Sunday, July 01, 2007

Amtrak vision

I have been fairly busy the past few days, so this has been left on my desktop. Here is the item that I believe prompted the Congressman from Wal Mart to launch on Amtrak. The National Association of Railroad Passengers has issued a plan which would increase the national passenger network to about the same size as the interstate highway system.

Any increase in the number of passenger trains upsets the truckers and the airlines. Wal Mart is a major trucking force, and its' new concept is oft mentioned by their representative in Congress. What John Boozman calls "on time delivery" is called in Wally-speak "just on time delivery."

My conversation with Congressman Boozman (R-Wal Mart) is posted in two segments below. It's a darned interesting read. Some smart person should explain to the rest of us how a passenger tains that is 7 hours late received "prefered dispatching." Boozman is offended that a passenger train reaches its' destination faster than a freight train that might leave the same city at the same time. No foolin'

Amtrak management needs some serous attention, but that ought to come from transportation professionals and not a bunch of politicians.

Look around the world right now and ask yourself if you think America is well-served by our over-burdened highways and airlines.

NARP has not proposed European-style TGV's but standard American trains. Boozman, in his chat with me, decries that Amtrak uses old technology, as if a federal government which hears only the voices of corporate greed would ever fund anything that benefits ordinary people.

I do not always agree with NARP, but their 40th Anniversary Vision map and statement is an intelligent starting point for discussion. It answers questions about freight railroad congestion and pollution.

Of interest to Arkansas, the NARP proposal would restore service between Memphis and Little Rock by way of Hoxie and Little Rock and Tulsa by Van Buren.

Some smart person should explain to the rest of us how a passenger tains that is 7 hours late received "prefered dispatching."

Let's see:

AMTRAK headed south on a single track route where ALL freight trains head north (many UP routes are one-way). Somebody has to sit and wait on a siding. If it is the freight that sits, AMTRAK has received "preferred dispatching".

Often the freights are longer than the sidings and AMTRAK has to stop as the freights move into and out of the sidings. This happens when AMTRAK is moving with or against flow.

Today (7/2/07), for example, Service Alert: California Zephyr Trains 5 and 6 - Major Delays en Route

Please be advised that passengers traveling on California Zephyr Trains 5 and 6 may encounter delays of approximately three to six hours due to heavy congestion, speed restrictions and other operating conditions.

In a scheduled 43 hour trip, AMTRAK may receive "preferred dispatching" all the way and still be several hours (6) late.

Percentage wise, that is equal to 17 minutes late for a 2 hour plane trip. Ever been 17 minutes late on a commercial flight?
Have you ever considered working for the White House? Tony Snow could probably use some fill-in help.

If Amtrak, in fact, received "preferential dispatching" the opposing freight trains would all fit in the sidings.

Your dispatch about the Zephyr is fairly clear that the mainline congestion is so heavy that it is impossible for ANYBODY to get "preferential dispatching."

The solution is to build enough rail capacity for freight and passenger.

Thanks for your insight,
Actually, to "all fit in the sidings", the freights would have to be shorter, thus more frequent, bringing a whole other set of problems.

Freights are "forced" to work into the sidings for both oncoming and overtaking AMTRAK trains.
Increased congestion means that nothing moves. Amtrak does not enjoy "preferential dispatching" in any practical sense.
I'll try one more time.

If AMTRAK overtakes a slower freight, the freight has to go to siding and allow AMTRAK to pass = preferential.

If AMTRAK meets an oncoming freight, the freight has to go to siding (sometimes this siding is miles ahead of the oncoming AMTRAK - forcing long wait times for the freight) and allow AMTRAK to pass = preferential.

Now, that is not so hard to understand, right?

By the way, I am an AMTRAK fan, having ridden the California Zepher, Coast Starlight, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, and Acela from NY to Boston (now that is a train)

Am scheduled on the Arkansas-Missouri out of Van Buren Friday
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