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Passenger Trains > Why can't we just add a car?


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Date: 05/24/23 09:24
Why can't we just add a car?
Author: BRAtkinson

In an oft off repeated sub-thread on this forum seems to be "Why can't they simply add another car to..." The authors of such comments neglect to consider it is far more complex than to simply hook on an extra car and go.

For example, adding a coach to the Cardinal actually requires three coaches. As that's the number of Cardinals scheduled to be 'on the roll' at midnight. (that's my calculation point, not Amtrak's). So now you actually have to have three cars required to simply 'add a car'. The Lake Shore requires four to New York as 'same day equipment turn' no longer an option at NYP or CHI.

Those increases may require additional staffing per union agreement. Is an additional operating crew member (assistant conductor) required? How about a coach attendant? If so are any available and where are they located? If not located at the proper crew base, then keep on looking for crew. What about endpoint turning capabilities? Any additional yard space required? What about cleaning staff and equipment? What about the extra 60 minutes (my wild guess) consistently available for such cleaning? Is extra cleaning staff required, again contractually agreed to?

What about money? It takes extra money for operatinc crew, OBS crew as well as cleaning crew. What about per train/ton/axle railroad charges? What does the cost of adding an extra car per train per day cost... $100? $500? It could conceivably be 30-90 days to negotiate those charges with the host railroad and/or overnight yard charges for space.

As far as I know, nobody on this site has any first-hand knowledge of what any of these costs and staffing requirements might be.

And of course, the biggest question of all... will there be a reasonably offsetting increase in passenger count to pay for all of this?

Oh!!! Almost forgot! Might an additional locomotive be required per normal practices and/or railroad agreements? Are those locomotives available? What about additional fuel whether you add a locomotive or just pulling an extra 100 tons the entire route?

The unfortunate reality is it is no longer pre-1960 when there are many serviceable cars available as are staff and facilities to add a car or two or three. These days, finding even $10 available would be a miracle. Money is tight, staff cut to the bone, equipment shortage, staff shortage, experience shortage, and of course money. In short, the ability to change things 'on the fly' is long gone from those 60+ years ago.

Welcome to the age of react to a situation, plan on how to handle it for the next 6-12 months, and by the time you come up with a solution, the window of opportunity is long gone.

Posted from Android



Date: 05/24/23 09:32
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: joemvcnj

There are only 2 Cardinal sets.

There are 3 Lake Shore sets.

You are basically concocting excuses and using creative math.

Pre pandemic, Cardinal had a 3rd coach, plus a separate business dinette car, and still one loco.

Money is not tight, not in the least.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/24/23 09:35 by joemvcnj.



Date: 05/24/23 10:49
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: cabsignaldrop

2 Conductors can work up to 7 revenue cars per union agreement on short haul trains without TA's. More than 7 revenue coaches requires an additional conductor, however this is almost always ignored and the conductors can put in a penalty claim for 4 hours pay. This rule does not apply on LD trains. A revenue car is considered a coach.

One train attendant can work 3 coaches, however if manpower is available a 2nd will typically be put on trains with 3 coaches.

Being creative with equipment can also help with the perceived equipment shortage. It has been done in the past with locations with yard crews or even the road crews. Such as the St. Louis cutoff coach on 21/22. In the past 3/4 had a Kansas City cutoff coach. 5/6 had a Denver cutoff coach and sleeper. 7/8 had a St. Paul cutoff coach.

A high density Horizon or Amfleet I cutoff car could most certainly be added to 50/51 to Indianapolis, and perhaps 48/49 to Toledo. I think Toledo still has ground power.

Posted from Android



Date: 05/24/23 10:56
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: restricted_speed

I don't buy these arguments either. This is passenger railroading 101.

I have come to believe that Amtrak is intentionally sabotaging their LD routes. 



Date: 05/24/23 10:58
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: Typhoon

restricted_speed Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> I have come to believe that Amtrak is
> intentionally sabotaging their LD routes. 


I now understand why the price of aluminum foil has gotten so high.



Date: 05/24/23 11:00
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: restricted_speed

Typhoon Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> restricted_speed Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> > I have come to believe that Amtrak is
> > intentionally sabotaging their LD routes. 
>
> I now understand why the price of aluminum foil
> has gotten so high.

So what is the reason?

I don't wear an aluminum foil hat. I wear a tin foil hat. 



Date: 05/24/23 11:03
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: Typhoon

restricted_speed Wrote:

> I don't wear an aluminum foil hat. I wear a tin
> foil hat. 


Old school.  I like it.



Date: 05/24/23 11:27
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: BrynMawr

Short answer; adding capacity would increase ridership as well as customers for the food services.    That is clearly NOT in line with Gardner & co policy goals. 
The recent parking of crew dorm sleepers is evidence of the policy.  



Date: 05/24/23 11:42
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: Erie-Lackawanna

BRAtkinson is on point. None of the factors he mentions are THE reasons why Amtrak doesn't lengthen trains; we don't know the reason. But these are all factors that must be considered before adding a car to a train.

Back in 2008 when gas prices skyrocketed and everybody wanted to ride trains to work we had serious overcrowding on one of the Port Jervis trains. The train already was a 7-car train, and we had a policy not to run 8-car diesel trains (they run like tortoises). We quickly dispatched that policy to the circular file and asked NJT to add a car to the train. We had the equipment, and the additional car wouldn't require an additional trainman (two important criteria...). The obstacle was yard space in Port Jervis. We had no room to store an 8-car train overnight. Fortunately, our friends at NJT got creative and rearranged the yard plan (which train goes where) to allow the long train to hang out into the ladder and not prevent other trains' dispatchment in the AM. 

Yes, many obstacles can be overcome. But some just can't be, and you can't unilaterally say that Amtrak just doesn't want to add cars without knowing the actual state of the operation. Just because they did it before the pandemic doesn't mean they can do it now. They may want to lengthen the trains, but don't have the resources to do it. Even though the resource situation is of their own making, and they should rightly be held accountable for their failures, that doesn't change the fact that there may be resource issues that prevent lengthening trains. 

And no, I'm not an Amtrak apologist. Seeing the state of the Amtrak system today has made me a "never again" on Amtrak. But none of us know what the actual issues are, so we shouldn't be so dismissive.

Jim



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/24/23 11:43 by Erie-Lackawanna.



Date: 05/24/23 12:46
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: alan2955

Erie-Lackawanna Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> BRAtkinson is on point. None of the factors he
> mentions are THE reasons why Amtrak doesn't
> lengthen trains; we don't know the reason. But
> these are all factors that must be considered
> before adding a car to a train.
>
> Back in 2008 when gas prices skyrocketed and
> everybody wanted to ride trains to work we had
> serious overcrowding on one of the Port Jervis
> trains. The train already was a 7-car train, and
> we had a policy not to run 8-car diesel trains
> (they run like tortoises). We quickly dispatched
> that policy to the circular file and asked NJT to
> add a car to the train. We had the equipment, and
> the additional car wouldn't require an additional
> trainman (two important criteria...). The obstacle
> was yard space in Port Jervis. We had no room to
> store an 8-car train overnight. Fortunately, our
> friends at NJT got creative and rearranged the
> yard plan (which train goes where) to allow the
> long train to hang out into the ladder and not
> prevent other trains' dispatchment in the AM. 
>
> Yes, many obstacles can be overcome. But some just
> can't be, and you can't unilaterally say that
> Amtrak just doesn't want to add cars without
> knowing the actual state of the operation. Just
> because they did it before the pandemic doesn't
> mean they can do it now. They may want to lengthen
> the trains, but don't have the resources to do it.
> Even though the resource situation is of their own
> making, and they should rightly be held
> accountable for their failures, that doesn't
> change the fact that there may be resource issues
> that prevent lengthening trains. 
>
> And no, I'm not an Amtrak apologist. Seeing the
> state of the Amtrak system today has made me a
> "never again" on Amtrak. But none of us know what
> the actual issues are, so we shouldn't be so
> dismissive.
>
> Jim

If Amtrak doesn’t want to operate reasonable length trains, I have a simple answer. Just shut the damn thing down. In its current form it is barely serving anyone anyhow. Two coaches on the Cardinal. Indianapolis could easily fill one of those, so that leaves a whopping 55 seats or so for all the rest of the traffic between Chicago and the East. If there’s no more demand than that, then they should just drop the train. Of course we know there is a lot more demand by looking at past ridership. Amtrak doesn’t want to be bothered doing the job they’re being paid to do by the government. The coach capacity on this train is literally back to the 1970 days of the Penn Central James Whitcomb Riley with its pitiful two coach consist. The people wearing tinfoil hats here are the ones that think Amtrak can’t come up with one extra coach for each of the two cardinal consists. ANY type of coach would do. They could put the short haul riders in a higher capacity Amfleet or Horizon coach, if need be. There’s just no effort being made whatsoever.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/24/23 12:54 by alan2955.



Date: 05/24/23 13:03
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: 2904

But these are actual reasons. If you don’t think they are you are nuts and are disconnected from reality.

Posted from iPhone



Date: 05/24/23 13:08
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: restricted_speed

Erie-Lackawanna Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> But none of us know what the actual issues are

And that's exactly the point. We SHOULD know what the issues are, and Amtrak should be held accountable for the current state of the system.

 



Date: 05/24/23 14:04
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: ronald321

I too, have come to believe Gardner is laying the ground work for discontinuing Long Haul trains by downgrading them.

I was recently startled by train fan reports of what they observed on the NEC.

One fan reported a sparkling clean Regional train. Another fan reported a filthy dirty Silver Meteor,
which had just started it's trip from New York.

When a clean Corridor train is followed by a filthy dirty long haul train -- it makes you wonder about
Gardner's intentions.



Date: 05/24/23 14:13
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: Typhoon

restricted_speed Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Erie-Lackawanna Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > But none of us know what the actual issues
> are
>
> And that's exactly the point. We SHOULD know what
> the issues are, and Amtrak should be held
> accountable for the current state of the system.
>

Why SHOULD we know?  We are not employees, and the CEO does not answer to us.



Please spare me the I am a taxpayer and I deserve to know crap.  That is not the way the government works.



Date: 05/24/23 14:19
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: Typhoon

ronald321 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I too, have come to believe Gardner is laying the
> ground work for discontinuing Long Haul trains by
> downgrading them.


Shocking.  You also believe that Southwest Airlines conspired to keep speeds down on the Chicago to St Louis route, so there is that.

>
> I was recently startled by train fan reports of
> what they observed on the NEC.
>
> One fan reported a sparkling clean Regional train.
> Another fan reported a filthy dirty Silver
> Meteor,
> which had just started it's trip from New York.

Oh no!


>
> When a clean Corridor train is followed by a
> filthy dirty long haul train -- it makes you
> wonder about
> Gardner's intentions.

Not at all.



Date: 05/24/23 14:44
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: Lackawanna484

Several Florida silver service trains have been reported and shown to be sparkling clean recently.

Posted from Android



Date: 05/24/23 15:08
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: jp1822

WOW! So many misguided facts here on this thread.....Not sure if that should be surprising since the OP started with a host of misinformation about the number of train sets required to operate a particular train and "what could be" but "is not." Maybe more people posting should ride Amtrak trains, talk to the crews, and be more observant to what they see (be it onboard the train or in the Yards).

Looking at the high level - Amtrak has assets (equipment, passenger cars, etc.). They were indirectly or directly purchased with tax payer money. There's accountability for Amtrak to maintain or at least be a good steward of those assets. But that also comes with a balance. With ridership demand strong to increasing, what's Amtrak doing to increase overall train capacity - across any and all of its business lines, including LD trains. We are now three years into a post-COVID19 pandemic world. Adding capacity remains a short-coming.  



Date: 05/24/23 15:10
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: ironmtn

Typhoon Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> restricted_speed Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
>
> > I have come to believe that Amtrak is
> > intentionally sabotaging their LD routes. 
>
> I now understand why the price of aluminum foil
> has gotten so high.

Me too. I have been wondering why every time I need to get some at the supermarket.

I also prefer old fashioned tin foil hats for those who choose to wear them. Less conductive to strange and weird conspiracy signals. But they do not fully reject those signals, so the weird conspiracies can still occur. Sadly.

Typhoon and I have had our disagreements. But on the old school superiority of tin foil hats we can readily agree. And there are plenty of them being worn by some contributors to this thread. As is often the case on this forum.

And so...to add one car to the Cardinal actually takes three? Okayyyy...some new math there.

And so, those of us who wish Amtrak could add more cars when needed actually got through and had success in our business careers (including doing multi-million dollar annual budgets) without realizing that adding capacity (to almost anything) also adds costs? For which you need to do some careful control. We didn't learn how to, and actually do that? Okayyyy....

Reminder: the key reason (recognized in other discussions) why Amtrak doesn't add capacity as flexibly or as often as they could, or should, is because they do not have the equipment. At least as now operating. It's hard to add cars for a holiday weekend or peak seasonal demand when they are sitting in a dead line somewhere waiting for repairs, air brake work, updates, or whatever. But that's another story. And a very sad one. For whatever reason it has occurred.

MC

Posted from Android



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/24/23 18:03 by ironmtn.



Date: 05/24/23 15:12
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: restricted_speed

Typhoon Wrote:
> Please spare me the I am a taxpayer and I deserve
> to know crap.  That is not the way the government works.

I disagree with you. It may not work that way, but IMO it SHOULD work that way.
We are all paying for this schitt-show.



Date: 05/24/23 15:22
Re: Why can't we just add a car?
Author: restricted_speed

jp1822 Wrote:
> With ridership demand strong to increasing, what's
> Amtrak doing to increase overall train capacity -
> across any and all of its business lines,
> including LD trains. We are now three years into a
> post-COVID19 pandemic world. Adding capacity
> remains a short-coming.  

It has been reported here that there are strong incentives within Amtrak to cut costs. If this is true, what we are seeing across the system fits that scenario. Eliminating lounge cars, eliminating crew dorms at the expense of revenue sleeper space, running short trains etc.

People always do what they are incentivized to do. Imagine the cost savings (and resulting bonuses) for example if Amtrak were to eliminate the Capitol Limited? I bet we are going to see it.

I'm guessing that at Amtrak there is no incentive structure in place to increase revenue or address capacity issues. And it seems that they do not need to answer to anyone. It's sad.



 



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