"Gateways to Safe and Pleasant Journeys"
"To the rail terminals of American cities come the famous trains whose names spell the romance of travel. To there stations come travelers, in EVER increasing numbers, who appreciate the dependability and luxurious comfort of a fine train...of cars built by Pullman-Standard."
"If you want to go when you plan to go...if you enjoy 'eye-level' scenery, relaxation and fun en route, you'll 'go-by-train'. If you look for the finest and safest in rail transportation, you'll find it on cars which bear the Pullman-Standard nameplate."
"By placing passenger comfort and safety first; by setting the pace in engineering and design; by leadership in quality and volume of production, Pullman-Standard has helped American railroads 'lead-the-world' in low-cost, safe and luxurious transportation."
"Because of quality---proven in long years of fine carbuilding---the railroads have bought most of their modern, streamlined passenger cars from Pullman-Standard."
"World's largest builders of streamlined railroad cars...PULLMAN - STANDARD"
copyright: Pullman-Standard Manufacturing Company. Chicago, Illinois, - Offices in six cities coast to coast. Manufacturing plants at six strategic points.
Boeings 'Dreamliner' will soon ready for flight---but---will you get a pillow? a bag of peanuts? Will you be charged to carry your own bag aboard?
No peanuts or pillow, perhaps, but a lot less than 18 hours between New York and Chicago. Throughout the history of man, speed always has triumphed in the battle of modes. They don't operate any point-to-point trans-Atlantic passenger liners anymore, either. RAILWAYIST, you seem to forget, if you ever even thought of it, that people us transportation vehicles to get from where they are to where they wish to be. You seem to think they ride trains or drive autos or use airlines because they simply like to do so. Think, man, think!
Outside the Northeast Corridor, there are people who ride trains just because they like to do so.
They are called "retired".
Shipperguy55: You are correct, but most don't consider that market to be "transportation" as the term is used. I'd go further and suggest the retiree market does not justify the Administration's $8 billion in stimulus funding.
I'm curious. If, as the ad said "... to there (sic) stations in ever increasing numbers...". Where are those people now? When did this trend reverse? Am I missing something?
JohnS: Where is there(sic)? No, I don't think you're missing anything, but I doubt the original ad copy opted for there over their.
Well, certainly less than 16 hours as the 20th century could do it in its heyday, or 12 hours as the pennsy would have had it if they had electrified over the Alleghenies. How are all of you so sure that travel overland by train on long distances is the modern technological equivalent of a conestoga wagon? Greyhound is certainly still in business offering a similar, if subpar product in comparison, and they are indirectly subsidized massively through highways, while Amtrak must maintain its owned infrastructure- something no other passenger carrier has to do. Don't dare respond with the 'gas tax paying for freeways' argument- tell any state governor that, and they'll laugh in your face. Cars, Buses, and Airplanes are all on life support from the government, just like Amtrak, but to a much larger extent. Infrastructure is expensive. Amtrak's long distance routes, especially in the scenic west, usually fill to the brim for at least one part of the trip, and they accumulate more passenger revenue miles than any other part of the system- meaning that they recover the most monetarily than any other part of the system. Couldn't it be possible that Amtrak just isn't running itself to be a successful railroad? Couldn't it be possible that to be profitable, they might have to serve cities more than just once a day, especially those that they pass in the night? Whenever I ride the Empire Builder, I always, without fail, regardless of season, see crowds at the Spokane, WA station at 1AM, and at the Fargo depot at 2AM. Sure these may not be "business travelers," but why is "business travel" the only travel a passenger carrier should consider serious? The majority of travel, regardless of mode, isn't necessarily business oriented. Given more opportunity to be successful, as well as connecting with a new public transit infrastructure that is just now being rebuilt after it was foolishly torn apart mid century, I think Amtrak could actually be a relevant transit option. There is a growing silent minority that is sick of being abused through travel- why can't it be enjoyable? People who can't, or don't want to fly or drive want an option that is more humane than coach travel; sure, it'll never be a majority of travel- but if every other first world country in the world has found use in its passenger rail infrastructure, why can't we- consider the earlier figure of a 12 hour trip from New York to Chicago if electrified- because here the inherent advantage of the mode comes into play- on the old route of the Broadway Limited, it wouldn't just be New York- from Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Englewood, the train option would make more and more sense the further the train speeds along the route, when you consider that these days a trip to the airport can be an all day event (remember that Long distance trains usually fill up on the mid points of the trip). In the end isn't it how you spend your time that matters? At least for some (retirees, for example) that's true. In the next few years, the baby boomers, one of the most populous generations in the United States, are soon going to be retired or of that age. We sure as hell don't want them on our roads, and I'm fairly sure they don't want to be in a 500mph sardine can. Eight billion for transporting a huge demographic sounds good to me- but wait... that money is going to certain high traffic corridors so we can finally get trains moving at 110mph again between proven city pairs. Under your definition, Larry, I think Amtrak might just attract some "real" travelers out of their cars at those speeds. Sure RAILWAIST has proven himself to be a nostalgic romanticist yet again, but society might be friendly to some humanity, and dare I say, romance, in travel once again.
JS>"I'm curious. If, as the ad said "... to there (sic) stations in ever increasing numbers...". Where are those people now? When did this trend reverse? Am I missing something?"
Pretty much the trend was dead even as that ad was written. After the last blip of improvement in WWII, business travel began shifting more to road and air, and the number of passengers remained more or less flat for about 15 years, even as the total number of passenger-miles carried by common carrier and private vehicle exploded. You also saw over this period a large increase in total travelers - that is, there were more people - both the baby boom, and a surprising amount of immigration, had brought the annual population increase back above the trough from the Great Depression- and more people were richer, so the part of the population that could, say, take a vacation had gone up.
What this hid was that the market share was dropping precipitously, and that the passengers had shifted from business traffic - relatively low maintenance, profitable, and predictable - to mixed. Yeah, you had twice as many people taking the train in a given year, but instead of that being Dad on 12 business trips, that was the whole family going to see the Grand Canyon - once. More PAX, less miles per passenger.
That's broad-brush, and doesn't describe ever place or line, but that's how they could say "ever increasing numbers" even as passenger rail went down the tubes. The absolute number of people travelling was up, even for rail. The bulk of the passenger-miles, however, were shifting away already. Had been since the '20s.
N1>"? Greyhound is certainly still in business offering a similar, if subpar product in comparison,"
Ridden on some of the inter-city buses lately? They are stealing business from Amtrak in the NEC. The Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece recently: "Planes, Trains, and...Buses?" It's online at:
Your point about subsidy of road traffic is taken as a given, I think, by everybody here. Yup, it's unfair. Yeas, it causes economic dislocation. And that and about $2.00 will get you a cup of coffee these days.
>"but why is "business travel" the only travel a passenger carrier should consider serious?"
Because it makes money, two ways. Even now, when your average employer has gotten pretty damned stupidly shortsightedly cheap about business travel (not that I have any strong opinion on the matter, mind you), business travelers still tends to pay more for their tickets, and to require far lower handling. Frequent travellers know the ropes, and take care themselves, mostly.
The secondary point, of course, is that business travel is seen as supporting the local economy near the station of airport.
Your point about retiree traffic is a good one, and it highlights AMTRAK's core problem: it still doesn't know if it's Greyhound on steel wheels, Southwest without wings, or a cruise ship on land.
Side question: one demographic I think rail can handle better- minor health issues. Add a car in the back, find some semi-retired doctor, and let him set up practice... (tongue only partly in cheek.)
number6: You are preaching to the choir here. PR readers tend to be pro-rail, including pro-passenger service. I don't doubt your statement about crowds in Spokane, Bismarck, and/or Fargo. Amtrak doesn't handle all that many passengers traveling between Seattle and Chicago. It does handle a lot of passengers traveling between en route stations, in large part because airline service between those points is pretty meager. anmccaff has made the case pretty strongly, I think. As for your comment about the PRR Broadway Ltd., "would have if...." But they didn't electrify and they didn't operate it in 12 hours, did they? With the exception of RAILWAYIST, most of us here are dealing in reality, not the woulda,shoulda,coulda world. Filling to the brim on at least one segment of a long distance trip truly is a formula for financial disaster. The train doesn't have reduced costs for the segments not filled to the brim, does it?
As one who knows something about transportation economics, I would point out there is nothing "indirect" about subsidies to Greyhound or the trucks using the public highways. It is very direct, as any railroad marketing exec who must price competitively knows. Citing the excellent rail service available in other countries (I've ridden some of them and they are excellent) is an exercise in futility once you understand that those wonderful trains do not earn their keep. They don't even come close, operating over a public right-of-way for which they don't pay, and operating in societies that are quite willing to provide subsidized rail service. The flip side, of course, is that freight service in all those countries is incredibly bad compared to what is available in the U.S. I'll say again that the amount being offered for HSR - $8 billion in the stimulus and another $1 billion annually for the next five years simply will not buy much infrastructure and without dedicated infrastructure, you don't have real HSR.
LK> "Filling to the brim on at least one segment of a long distance trip truly is a formula for financial disaster. The train doesn't have reduced costs for the segments not filled to the brim, does it?"
This is something I've noticed for a long, long time, especially on the sleepers. What drives this, actually? Many long haul trains would be far better off if the train added and shed capacity on route, and they generally don't.
Think what your reaction would be if the crew decided to drop off a sleeper at "Essex, Montana, on the Pacific side of the Continental Divide and forgot that you were the only passenger on board. You'd have to wait a full 24 hours for the next train going in the same direction, and it might not have room to pick you up. Of course, if you fly much, you know that you run that risk today if you are bumped by an airline because with 80% load factors a cancelled flight means a bunch of really unhappy would-be passengers won't be reaccommodated for a couple of days.
Seriously, the problem of trying to add and/or shed capacity along the way is that you end up with equipment where it wasn't intended to be and where it doesn't do you much good. The ideal trip would be a full train leaves the origin and as many people board at interim points as detrain at those same points. Then you have 100% load factor - or very close to it - and fairly steady costs. The fundamental problem is that railroading is a high fixed cost business and passenger ops are even more so. I'm not an economist or cost accountant, but I would not be surprised if trying to add and/or shed capacity en route would actually increase costs. Take the sleeper off en route and you now are missing a sleeper at the destination that you might have been planning to use on the return trip.
LK"Seriously, the problem of trying to add and/or shed capacity along the way is that you end up with equipment where it wasn't intended to be and where it doesn't do you much good."
Yeah, I understand the pitfalls as well as the advantages, in general, and I realize that just because something can work sometimes doesn't mean it's a shoe-in to work every time.
Some routes, though, have a regular, predictable mid-journey shortfall. Or had; I don't know if is still the case. But, just as an example, the Empire Builder used to carry a sleeper and a coach all the way out to Minn-StP from Chicago, just to get the capacity there, and then run that much space back empty. Similar stuff on other routes.
It could be I was looking at an infrequent or seasonal glitch, and it might, as you say, not pay, or even cost more, to fix it. But back when I rode AMTRAK a lot, it really payed to track whether that "full" train really was, or just had a piece of about 3 hours on a 2.5 day drip, where it appeared to be oversold. (This, BTW, used to be a real pain to check. The people I checked with probably still have nightmares about me calling.)
anmccaff & Larry,
That was my first post, sorry if I sounded accusatory. I just went a long way to try and point out that the go-to logic for transportation choice, a preference for speed, while still reigning supreme, may have just enough dissent now and in the near future for Amtrak to seize onto. I've noticed the double decker busses around, and I'm curious how they keep fares so low (Southwest on asphalt?) They're certainly attractive, and I'm glad that their combination of glamour and economy works- only we can probably bet that Amtrak isn't watching.
Anmccaff- I don't see how your secondary point about business travelers doesn't carry over to those travelling for recreation or family. In many cities in the United States, Tourism is a bigger 'business' than most. I'll agree about Amtrak's constant lack of vision, but I don't know if anything you mentioned there suits a proper business model for them- I don't think they should be copying anything but specific components of how airplanes, busses, or ships operate. As you know, Trains are a unique mode of transport- and need their own, unique business model. I loved your idea about a doctor on board- surely a little fantastical, but nonetheless the kind of brainstorming Amtrak has always needed to do.
Larry- I didn't appreciate your scolding about woulda, shoulda, and especially coulda- if they coulda back then, then its certainly possible to best it today. A high-er speed line like that could be incredibly beneficial for freight too, and with companies like Norfolk Southern indicating that they are more than happy to talk about elevated speeds at least for passenger service in the time being means that it isn't impossible (as improbable as it may be).
I'll concede entirely about the 'direct'/'indirect' argument- it makes sense, I've just always heard the subsidy referred to as 'indirect.' As someone whose knowledge of transportation economics is limited, despite varying load factors, the long distance trains still rack up the lion's share of Amtrak's passenger revenue miles. Both of you guys brought up the inconsistency, and yes, it's too bad that they can't add/ditch equipment as needed. Especially with sleeping cars, leaving the thing on a siding at a station early in the morning would be incredibly convenient, like the pullman company (speaking of business models...).
Now here's a question; okay, trains abroad don't make money- To your knowledge, do you know of a train that doesn't require operating subsidies beyond infrastructure cost aside from true HSR? I have repeatedly read "viable, 'above the rails'" so I'm wondering if any mode of transport really earns its keep in the larger context from which you appear to speak. Does any transport mode really earn a true profit, infrastructure costs included? There are other externalities that are coming to mind- environmental costs, ect...
On the 8 billion- yeah its paltry, although I read that it was the largest friendly move towards rail service since the land grants (partially overstated, perhaps?) Absolutely we will not get true HSR with these funds, but at least some amtrak lines can get out of the 00's (1900's, that is) and into the 50's. Heard of the 50 billion Oberstar wants to spend?
#6>"Does any transport mode really earn a true profit, infrastructure costs included?"
Almost certainly not, in the long run. As one of the (sometime) locals here is fond of pointing out, Warren Buffet (not the worse source on some money questions) observed that airlines, taken a whole, haven't got out of the red yet.
If there is a political or legal structure in place that encourages or forces subsidy of, say, highways, it's an uphill fight to change the status quo.
As for several of your other points, most of the people here are looking at rail-as-she-am-now, assuming incremental changes, not radical ones, and that requires working within the existing commercial, legal, and political structure...which, of course, isn't always the optimum compared with a clean slate, bottom up approach. Given real political will to change things, or real economic shift, what's unpalatable or unfeasible now could be seen as a good idea by a wider audience. Until then....
#6>"I don't see how your secondary point about business travelers doesn't carry over to those travelling for recreation or family."
Because travelling on a good train trip, with good defined diferently depending on whether you are young, strong, and stupid, or old, beat-up, and cranky, -is- a vacation. The time loss isn't really a big factor. Except for permanent moves, or long term projects, where taking an extra day or 3 doesn't really have to screw with your timetable, the slow speed rail travel is stuck with doesn't work in most of the US geographically, and that geography effects the politics of AMTRAK funding.
Again, I agree this could be different with a different vision of how passenger transportation could work.
"Number 6?" Sports reference? Big family? Or the greatest TV show yet?