Train In…Yep, Vain

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The advocates of high-speed rail to Chicago have changed their minds; they now want another low-speed train for a total of two per day.
Conspicuously left unasked: where are the photos of the throngs of people left standing on the train platforms because there’s no room on the existing train?   Is there actually a demand for a second train?  Is St. Paul-to-Chicago passenger demand unmet by the MegaBus, or airline?  If so, shouldn’t we know how many people we’re talking about, to gauge whether it’s worth spending a pile of money providing the service?
It seems odd to me that Amtrak would be intentionally leaving customers stranded rather than add another passenger car to the train.  That suggests there are no customers, only lobbyists.
Like the ones who convinced St. Paul and Ramsey County to spend a fortune remodeling the downtown train station, for its once-a-day train visit.  Beautiful, but desolate, a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Joe Doakes

Minnesota Progressives – not solving non-problems for 100 years.

7 thoughts on “Train In…Yep, Vain

  1. The obvious is the $38.5 million in spending that will be “necessary” to operate a second pair of trains using existing track and stations. There has to be something that someone could skim off in that kind of spending. At the very least someone in state government will have to have the job of seeing the payments go out. Or maybe I am getting old and cynical.

  2. The remodeled Union Station in St. Paul isn’t a total waste of taxpayer money. It was easily turned into a homeless shelter when we had our -30F week this winter. I’m sure the renters in the “upscale” apartments there were pleased.

  3. The nice way of saying it is that more may ride if it is more convenient, and two trains per day do that. The trouble is that Amtrak is still stuck on the same model–about 10 carriages towed by 2-3 locomotives with a mail car, dining car, and observation car–that has been used by the Great Northern for well over a century. I’ve got the advertisements from National Geographic to prove this, BTW.

    You could theoretically greatly reduce weight, fuel use, and cost, by going to a “doodlebug” configuration–engine on each carriage–but I don’t know that this exists “off the shelf” because quite frankly, Amtrak’s the only game in town, and they’ve been pushing the old model.

  4. This makes no sense at all. Specifically because, like any government controlled service, Amtrak has been operating in the red since then.

  5. Searching for tickets to travel on Thursday of this week . . .

    Amtrak from St. Paul Union Depot to Chicago takes 7 hours 55 minutes and a one-way ticket costs between $70 and $213 depending on quality of seating.

    Greyhound or MegaBus take 8:40 to 9:40 and a one-way ticket costs $25 – $75 depending on departure time.

    United Airlines takes 1 hours 30 minutes and a one-way ticket costs $259.

    Okay, so the airline is definitely for high-buck travelers, and an economy option would be nice for people who can’t afford air travel. But at what cost to the taxpayers? How many people are we talking about here . . . the price and time for Amtrak versus Bus is comparable so how can there be a huge demand for rail service left unmet?

  6. One reason to take the train instead of the bus is that the scenery is better and the seats are more comfortable, and it turns out that (excepting delays) the train is a little bit faster, too.

    But that said, it’s not a 2x-3x factor for a lot of people, and part of the problem is that the train costs 10x more than a bus per passenger and weighs 4x more per passenger. Some of that is bigger seats and more weight, but another part of it is that government is doing the spec’ing and they don’t give a rip about the costs of NRE, or that there are better ways of doing things than the way it’s been done for the past century.

    Get rid of the locomotives and go to a doodlebug configuration, and you’ve approximately halved those differences.

  7. Another thought; part of that 38.5 million they want is for upgrades to track and stations. OK, the Great Northern is one of the premier rail routes in the country with dozens of freight trains daily, and they need upgrades for a passenger train with a tenth the # of cars as one of them? Seriously? And they need to upgrade the recently upgraded Winona station to add a single passenger train to the mix.

    There’s a quaint country phrase about those notions, or put into political speak, somebody is feathering their nest.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.