Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

UPDATED: Amtrak Sunset route gets Florida notice

Jacksonville.com has today’s report of discussions on the future of the Sunset east of New Orleans. You can read the entire story here. It is full of useful notes.

Here is the part you may not like.

The damaged tracks have been repaired, and CSX says it has no objections. But low ridership before Katrina hit has Amtrak hesitating. About 81,000 people rode the line in 2005, down from 96,246 in 2004.

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., who chairs a rail subcommittee, has insisted that Amtrak look into re-establishing the route. She inserted a requirement into recent Amtrak legislation that mandated the rail agency do at least that by the summer.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari  said the study into feasibility and cost is under way and will be submitted to Congress by July. A process is also being developed that will seek public feedback, but he couldn’t comment on what that process would be.

There is a link in the right hand column for the national petition to restore the Sunset east of New Orleans. Honestly, it does not look good. You can help by signing the petition and passing it along to all your friends. This is a system priority. If Amtrak gets away with this “suspension” in one of the wealthiest and most populated states, they can do it anywhere.

Perhaps some smarter person can enlighten us on the numbers cited in the article. Obviously, a three-day a week train will have challenges not faced elsewhere, and have the same overhead as a daily train.

Amtrak has said that, concerning the Sunset, everything is on the table. Their statements indicate a willingness to make changes. Again, be warned that not everybody will like the changes.

I have some ideas, but that is just a lapse into railfan babbling.

UPDATE: It did not take Jerry Sullivan long to rise up with the needed information. His entire note is in the “comments” but here is the most relevant portion concerning 2004 passenger loads.

Ridership in 2004 was down from 2003 as well, but here is why.  From early February to late May, of 2004, only two trips were made a week east of NewOrleans account of CSX maintenance blitz’s and no alternate transportation was provided.  This  was 14-16 weeks, so do the math.  At the same load levels involved (whatever they were), full service should have yielded 106,117 riders.
[(16/156) x 96,246] + 96,246.  Now we don’t know the exact effect of this loss on travel plans, but I always rode the train out of Jacksonville on Thursday night – the night it did not operate during those periods, and so I would have had to “make other plans”.

Now, it is stated that “only” 81,000 rode it in 2005.  Duhh, the train did not operate at all after August, i.e. 4 months, and again only two trips a week from February through April of 2005, and two or three
trips were lost by an earlier Hurricane in July.  Lost trips, approx. 50 for that year.  [(50/156)x81000]+81000 yields 106,961 who might have rode the train in 2005.  Looks to me like a potential increase.

But there is more.  Everytime a Superliner bit the dust and was beyond cheap repair – remember Congress and Bush would not allow repair of long distance equipment – a car was robbed from somewhere, so after some time in 2004 before my next to last trip on it, a sleeper and a coach disappeared from the consist.  Duhh, reduced capacity = reduced ridership.  Them nice cars are not made of spandex folks.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

4 Responses

  1. Bruce Richardson reports that Amtrak is preparing to announce that the Sunset will go daily (west of New Orleans):
    http://www.unitedrail.org/2009/04/06/this-week-at-amtrak-2009-04-06/

  2. patlynch says:

    The railroad industry is pretty much immune from wild and unfounded rumors, but daily service on the Sunset would improve ridership (obviously) and improve dispatching.

    One would hope that there are plans to expedite the schedule and reduce some of the padding.

    This should not necessarily bode ill for restoration east of New Orleans, but it may be a completely separate group of train sets – maybe Viewliners. Just a thought.

    And I know the equipment problem.

  3. Lets enlighten everyone about the big lies in the article. I have given this information to the reporter several times and he (or his editors) choose not to use it.

    First, NARP figured more than three years ago that 46% of the Sunset Business came from east of NewOrleans. My own experience was that most of this 46% continued on west of NewOrleans because Houston and SanAntonio were bigger destinations than NewOrleans.

    Ridership in 2004 was down from 2003 as well, but here is why. From early February to late May, of 2004, only two trips were made a week east of NewOrleans account of CSX maintenance blitz’s and no alternate transportation was provided. This was 14-16 weeks, so do the math. At the same load levels involved (whatever they were), full service should have yielded 106,117 riders.
    [(16/156) x 96,246] + 96,246. Now we don’t know the exact effect of this loss on travel plans, but I always rode the train out of Jacksonville on Thursday night – the night it did not operate during those periods, and so I would have had to “make other plans”.

    Now, it is stated that “only” 81,000 rode it in 2005. Duhh, the train did not operate at all after August, i.e. 4 months, and again only two trips a week from February through April of 2005, and two or three
    trips were lost by an earlier Hurricane in July. Lost trips, approx. 50 for that year. [(50/156)x81000]+81000 yields 106,961 who might have rode the train in 2005. Looks to me like a potential increase.

    But there is more. Everytime a Superliner bit the dust and was beyond cheap repair – remember Congress and Bush would not allow repair of long distance equipment – a car was robbed from somewhere, so after some time in 2004 before my next to last trip on it, a sleeper and a coach disappeared from the consist. Duhh, reduced capacity = reduced ridership. Them nice cars are not made of spandex folks.

    J. H. Sullivan, P.E. (retired)
    Jacksonville, where Sunset Ltd. riders as DISENFRANCHISED illegally.

  4. MadPark says:

    Thanks to Christopher Parker for citing “This Week at Amtrak” which should not be read for its politics but for its careful analysis of how Amtrak “cooks its books” to support some of its boneheaded decisions. And, thanks to Jerry Sullivan for exposing the methods used by Amtrak’s press people in (mis)influencing the media. All supporters of rail transport must always be suspicious of any numbers Amtrak cites – it is worth noting that they almost never use revenue per mile or miles traveled per passenger, just raw boardings, a figure which is almost meaningless except for local transit systems.

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