

A big point they make is, people need to stop expecting amtrak to turn a profit. They need to look at gov. money going into amtrak the same way they look at the money spent on highways and airport infastructure. Amtrak exists because its not a profitable line of business...but its still very much needed. If anyone could make money doing it, the railroads never would have bought their way out of the responsability back in the 70s.

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very good point, ese. still, the 70's was a very different time and trucking vs. rail is a different issue now. granted, air travel might dissuade corporate interest but there is still money to be made. busing is still a sizable industry and reformed train travel COULD make a comeback (not totally realistic, but i'm optimistic).

 

they have a monopoly because the govt. allows them to do so. now it looks like the govt isn't as concerned anymore. i hope cracked will drop his 2 cents in.....

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I have zero cents on this issue. Or I make zero sense. As a railfan I want to see Amtrak running. As a logical person it hurts my brain that it needs constant government intervention to stay afloat, yet is "needed". Part of me wants to see the government cut off funding altogether, let Amtrak die, and watch the stupid public moan over the loss of the trains, and the resulting increase in car and plane delays and hassles - to the point where they will pay to get trains back.

But I don't read the articles and I don't know how much is Amtrak's fault and how much has to do with the infrastructure overhaul needed. I just feel this vague sadness that passenger rail in the US does not generate enough interest to stay profitable in its own right. And if a private company thinks they can turn a profit providing passenger rail service, I think they should be given a shot.

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Originally posted by Cracked Ass

I just feel this vague sadness that passenger rail in the US does not generate enough interest to stay profitable in its own right. And if a private company thinks they can turn a profit providing passenger rail service, I think they should be given a shot.

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Trains magazine has covered this one well, and I am under the opinion that govt. money should be spent on this issue the same way that ese stated.. My citys bussing system dosent even come close to turning profits, ever.. I dont think that it ever even has. But they still get new routes, and new busses.. We run all kinds of these trolley bus things here too, and they dont even cost anything to ride! No profit gained other than publicity (which ran out a long time ago).. So, if the ol' Amtrak is made more into a greyhound type system for the beautiful midwest, ridership would inevitably go up.. by greyhound system, I mean a system that is semi-reliable and serves at least a decent amount of area. (Right now, from Louisville, Ky the only Amtrak route is to Chicago) I know that this idea proposes lots more money, but we have to make a decision about money anyway, the transportation board is faced with Airlines coming begging for more money because ridership or flyership is down, even though they are still profitable in terms of billions of dollars , or do we use that money to try to make a nationwide, reliable, usable, effective and well covered rail service.

 

If you cant tell already, I want to ride some more goddamn trains.

 

Oh yeah, does anyone know if many of the European nations that have govt funded rail travel are profitable?

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I dont think turning amtrak into a greyhound system is feasable. Afterall they depend 100% on OTHER railroads infastructure to operate over. And the freight railroads view amtrak as a giant pain in the ass for the most part.

 

What amtrak is good for is long haul travel, serving many points inbetween cities on the route. Its not and never will be in competition with airlines in terms of travel time (long trips I'm talking about here) so amtrak needs to focus on the "experience" which its kind of already doing. Train travel from chicago to seattle (for instance) is for people who want to see the country (not fly over it) and enjoy the trip. Buses cant offer senic vistas, room to walk around (and get a drink or somthing to eat without stopping), and a place to actually stretch out and sleep! Cut prices and you'll see the coach folk switch to sleepers, and the folks who arent on board will start travelling coach. Seats will fill up fast.

 

In the east and california its a different story. Acela is the prime example of what to do. Big cities with horrible traffic problems and airport congestion, separated by a short distance. Get them in the train and to the destination with speed style, and less hassle. And do it cheap. This formula is responsible for alot of the sucess of high speed rail in western europe.

Its gotta be far more convienient to take the subway to penn station and take the acela down to DC than try and get out to kennedy, la guardia, or newark, spend hours boarding fly to regan or BDI then try and get back into town from the airport after spending forever getting luggage and whanot. Thats where amtrak can make a killing. the big infrastructure work has been done mostly, now they need to go cheap and often. More trains, and fucking pack them with people. Theres where you can make your money back...

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greyhound makes money from people that cant afford to fly. no one likes taking the bus. it fucking blows. if there is such a place as hell, it has a driver and a smoke alarm in the bathroom.

if amtrak wants to fill up its cars, it needs to cut its prices. as it stands now, its just as, if not more, expensive to take a train than it is to take a plane. i would love to take a train someplace, but if it means take 5 times as long and costing just as much... sorry, im on the next plane out of town.

and as was mentioned, they need to stop trying to make it turn a profit. in america thats all we care about, making money.... we forget that there are just basic services that need to exist to survive, not to make money off of. now, obviously people dont need trains to survive, but honestly, if we want to have a world that isnt completely polluted to shit, maybe we do. im all for the socialization of airlines, electricity, water, gas etc....

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it would be sad to see amtrak go. it really isn't good if you are a business traveler, that's what planes are for. other than that, i would definately prefer a train. you can get drunk on the train and meet people. i'ts also a good way to see all sorts of grafftit. you are hardly allowed to breath on a plane now. maybe they should make flying trains.....

....or maybe those mangetic trains.

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hopefully one day. intercity light rail has been talked about here as well, like a line that would connect cincinnatti, and then eventually continue on to cols., cleveland, and so on.. That would be nice, not only more efficient than a bus, but faster. It kind of sounds like its all a pipe dream for now though, so my cards are more responsibly placed on amtrack(ula).. but man, what an idea.. it would be so nice.....

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