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With a new administration in D.C., it's time to think outside of the box because passenger rail's survival just may depend on it

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sunshine State musings 2

The latest on FECI's venture
As it turns out, Florida East Coast is planning to stop at Orlando International Airport. My opinion is that the Class II shouldn't stop there. Instead, expand northward to downtown to either Church Street or the planned LYNX Station. That way, an alternative to the current Amtrak station can be provided once other services get going and the city's downtown will be a rail hub.

Guessing Amtrak’s Florida Ground Game
Now that Amtrak has settled liability insurance issues with the state of Florida, most of the pressure now shifts to the national carrier.

It could very well be possible that FECI actually gets its operation up and extends its service to Jacksonville before Amtrak gets around to East Coast service.

Assuming that Rick Scott gets religion on rail or is replaced by an avid supporter of passenger rail, the FL DOT could draft up a scenario that results in multiple entities for travelers in the state—Amtrak, FECI, and corridor service—for the first time since the ACL-SAL merger. With numerous companies around, Amtrak’s management should do the following to avoid falling behind:
1. Provide a flipped frequency for the Silver Star. This new train would leave their starting points 12-15 hours after #91 and #92 (this also assumes that enough new equipment is ordered for overnight service).
2. Terminate the Silver Star in Tampa. Passengers between Tampa and Miami would use Florida-based intercity trains.
3. Extend the Palmetto to Tampa via Ocala or provide a brand new train between Montreal and Miami on the Vermonter route.

However, the current president of Amtrak has reiterated that the company is generally more interested in maintaining what it has than expanding and adding revenue at a time that Congress is seeking to drastically cut how much money it gives to the company.

Also, if FL DOT builds up a California like intercity system, it could hand it off to other intercity operators (excluding the FEC portion), causing Amtrak to react negatively in the following fashion:
1. Future management (go here to see why I don’t think Joe Boardman will be around once this hypothetical Florida Rail System is up and running) decides to actually stay at its current Jacksonville location while FECI and others use Union Terminal as a transportation hub.
2. No changes are done to the Palmetto’s route.
3. Trains #91 and #97 are changed to only drop off passengers south of Jacksonville while Trains #92 and #98 only pick up passengers between Miami and Jacksonville.
4. If the Tampa dogleg is eliminated, Amtrak splits and combines the Silver Star at its Orlando station.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Random thoughts #6


  1. Hmm, what does it say about Amtrak’s premier train that passengers would rather use a long-distance train along the southern half of the Northeast Corridor? For starters, the ban on using long-distance trains for local travel between D.C. and NY Penn Station should be lifted. Second, consolidate some of the Northeast Regional trains (none of which offer First Class service) that are sparsely used and move the Amfleet equipment to regions that plan on adding rail service but don’t have new equipment in place.
  2. Perhaps, it was this story that got Amtrak to recognize all of the third party attendants who work at various stations. Prior to the recognition of certain NCDOT run stations between Wilson and Charlotte in the Fall/Winter 2010-11 issue, Amtrak only put a side note below the Carolinian/Piedmont schedule to let the public know that state employees worked there. Now, the carrier distinguishes stations that are run by states or independent volunteers from those stations that are truly unstaffed and unmanned.
  3. A private company in Pittsburgh may run commuter rail in the future. Notice that private railroads once operated commuter trains on their own. NS was an unwilling partner with local government, but AVR is stepping up to the point that it wants minimal government assistance. While every community is different, anything that will reduce startup costs and combats any skepticism from anti-transit forces is a step in the right direction.