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I know Im a couple days late with thisa, but Ive gotta pose this question. I mean...if Acela Express isnt shut down becuase of faulty brakes, its shut down because of power outages or because a train slipped off its tracks. I know Amtrak is seriously underfunded by the federal government, but it doesnt seem as if Amtraks major lines in other parts of the U.S. experience these types of issues.

They still havent provided an answer to explain why electricity to trains from Baltimore to Queens to Philly to Jersey to Manhattan and everywhere else in between suddenly shit down. One of my neighbors was stuck in a tunnel for nearly a half hour in Baltimore and missed a graduation in New York.

I honestly believe that as train travel in the northeast goes...so goes rail travel everywhere else in the U.S. People seem to want to give rail service a try (esp. with the current gas crisis), but Amtrak keeps showing how truly vunerable our transportation system is. If they cant get it right in the most heavily used portion of their system, then will they ever get it right?
 

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waj0527 said:
I know Im a couple days late with thisa, but Ive gotta pose this question. I mean...if Acela Express isnt shut down becuase of faulty brakes, its shut down because of power outages or because a train slipped off its tracks. I know Amtrak is seriously underfunded by the federal government, but it doesnt seem as if Amtraks major lines in other parts of the U.S. experience these types of issues.

They still havent provided an answer to explain why electricity to trains from Baltimore to Queens to Philly to Jersey to Manhattan and everywhere else in between suddenly shit down. One of my neighbors was stuck in a tunnel for nearly a half hour in Baltimore and missed a graduation in New York.

I honestly believe that as train travel in the northeast goes...so goes rail travel everywhere else in the U.S. People seem to want to give rail service a try (esp. with the current gas crisis), but Amtrak keeps showing how truly vunerable our transportation system is. If they cant get it right in the most heavily used portion of their system, then will they ever get it right?
Do you mean viable financially in terms of being a profitable corporate entity?

My answer would be no. Most Western systems operate at some type of deficit. Usually the fancy high speed services help to pay for the non-profitable services. Even in rail-conscious countries like France, the bulk of the country's rail passengers are commuter rail. So, as long as we get a federal government that does not think of trains as slow and outdated predecesors of planes as opposed to necessary parts of short distance travel, Amtrak will never be financially viable.

Viable as a government entity in terms of its ability to provide services?

I would hope yes, but think no. Our Acela corredor from Washington to Boston via New York City is about the exact distance between Madrid and Barcelona. In a few years, trains will be coursing the equivalent of Boston to DC in 2.5 hours (!!!!!!) in Spain. In short, by this comparison (2.5 hours versus the ~7 hours to go on the Acela between DC and Boston), if Acela is representative of the best faith effort to turn Amtrak's provision of services, I say that Amtrak is inherently doomed.
 

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amtrak is underfunded?


amtrak loses hundreds of millions of dollars annually. they've eclpised the $1 billion mark in annual losses once or twice as well. they get close to $2 billion in subsidies each year.

amtrak will always be a terrible form of transportation because there is no need to improve it. why should the company work to get better and improve the infrastructure when the government will bail them out of their problems no matter what?

i would rather see funding cut off completely, along with allowing competitors to enter the market. is there any benefit to a government-sponsored monopoly on intercity rail travel?
 

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xzmattzx said:
amtrak is underfunded?


amtrak loses hundreds of millions of dollars annually. they've eclpised the $1 billion mark in annual losses once or twice as well. they get close to $2 billion in subsidies each year.

amtrak will always be a terrible form of transportation because there is no need to improve it. why should the company work to get better and improve the infrastructure when the government will bail them out of their problems no matter what?

i would rather see funding cut off completely, along with allowing competitors to enter the market. is there any benefit to a government-sponsored monopoly on intercity rail travel?
We spend $30 billion on highways in the US every year.

Did you even realize that countries like FRANCE allow private firms to build and operate highways.

Yes, Amtrak is underfunded. I say, let's spend $30 billion on rails which operate at deficits world wide and only $ 1 billion on highways and allow the private market to take over. :wink2:
 

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the reason for amtraks ills is that it's run by a bunch of morons and it has to haggle with freight lines over track time/ usage. also, the US has a well developed domestic airline system that is more appealing given the country's huge geographic size. also, airfare is comparitive to rail fare. amtrak is no bargin, IMO.

as for spain, it is the size of california and more feasible for rail. plus, it's in that country's best interest to make travel as efficient as possible between its two major economic centers.
 

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jmancuso said:
the reason for amtraks ills is that it's run by a bunch of morons and it has to haggle with freight lines over track time/ usage. also, the US has a well developed domestic airline system that is more appealing given the country's huge geographic size. also, airfare is comparitive to rail fare. amtrak is no bargin, IMO.

as for spain, it is the size of california and more feasible for rail. plus, it's in that country's best interest to make travel as efficient as possible between its two major economic centers.
Of course, high speed rail would never be feasible between large distances. It is only competitive in distances less than 400-450 miles.

In that vein, there could easily be five main HSR centers, as has been discussed under Clinton:

1) California between LA and SF including San Diego and Sacramento
2) Texas between Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio.
3) Florida
4) A net with a radius of 400 miles around Chicago, including major cities in Ohio, Detroit, St. Louis, and Wisconsin.
5) North East one from perhaps even as far south as Richmond Virginia to Boston

And beside that, rail would be, had we developed our cities differently, more effective in our urban centers. Once oil becomes outrageous, I have no idea. But in terms of Amtrak, if we funded it $30 billion and allowed private competition to build our highways, we could get a brand spanking new gleaming set of high speed rails that would be VERY profitable based on other countries' experiences
 

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i would love to see those HSR routes but they would have to be competitive with airfare. a round trip flight from houston to DFW on southwest runs about 80 bucks. pretty cheap.

i agree...the 30 billion would be better if spent on rail. highways are more of a money pit and are only a band-aid solution for increased population.
 

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DonQui said:
We spend $30 billion on highways in the US every year.

Did you even realize that countries like FRANCE allow private firms to build and operate highways.

Yes, Amtrak is underfunded. I say, let's spend $30 billion on rails which operate at deficits world wide and only $ 1 billion on highways and allow the private market to take over. :wink2:
i would like to see the private market get into highways as well. interstates can be an even bigger money-eater than amtrak. i think we should have more toll roads to pay for funding; let the people who use the roads pay for them. (this is the way roads were in colonial times.) as it is, all of us are paying for highway projects like the big dig and potentially even stuff like the "bridge to nowhere". privately funded and owned roads would get rid of useless roads because routes that would be useless would also be proven to be unprofitable, and people would have the frame of mind not to build them in the first place.

as for amtrak, i believe that there is not a single route that they have that is profitable. so the best way to prevent losing money would be to literally stop everything.
 

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it can be viable, they just need to lower the price, make it more flexible, increase the speed of the trains, and have the trains arrive and leave on schedule.

I used to take it from Albany to Buffalo and back again...it is still much cheaper and quicker to drive that leg than to take the train, and that is with 3.50 gas.
 

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in Twenty some odd years of existance, AMTRAK has not one year turned a profit.

The NEC(New England Corridor) is actually one of the best services that AMTRAK provides.
 

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the post office doesn't turn a profit either and i don't think most european or japanese rail do either...best reason why they should remain government owned.
 

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jmancuso said:
the post office doesn't turn a profit either and i don't think most european or japanese rail do either...best reason why they should remain government owned.
the government stinks at running businesses though.

I don't understand why rail doesn't work like the highway system. there's no actual difference between the two models, except that its easier to allow public access onto highways.

Government should subsidize the roads and allow private companies to bid for travel on the tracks. Their competition would assure that the subsidies are passed on to consumers, and private, efficient companies could offer levels of service from luxury to economy.
 

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I don't want to see it entireley government owned. I don't think anything government owned works well. It will be inefficient. We won't get what we pay for, and it won't advance technologically as well as it can. Government should have little to do with actually operating it.
 

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I think the important point being made is that people need to get over the mentality that public transit systems, such as commuter rail, have to make a profit to be viable. As many have mentioned, most, if not all, systems around the world run at a deficit and are subsidized by the government.

People use this reality as an argument that mass transit is inefficient, but, ignore the fact that the largest subsidized transit network in our country is our roads and highways. Most near all the cost of building and maintaining our roads are paid out of tax payers dollars and few recoup these costs through user fees. Yet, you don't hear people saying, our roads aren't making a profit, they must be inefficient, let's cut funding. Which is too bad because I think a lot of people's mentality would change if the costs of driving were less transparent.

In regards to Amtrak themselves, they will never be able to provide fast, efficient service as long they have to share the rails with freight trains.
 

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stepper77 said:
I think the important point being made is that people need to get over the mentality that public transit systems, such as commuter rail, have to make a profit to be viable. As many have mentioned, most, if not all, systems around the world run at a deficit and are subsidized by the government.

People use this reality as an argument that mass transit is inefficient, but, ignore the fact that the largest subsidized transit network in our country is our roads and highways. Most near all the cost of building and maintaining our roads are paid out of tax payers dollars and few recoup these costs through user fees. Yet, you don't hear people saying, our roads aren't making a profit, they must be inefficient, let's cut funding. Which is too bad because I think a lot of people's mentality would change if the costs of driving were less transparent.

In regards to Amtrak themselves, they will never be able to provide fast, efficient service as long they have to share the rails with freight trains.
I agree. Amtrak (or passenger rail) needs to be on its own tracks in a lot more locations. At the very least, the Feds should make it easier for Amtrak to obtain abandoned rights-of-way, wherever possible, so that they can run passenger trains on them, free from freight train interference.

The government is also the problem. They have an outdated view on rail. They see highways, roads, airports and seaports as public infrastructure, but they see rail as private industry, because rail lines were built with private money and by private industrialists in the 19th century. But a lot has changed since then. Congress needs to put rail on the same level playing ground with other forms of transportation and stop looking at rail as a relic of 19th-century public industry.
 

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No private company is going to run passenger rail service in the US. Amtrak exists because the major passenger railroads went bankrupt after jets became commonplace. Railroad terminals that were beehives of activity in 1960, had become ghost towns by 1965. You can't compare European countries where major cities are often 75-100 miles apart, to the US where a Chicago and New York are separated by 800 miles. No one other than rail buffs, and folks afraid to fly, is going to spend 18 hours on a train, when they can make the same trip in 2 hours by plane, and not have to pay any more. In order to make passenger rail profitable, you'd have to cut the system down to almost nothing.
 

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I don't think it needs to be profitable. It's an essential service that should be supported. Are there any systems outside of Japan that make a profit? If it was the same amount of time (which I believe it is, whenever you consider the time you need to go to the airport on either way, and the time spent in the airport for security, etc.), I'd definitely choose the train, personally.
 
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