• Welcome to AlpineZone, the largest online community of skiers and snowboarders in the Northeast!

    You may have to REGISTER before you can post. Registering is FREE, gets rid of the majority of advertisements, and lets you participate in giveaways and other AlpineZone events!

Amtrack to VT

oakapple

New member
Joined
Feb 9, 2010
Messages
470
Points
0
Location
New York, NY
It is true that Amtrak has never been profitable, aside from the Northeast Corridor. But roads aren't "profitable" either, and the nation continues to invest billions in them, every year. I'm pretty sure airlines wouldn't be profitable (they're barely profitable now), if they had to pay full freight for all of the government-provided infrastructure that allows them to operate.

There isn't good evidence that private enterprise could run subways and railroads more efficiently. Those systems are in government hands today because the private companies that once operated them all failed. Those who cite the government's failures seem to forget that. A private company looks to make a profit, and most rail travel in the U.S. is inherently unprofitable.

If the government stopped paying for rail service, most of it would die, and the government would need to build more road capacity, which as I've noted, isn't exactly "free" either. (For a few days when there was little to no train service in NYC, after Hurricane Sandy, you got a pretty good idea of the traffic New Yorkers would face, if the trains didn't exist.)
 

x10003q

Active member
Joined
Aug 14, 2009
Messages
911
Points
43
Location
Bergen County, NJ
It is true that Amtrak has never been profitable, aside from the Northeast Corridor. But roads aren't "profitable" either, and the nation continues to invest billions in them, every year. I'm pretty sure airlines wouldn't be profitable (they're barely profitable now), if they had to pay full freight for all of the government-provided infrastructure that allows them to operate.

There isn't good evidence that private enterprise could run subways and railroads more efficiently. Those systems are in government hands today because the private companies that once operated them all failed. Those who cite the government's failures seem to forget that. A private company looks to make a profit, and most rail travel in the U.S. is inherently unprofitable.

If the government stopped paying for rail service, most of it would die, and the government would need to build more road capacity, which as I've noted, isn't exactly "free" either. (For a few days when there was little to no train service in NYC, after Hurricane Sandy, you got a pretty good idea of the traffic New Yorkers would face, if the trains didn't exist.)

Well said.
 

deadheadskier

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Mar 6, 2005
Messages
27,838
Points
113
Location
Southeast NH
I'm only for subsidizing mass transit when it makes sense. A ski train never well, even if it is packed on the way up because then you'd end up sending back nearly empty passenger cars on a Friday night.

The only way I could see something like this work is cross utilization between passenger service and freight. Send the passenger train up on Fridays night, leave the passenger cars in VT and use the engine and crew to tow freight back to NYC. Then on Sunday, tow freight up to VT and return with the passengers. Mind you, I know nothing about train engineering and whether or not the engine cars on passenger trains can be cross utilized for freight.

For mass transit to make sense, you need to have equal ridership in both directions occurring on the same day. That would never happen sending a train between NYC and VT.
 

BenedictGomez

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 26, 2011
Messages
12,024
Points
113
Location
Wasatch Back
If the government stopped paying for rail service, most of it would die, and the government would need to build more road capacity, which as I've noted, isn't exactly "free" either. (For a few days when there was little to no train service in NYC, after Hurricane Sandy, you got a pretty good idea of the traffic New Yorkers would face, if the trains didn't exist.)

You're arguing a point that isnt being argued: roads.

As for certain railroad lines, I'm completely fine with letting them "die" if they're not profitable.

Let the Amtrak line from Boston to DC prosper, let the other Amtrak lines (which are far less attended anyway) die rather than continue to waste hundreds of millions (literally) of dollars from American's paychecks every year.

Honestly, Amtrak's balance sheet is so jaw-droppingly horrifying that you look at their annual report and do a double-take, because you believe there either must be a typo or you're just not seeing correctly.

As for NJTRANSIT, it's horribly inefficiently run. I'm 100% certain a private company would run it better, and certainly profitably, were they in charge. In fact, NJTRANSIT should be one of if not the most profitable rail enterprises in the nation. Those trains are packed. The waste if egregious.
 

oakapple

New member
Joined
Feb 9, 2010
Messages
470
Points
0
Location
New York, NY
I'm only for subsidizing mass transit when it makes sense. A ski train never well, even if it is packed on the way up because then you'd end up sending back nearly empty passenger cars on a Friday night.
The Vermonter and the Ethan Allen aren't ski trains. You can use them for that, but I'm pretty sure most of the people on them aren't skiers.

You're arguing a point that isnt being argued: roads.

As for certain railroad lines, I'm completely fine with letting them "die" if they're not profitable.
I'm just trying to understand your position, because rail lines and roads are both transportation routes that are subsidized by the government, and you seem to demand profitability only of one, and not the other.
 

BenedictGomez

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 26, 2011
Messages
12,024
Points
113
Location
Wasatch Back
I'm just trying to understand your position, because rail lines and roads are both transportation routes that are subsidized by the government, and you seem to demand profitability only of one, and not the other.

I'm trying to understand how you're measuring "profitability" of roads?

The sea is also a "transportation route". There are sea carriers operating on the ocean that are profitable, there are some that were not and are now defunct. Amtrak is a carrier operating on a railroad, that has never been profitable, yet it is artificially kept in business by the government. It's irresponsible.
 

oakapple

New member
Joined
Feb 9, 2010
Messages
470
Points
0
Location
New York, NY
I'm trying to understand how you're measuring "profitability" of roads?
Easy: it's what the government spends to build and maintain them, minus what the government collects from drivers to pay for them. For the most part, that's a negative number. Tolls are collected on only a tiny fraction of roads. Most are free for anyone to use as they please. Surely you recognize that when the government builds a big fat interstate, and charges you nothing to use it, the government is "subsidizing" car travel.

The sea is also a "transportation route". There are sea carriers operating on the ocean that are profitable, there are some that were not and are now defunct.
The government didn't "build" the sea, the way it built (and still builds) roads; the sea was already there.

Amtrak is a carrier operating on a railroad, that has never been profitable, yet it is artificially kept in business by the government.
So is the subway, which you admitted you use, and I don't think anyone in the last 70 years has suggested it could ever be profitable.

So again, I'm wondering how you decided out which forms of transportation the government should spend money on, and which it shouldn't.
 

BenedictGomez

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 26, 2011
Messages
12,024
Points
113
Location
Wasatch Back
Easy: it's what the government spends to build and maintain them, minus what the government collects from drivers to pay for them. For the most part, that's a negative number. Tolls are collected on only a tiny fraction of roads. Most are free for anyone to use as they please. Surely you recognize that when the government builds a big fat interstate, and charges you nothing to use it, the government is "subsidizing" car travel.


You're conflating a business which operates on a transportation route (Amtrak) with a transportation route itself (roads).
Two very different things that are not directly comparable.

The bulk of financial return from roads doesn't come directly from drivers wallets. If you want to ascertain the financial impact of roads you should look at the net impact to GDP resulting from our highway system. That's how most of the money which the government spends to "build and maintain" the roads, financially returns to us. It's necessary.

Amtrak, on the other hand, is just one failed business which happens to operate on a transportation route. It's unnecessary.
 

oakapple

New member
Joined
Feb 9, 2010
Messages
470
Points
0
Location
New York, NY
The bulk of financial return from roads doesn't come directly from drivers wallets. If you want to ascertain the financial impact of roads you should look at the net impact to GDP resulting from our highway system. That's how most of the money which the government spends to "build and maintain" the roads, financially returns to us. It's necessary.
That same hypothesis is the justification for government's continued investment in Amtrak, the New York City Subway, commuter rail, and so forth. Given the very large number of local and state governments that continue to do so, in addition to the federal government, I'd say there's an overwhelming consensus that it's worthwhile in the same way that roads are, i.e., the net impact to GDP over time. Vermont is so convinced of the value of its Amtrak trains that it is planning to extend the Ethan Allen farther north, to Burlington.

Consensus can be wrong, but I haven't seen a shred of data that says so. I think your initial comment was that "taking the train is dumb," or something like that, so I am not expecting a lot of nuance.
 

riverc0il

New member
Joined
Jul 10, 2001
Messages
13,039
Points
0
Location
Ashland, NH
Website
www.thesnowway.com
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand... yet another thread devolves into conservative vs. liberal fiscal policy. I have nothing to add other than that observation and my opinion that it is really getting old on this forum.
 

ScottySkis

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 16, 2011
Messages
12,294
Points
48
Location
Middletown NY
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand... yet another thread devolves into conservative vs. liberal fiscal policy. I have nothing to add other than that observation and my opinion that it is really getting old on this forum.



Maybe all the political posts should be deleted.
 

mister moose

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 11, 2007
Messages
1,084
Points
48
Seems to me you could stand on the side of the road on any interstate, and measure the car count, the truck type and count, and come up with a value of the goods and services going by. You could do the same thing for rail. Divide each by the cost of maintenance for the roadway. Add a factor to compensate for the slower speed, train crew required, track fees to be paid to the owner, and increased fuel efficiency for rail.


My gut tells me based on the traffic whizzing by on 87, 91, 95, 84 and 90, compared to the mostly silent rails, is that the financial impact of the interstate is greater, and the cost is lower for individual travel and individual shipments. Rail is best for very large bulk freight, and high density passenger service.

I learned a few years ago that the speed limit for most of the line from Bellows Falls to Rutland is 30mph. With tracks like that, no passenger service will evolve.

Even though the passenger service has been nationalized, track ownership has not.

Look at this route map for the Vermonter:

Rail-Map-Illustration_c.jpg

The train can't stay on the main line because the track's owner, PanAm, won't spend the money to upgrade the track, they only use it for freight. The speed limit on the track from Springfield to Brattleboro is 10 mph in places. Amtrack currently has no agreement to operate on that track. So they take a 45 minute detour east to Palmer, Mass, and go on tracks owned by CSX and then NECR.

This is not the environment for high speed rail, or even reasonable speed rail.

Hartford to Burlington, 4 hours driving, 7 hours by rail, and the average delay is a half hour each day.
 
Last edited:

Scruffy

Active member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
1,157
Points
38
Location
In the shadow of the moon.
You're conflating a business which operates on a transportation route (Amtrak) with a transportation route itself (roads).
Two very different things that are not directly comparable.

......
Amtrak, on the other hand, is just one failed business which happens to operate on a transportation route. .....

Yeah, not quite. Amtrak owns some 700+ miles of track, and number rail bridges and tunnels; the rest of the line they operate on they either lease or pay usage fees. The track costs and capital are part of their business model, unlike, let's say a trucking company that does not own and maintain, or lease the roads they use. Rail track lines are part and parcel to train business, if you subsidize Amtrak, you are in effect also subsidizing the route. The rail lines are not really routes you can compare to roads or the seas anyway. The Rail lines are private and not simply open to any business venture wishing to embark on commerce, without negotiating some lease or right to use.
 
Top