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having been on amtrak this weekend i was pretty amazed at how packed the train was.  not an empty seat in sight from cleveland to nyc.  also, the train was late, by 2 hours and i was basically on it for almost 14 hours.  it seems crazy that it can take that long to get to new york.  but then again would more funding make it faster or just add more destinations?? 

 

other than that issue it beats greyhound by a longshot. 

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other than that issue it beats greyhound by a longshot.

 

How so? I'm seriously curious. I've never taken Amtrak before, and I've considered it, but not sure if it'd be worth it.

 

I can't believe it takes that long, either.

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Which is why I said Amtrak may be a necessary evil.  But when someone asks why most conservatives oppose Amtrak, I stand by my reasoning.  Whether it's realistic or not, conservatives generally oppose the government running almost anything.

 

I still stand by the fact that conservatives are constantly bickering about finding rail, but hardly ever bicker about funding roadways.  I don't see clamoring for roads to be self-sufficient in the Republican Party.  It's hypocritical.

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Privatized Rail, Roads, and Transportation in general doesn't really work. Look at the UK for example that just privatized some of their rail operations. What happens is that a particular carrier buys up all the leasing for a specific route so that no competitors remained. When they tried to regulate the services, they reduced profits of certain carriers and they complained. So basically, what you have in England is a nationalized railroad infrastructure system and several privatized carriers. Most people just ride on the national carrier that still exists because it provides a better service. The country is working towards nationalization once again instead of continuing the leases.

 

Yes, I believe the privitization craze was one of the nasty legacies of Brit conservative Maggie Thatcher (or as my ex-girlfriend called her: Maggie Thrasher)... Fortunately the British are coming to their senses and undoing Maggie's mess, where ontime performance, and safety (many rail crashes) have been compromised by ceding control to private companies who are/were pocketing the limited profit... And it didn't work in a small, high-density country that's very rail dependent, inside and outside of its major cities.  So imagine the mess here where, even in the older (in some ways Britian-like) Northeast, Americans are much less rail dependent.  And then there are state disaster areas when it comes to passenger rail (i.e. Ohio) where, basically, the public barely realizes it exists... What am I saying? Imagine nothing... just look at Amtrak now.

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other than that issue it beats greyhound by a longshot.

 

How so? I'm seriously curious. I've never taken Amtrak before, and I've considered it, but not sure if it'd be worth it.

 

I can't believe it takes that long, either.

 

It's not supposed to, but as someone said earlier, Amtrak leases the lines from the freight carriers, so the freight lines take priority. That slows it down to begin with, and is then compounded by the fact that once Amtrak is late, there are even more freight trains scheduled for the line that it has to defer to.

 

I took the train cross country last year (fun trip for the most part), but the leg from Cleveland to Chicago was horribly delayed, we ended up getting in 4 hours after our scheduled time.

 

I've taken Greyhound/ Trailways a lot when I was younger. The train has it all over the bus. Seats are roomier, there's food and now there are outlets to plug in laptops, etc. (although that wasn't a factor for me back in the early 90's ;-) ) Interestingly, however, I found that the bus ran on schedule more frequently, and is cheaper.

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Why does the trip from CLE to NY take 13.5 hours? I can assume that the stops along the way take some time. Is the speed of the train a factor?

 

This would be my choice of last resort being I can drive or fly much faster.

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^Would it have anything to do with overburdened tracks with freight trains taking precedence?    We NEED a major overhaul which should include some NEW dedicated passenger lines only!!

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Which is why I said Amtrak may be a necessary evil. But when someone asks why most conservatives oppose Amtrak, I stand by my reasoning. Whether it's realistic or not, conservatives generally oppose the government running almost anything.

 

I still stand by the fact that conservatives are constantly bickering about finding rail, but hardly ever bicker about funding roadways. I don't see clamoring for roads to be self-sufficient in the Republican Party. It's hypocritical.

 

I agree. It's very much a double standard. Now, all of a sudden when Republicans (or ANY politicians, for that matter) get on the "support the Amtrak" bandwagon, they're seen as champions for a noble cause. Um .. where were you guys until now???

 

Obviously, this doesn't stand for all politicians. It's just unfortunate that most of these guys are finally realizing that .. hmmm .. maybe we need to do something to get people around other than build massive concrete freeways all over the place.

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Why does the trip from CLE to NY take 13.5 hours? I can assume that the stops along the way take some time. Is the speed of the train a factor?

 

This would be my choice of last resort being I can drive or fly much faster.

 

I agree, unfortunately. I'm just not sure if greater comfort is enough of a reason for me to take Amtrak at this point, at least not to Cleveland .. and that's really unfortunate because I want it to be a greater consideration. I flipping HATE flying these days because something always seems to go wrong whenever I do (maybe I'm just cursed, I dunno), and the fares are skyrocketing .. the bus is possibly even more of a bottom-rung choice for me. It's hard to say.

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Why does the trip from CLE to NY take 13.5 hours? I can assume that the stops along the way take some time. Is the speed of the train a factor?

 

First, the train takes the "Water Level Route" via Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany and then down the Hudson River valley. Parts of the ride are very scenic, but not the most direct route. The most direct route is over the Allegheny Mountains but requires a change of trains at Pittsburgh to New York via Philadelphia. No other mainline quality routes were built that were more direct (except maybe the old Erie RR via Youngstown and Binghamton which was downgraded west of Hornell).

 

Another factor is freight traffic congestion. Yes, the freight railroads own most of the track in the U.S. But Amtrak's enabling legislation gives it operating priority over freight trains. Amtrak has no other recourse but to sue the freight railroads to adhere to the federal law. They don't want to do that because they want friendly relations with the freight railroads, and suing them doesn't help them add new capacity to their rail lines.

 

Having said all that, you can't drive to Buffalo, Rochester or Syracuse much faster than the train travels. It's 3 hours to Buffalo, four to Rochester and about 5 1/2 to Syracuse.


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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Did the Amtrak thing over the weekend along the east coast (Williamsburg to Philly and back to Richmond). It was a quite pleasant experience, 1/2 hour late to Philly, 2 hrs. late to Richmond on the return. It was sold-out on the way there and basically sold out Philly to DC, but pretty empty south to Richmond. It is just a pleasant way to travel. You can plug in your laptop and make phone calls along the way (unlike air of course). I showed up 20 minutes before each train and no long security lines. More kids with less parental supervision on the train than air.

On the way home, we were nearly screwed because Amtrak's union is extraordinarily powerful and if a crew goes over time, the train cannot move. We made it within five minutes of train "blowing up" as the conductor called - i.e. a new staff has to delivered out the tracks to a train that is stopped so it can finish the line (we were five miles from the last stop when a train ahead of us broke on the main track - the Autotrain - which breaks often I guess).

 

I never said Amtrak should be privatized, I merely argued that it should be oriented toward revenue maximization rather than a transit welfare institution. The other issue that really drove people to cars is that rail has long been one of the most intensely unionized forms of transit and strikes can be crippling. Then add gov't ownership and rail's purpose is entirely diluted by the make work jobs that gov't institutions so often carry and the exceptional power unions can have over gov't.

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Which is why I said Amtrak may be a necessary evil.  But when someone asks why most conservatives oppose Amtrak, I stand by my reasoning.  Whether it's realistic or not, conservatives generally oppose the government running almost anything.

 

I still stand by the fact that conservatives are constantly bickering about finding rail, but hardly ever bicker about funding roadways.  I don't see clamoring for roads to be self-sufficient in the Republican Party.  It's hypocritical.

 

It's not hypocritical, it's just stupid and short sighted.  Conservatives aren't against ALL government spending, they only oppose what they deem as unnecessary government spending and unfortunately, many people in this country do not view rail as a necessity.  If you really think about it, most Americans have been living without rail of any kind for the last 30 years, so you can see where they get that impression, whereas having a country without roads is unfathomable.  So conservatives end up taking the viewpoint that roads are a necessity and therefore okay to be funded by the gov't, and rail is either antiquated or superfluous and thus shouldn't be invested in by public funds.  Are they wrong?  Absolutely.  This type of planning is why we're in such a bind right now, where the public freaks out because of gas prices that are still lower than what Europe has been living with for decades.  Because we've let our rail systems languish across the board, now most people have no choice but to drive, so we're stuck in a situation where a lot of people are probably going to have to change the way they've been living, for better or worse.

 

We need to start tolling the expressways and using that money to start revamping our rail infrastructure. 

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Why does the trip from CLE to NY take 13.5 hours?

 

Isn't there massive rail line work going on east of Buffalo?  I thought for a while you actually had to get off the train, take a bus for a bit, and then get back on the train.

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You are one of the most level-headed conservatives I've come across in a long time. Too bad people like Larry Kudlow, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity are nasty, angry, close-minded f*cks who give conservatives a bad name. Liberals have theirs too (see Dennis Kucinich). That kind of extremism makes it hard for both sides to get along and get stuff done. But I just wanted to thank you JJ for your thoughtful and open-minded approach.

 

Back to Amtrak........


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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Conservatives aren't against ALL government spending, they only oppose what they deem as unnecessary government spending and unfortunately, many people in this country do not view rail as a necessity. 

Conservative thought concedes that "government spending" for transporation infrastructure is one type of public spending that actually creates more economic activity than the taxes that it took to build it.  Beyond that, the only spending they approve of is "national defense" (cough, cough).

 

Many Republican legislators lose track of that economic dynamic and just "oppose everything".  They only vote with the lobbies who fund them munificently: oil companies, auto makers, and the highway lobby.

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^ I totally agree with this.

 

You are one of the most level-headed conservatives I've come across in a long time. Too bad people like Larry Kudlow, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity are nasty, angry, close-minded f*cks who give conservatives a bad name. Liberals have theirs too (see Dennis Kucinich). That kind of extremism makes it hard for both sides to get along and get stuff done. But I just wanted to thank you JJ for your thoughtful and open-minded approach.

 

Back to Amtrak........

 

Thanks KJP.

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Modern Conservatism was founded by Nixon and implemented by Reagan.  If you look at historic conservatism they were never opposed to government spending just doing it in an efficient manner.  Teddy Roosevelt funded the National Park Service and wanted to fund Universal Health Care, Lincoln the trans-continental railways, and Eisenhower the Interstate Highway System.  It's disappointing that they've gone from one political idealogy of progressiveness to one that only wants to fund a military-industrial complex.

 

The truth is that government should be small but also large.  I seriously fear for when this country goes into another great depression and we don't have the infrastructure, services and support to quickly overcome such a devastating occurrence.  The fact that some still strongly oppose Amtrak or rail passenger service in general shows that they are truly in the pockets of other interests or just generally misinformed.

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Why does the trip from CLE to NY take 13.5 hours? I can assume that the stops along the way take some time. Is the speed of the train a factor?

 

This would be my choice of last resort being I can drive or fly much faster.

 

To me, it's always seemed just because of the route taken.

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^^I'd go with generally misinformed for the vast majority of people opposed to Amtrak spending.  I don't think people realize that the extra funding necessary to move Amtrak from survival mode to expansion mode would be cheap for the government but make a big difference for the future of the service and the country's infrastructure future.

 

I still have the optimism that if the facts could be reasonably communicated to the masses, most people would be on board with moving the country's transportation/infrastructure policies into the 21st century.

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OK.... here's my attempt at a reasonable factoid:

 

Nothing in the way of major infrastructure in this or any other nation gets done

unless there is a strong and significant involvement of the national government:  the Interstate Highway System, the St. Lawrence Seaway, Tennessee Valley Authority, the national aviation system (General & Commercial).

 

There needs to be that same strong federal funding partner for what is being discussed on these and other web blogs as far as passenger rail and improved local mass transit.

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National Association of Railroad Passengers

900 Second Street, N.E. Suite 308 Washington, D.C. 20002-3557

Phone 202-408-8362  Fax 202-408-8287  narp@narprail.org  http://www.narprail.org

June 24, 2008

 

The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye, Chairman

Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

U. S. Senate

 

Dear Mr. Chairman:

The National Association of Railroad passengers appreciates your providing a forum to consider how the transportation sector can innovate and adapt to address increased demand in a manner which mitigates the negative impacts of global climate change. I ask that this letter be made part of the record in today’s hearing.

Based on 2005 data reported last year by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Amtrak energy consumption per passenger-mile was 17% lower than by airlines and 21% lower than by automobiles. However, these numbers may understate the rail advantage because:

(1)

Amtrak ridership has increased since 2005 while its energy consumption has been reduced.

(2)

While airlines and auto owners are constantly investing in newer, more fuel-efficient units, Amtrak’s youngest locomotives are seven years old; the main fleet of road diesels was acquired between 1996 and 2001. The well-known Acela train sets, due to safety-related design changes, will remain over-powered until additional passenger cars can be added.

(3)

Oak Ridge numbers do not reflect the added environmental damage that results from high-altitude emissions; there apparently is not yet scholarly agreement on how to quantify this added impact.

(4)

Externalities:

(a)

The ability of trains to stimulate pedestrian- and transit-friendly development in town centers such as at Washington Union Station and in many other Amtrak-served communities of all sizes.

(b)

Good intermodal connections among trains and other forms of transportation make public transportation more attractive by more closely emulating the auto’s flexibility. Of particular note this summer is the planned August opening of the St. Louis Gateway Station which will give St. Louis Amtrak and Greyhound passengers their first attractive,

Our Mission: A modern, customer-focused national passenger

train network that provides a travel choice Americans want

The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye

Page Two

visible terminal, and connection to local buses and the highly successful light rail line (that serves both the airport and Illinois suburbs).

Amtrak is now in its sixth year of increasing ridership, one of many indications that Americans remain way ahead of policymakers in willingness to embrace energy-efficient travel. President Bush and many other leaders tend to focus on “technology” as the solution to our climate change and energy problems but to overlook the fact that the most feasible “technology” we have at our disposal is adequate development of train service, which our Association has been promoting since our founding in 1967.

As Americans across the nation struggle with record fuel prices and rapidly congesting roadways, the choice to ride trains, to some extent, has become a forced one—at least where seats are still available for sale. Amtrak's nationwide ridership jumped 11% in the last seven months—clear evidence that Americans are turning to intercity passenger trains in reaction to skyrocketing gas prices and turmoil in the airline industry.

Now, the nation needs to address the consequences of funding priorities that continue to neglect rail-transport—relative both to rail-development needs, and to federal spending on other modes of transport. When people read reports of your good work on S. 294 and the House’s recent passage of H.R. 6003, they are tempted to think that spending priorities have changed and “real” passenger train development is just around the corner. Last week’s action on Fiscal 2009 funding by the House appropriations subcommittee brought us back to reality. Tough budget limits and heavy demands by other programs limited the increase in passenger train spending to $144 million—enough to cover the back pay recommended by Presidential Emergency Board 242 and increase the tiny U.S. DOT fund for matching state investments to $60 million from the current $30 million.

Options to augment appropriated funds for passenger trains include an allocation of revenues from any cap and trade bill that may eventually become law, as well as tax credit and tax exempt bonds which Congress has considered as a high speed rail funding source.

We, as a nation, have too long been building cities predicated largely upon the assumption that every citizen has an auto. Instead of planning communities which take into account the changes that come with economic and population growth, we have continually utilized instruments and methods to delay facing the consequences of this growth. This is reflected in the growing cost of transport. A new Brookings Institute report says transportation is now the second largest expense for most American households—consuming on average 20 cents out of every dollar. The Surface Transportation Policy Project previously documented that transport takes a bigger share of household income where public transport is less developed. Auto-oriented housing configurations, in large part, limit the short-term relief the transportation sector can provide.

The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye

Page Three

Long-term costs benefit analysis of our options underscores the importance of today’s decisions and how they will shape the landscape and potential of our future cities and networks. By expanding passenger train capacity, we can quickly allow more Americans to use trains to cut transportation costs, avoid traffic stress and air travel headaches, and minimize our oil dependence and negative impacts on climate change. Beyond that, we will lay the foundation for enabling a growing share of our population to enjoy the economic and quality-of-life benefits that come with pedestrian-friendly development.

Thank you for considering our views.

Sincerely,

Ross B. Capon

NARP Executive Director

cc: The Honorable Ted Stevens

Other Committee Members

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It isn't cheap though. I haven't bought beer on the train since before 2003, but it was more than $4 for a 12-ounce can of beer back then. There were times that I took store-bought six-packs on the train with me. People bring their food on the train with them, too. I wouldn't be too obvious about doing either, however.


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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Sweeeeeet.. Booze train on the way to Albany!!

 

Are you old enough to drink? If you are, you lil whippersnapper, can you hold you liquor. :-D

 

Be careful, they close periodically and there is usually only one attendant.  the prices are pretty steep as well.

 

Here is the menu

http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?cid=1093554054835&pagename=Amtrak%2Fam2Copy%2FTitle_Image_Copy_Page&c=am2Copy

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Sweeeeeet.. Booze train on the way to Albany!!

 

On the train I took back from LA to Chicago, the snack car had a happy hour where it was $1 or $2 a can for beer between 5 and 6pm. It was like a stampede of people trying to go down that little staircase. You'd think people had never drunk warm Bud before :-)

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McCain's agenda on Amtrak

By Derrick Z. Jackson

July 1, 2008

 

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2008/07/01/mccains_agenda_on_amtrak/

 

Train travel is finally becoming a third rail of politics. The first one to fry over it might be John McCain.

 

For years, McCain, in the comfort of cheap gasoline for autos and airplanes, made Amtrak a personal whipping boy. Despite the fact that governments in Western Europe and Asia zoomed far ahead of the United States by supporting high-speed trains to relieve congestion, promote tourism and now as we are coming to know, save the planet, McCain has spent considerable capital in denying the passenger rail system the capital to modernize.

 

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^ Good article.  But I'm irked by this bit:

 

"light rail (streetcars) was up 10 percent in the first quarter of this year"

 

If this guy doesn't know the difference between light rail and a streetcar, it makes me question the rest of what he's said in the article. 

 

I really do think that McCain needs to reexamine his stance on rail, though.  One thing I do like about the guy is that he's open minded.  People say that he "flip flops", but I think he makes assessments based on what the facts are now, and isn't afraid to reverse his position when those facts change, as opposed to an complete ideologue, who would bury his head in the sand and hold the same viewpoint no matter what happens.  The fact is that today we have $4+ gasoline, a far cry from the $1-$2 range that gas was in when McCain was opposing Amtrak so heavily.  I have some hope that this trend of ever increasing prices will convince McCain that rail really is part of the answer.

 

I'm encouraged by what Obama says about rail.  If he gets elected, I pray that it's more than campaign rhetoric.

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I took the Empire Service from Penn Station to Albany, and the Ethan Allen from Schenectady back to Penn Station this past weekend.  Here is my review:

 

To Albany: The track was not announced until 2 minutes before the train was supposed to depart, so there was a mad dash to the track (which was not fun with a suitcase).  The train itself was decent, I was in an older car, so it was very hit or miss if you'd get a nice car.  The snack car was closed which frustrated me because I assumed it would be open and had not had dinner yet.. so 3 hours on a train while hungry = no fun.  The Albany station was very nice, except all the food was closed in the station so I had to get something on the NY turnpike.

 

From Schenectady: Very station which was basic at best.  (Side note: Schenectady is a really cool town, too bad I didn't have any time to spend exploring).  The train was 15 minutes late, but I got a car that was from the Acela line, so it was pretty new, nice, and clean.  I wanted to leave from Albany again but for some reason tickets from Albany were sold out, but not Schenectady, which I found off since Albany is the stop following Schenectady.  Anyways, the one huge downside again was the snack car.  It was open, however the credit card machine was broken and they made no mention of it, therefore, again, I couldn't get anything to eat.  Also, the woman who ran the snack bar was a complete b!tch and was very rude when telling me I couldn't use credit card.

 

Overall: I'll definitely take Amtrak again (especially on the Eastern seaboard), but I'll make sure to carry more cash or bring a sandwich with me.

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Editorial: Congress should clear the tracks for Amtrak

A needed bill would help resolve conflicts with freight carriers over access to rails

Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sacramento Bee

 

http://www.sacbee.com/110/story/1057554.html

 

With airlines cutting service and gas topping $4 a gallon, ridership on Amtrak is chugging ever upward.

 

A record 25 million passengers traveled on Amtrak trains in fiscal year 2007, and a new record is sure to be set when the government releases figures for the most recent fiscal year.

 

Amtrak is also enjoying increased popularity in Congress. Last month, the House passed the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, the first five-year reauthorization of Amtrak in more than a decade.

More at the link above:

 

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I asked him to. I posted here so that, just in case someone else at UO sees the editorial, they'll know there's something very wrong with it.


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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It was the Republican Administration of Richard Nixon (and every subsequent Republican Administration) that has hand-cuffed Amtrak at every turn.

 

Your friend makes a lot of good points, but he would be well served by checking the emotion and finger pointing at the door, especially when addressing the Wall Street Journal.  They're less likely to be sympathetic to an anti-Republican opinion than to a cogent pro-rail argument, and may just write off the whole thing as a rant.  "It's not like Clinton or Carter did much for Amtrak," will be their thought as they read this, not recognizing the valid argument that is present as well.  But he's 100% correct on the airline industry AND the way rail should work.

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