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High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
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towny72
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High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« on: Oct 12th, 2009, 10:07pm »
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Well as all of us know by now the Obama Administration has put up some funding for High Speed Rail in the USA, but letís leave political argument aside and look at the issue itself.  In the glory days of passenger rail, beautiful streamlined steamers whisked people around the nation at speeds around 100mph and like stated freight traffic was up. On top of that communications were not what they are now, and track quality was not as good. With that said how the heck did they do it? I know now AMTRAK struggles to get trains up to 80mph on the North East Corridor. Track issues, congestion, etc. I think the idea of 200mph trains is a bit far fetched for the good old USA, but getting AMTRAK to run on schedule, then maybe faster lets say at minimal the same or less then it would take by car.  
 
So lets open up the talks, here what you think and lay it on the lineÖ..
 
 
Bob


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ClydeDET
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« Reply #1 on: Oct 13th, 2009, 8:08pm »
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Actually, despite the use of jointed rail, most railroads with substantial passenger service run at high speeds (example - routine operation at up to 90mph on the CRI&G/FW&D joint track between Dallas and Houston, required for the 60 mph terminal to terminal schedules) kept the track well-maintained. Find some of the old Lucius Beebe books and look at the ROW on the major lines. That constantly maintained track (joint bars kept tight; ballast kept clean and properly tamped; gauge kept proper; super-elevation kept correct; etc.) was how they both ran fast and kept the paying passengers comfortable.
 
And the way they did it was by having lots of track gangs, out constantly, and constantly supervised. There was a reason for all those office cars the railroads used to own, many of them far from the luxury items most folks think of when they hear "Office car" - they were constantly travelling with divison superintendents and other "brass hats" ridig them. And noticing if something wasn't right.
 
Currently, the freight roads maintain track for safe operation of freight cars at (typically) a 59mph top speed. And - most freight doesn't care if it is a little rough. The same track cleared for freight will carry passenger at 79mph - but not necessarily with smoothness and comfort. The NEC is another matter - while some freight runs on it, it is primarily passenger and just doesn't get enough maintenance to stay comfortable at higher speeds.
 
The congestion issue exists in some areas (example would be the ex-SP on the Sunset Route, which is carrying a lot of freight, especially between NOLA and San Antonio - and doubly so between Houston and Orange and points east) an about the only way to address it is to provide more and longer passing sidings and more double track. I was at Houston a bit over a week ago. Came home "the long way around" by taking the Old Beaumont Highway from Houston to Liberty (about 48 miles), †where I turned north to Livingston and then home. We saw (left Houston a little before noon) at least three UP trains, one BNSF and three KCS west-bound and one UP holding for a signal and headed east. That stretch is mostly single track, with pretty a good number of sidings to allow passing. I can just imagine the hassle they have trying to thread the Sunset through (and how hard they don't try to keep it on schedule, or catch it up if if does run late for any reason whatever). Only two trains were moving, all the others were waiting at a signal to get a green. That is one of the stretches where at least two mains, reverse signalled for bi-directional running, †PLUS plenty of passing sidings, are needed if fluidity is to be had. I don't see that soon, I'm afraid.
 
Similar situations exist other places. †That said - real HSTs need dedicated trackage if they are going to run at the 150-200, maybe 250, mph required to compete with airplanes between temrinals maybe 300-400 miles apart. Reliable 79mph running between stops (say average speed, inclusive of all intermediate stops, 70 mph terminal to terminal) will generally beat a car.
 
PS - no reason AMTRAK can't, or shouldn't, operate the inter-city services including HSTs, IF (and a big IF that is) Congress will actually decide AMTRAK should actually operate as a successful service and keep the funding (not whatever management wants - but figure out what really is needed and provide that, reliably) coming and the politician's fingers out of things.


« Last Edit: Oct 13th, 2009, 8:12pm by ClydeDET » Logged
HwyHaulier
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« Reply #2 on: Oct 14th, 2009, 10:06am »
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on Oct 13th, 2009, 8:08pm, ClydeDET wrote:       (Click here for original message)
...PS - no reason AMTRAK can't, or shouldn't, operate the inter-city services including HSTs, IF (and a big IF that is) Congress will actually decide AMTRAK should actually operate as a successful service and keep the funding (not whatever management wants - but figure out what really is needed and provide that, reliably) coming and the politician's fingers out of things...  

 
Clyde - Bob - All -  
 
Sigh! From just above. Perhaps my grand children will get to see such an idyllic world? Seems to me our politicos still haven't figured the  
real costs of reasonable states of upkeep and repair on the old PENN and NEW HAVEN lines...
 
I agree with your remarks on state of upkeep and repair in the Bad, Old Days. Numerous roads had reputations of. "...runnin' 'em hot and  
fast! The Mail must go through!..." To this day, and blessedly Statute Of Limitations tolled, we can name names of which lines were running  
notoriously overspeed, compared with ICC Rules benchmarks...
 
Also, as "HSR" rivaling the Great 2009 Health Insurance Debacle, is there some reason that, as a matter of national policy, we should be  
driving investor owned airlines out of business?
 
.........................Vern...............


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towny72
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« Reply #3 on: Oct 14th, 2009, 2:15pm »
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Great points guys,  
 
I didnít want this to get lost in the other thread so I started it here. I think what can kill this idea faster then anything is politics. The same people that are crying for Health Care Reform are the people that strangled the Health Care System with Red Tape. Donít forget we already have a failing government run medicade! I think the idea of 200mph is ok for lets say New York to Boston, Washington to Philly, Philly to New York, also Houston to Dallas, and possibly LA to Sanfran, etc in Cali. I think the idea of run 200-250mph from New York to Chicago is not a good one. We have as stated publicly invested airlines to do such. My hope would be in the next decade to be able to get from Pittsburgh to Washington in around 4hrs by train, I can do it around 4.5hr by car now, AMTRAK would take me close to 13!
 
Bob


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ClydeDET
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« Reply #4 on: Nov 2nd, 2009, 2:47pm »
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on Oct 14th, 2009, 10:06am, HwyHaulier wrote:       (Click here for original message)

 
Clyde - Bob - All -  
 
Sigh! From just above. Perhaps my grand children will get to see such an idyllic world? Seems to me our politicos still haven't figured the  
real costs of reasonable states of upkeep and repair on the old PENN and NEW HAVEN lines...
 
I agree with your remarks on state of upkeep and repair in the Bad, Old Days. Numerous roads had reputations of. "...runnin' 'em hot and  
fast! The Mail must go through!..." To this day, and blessedly Statute Of Limitations tolled, we can name names of which lines were running  
notoriously overspeed, compared with ICC Rules benchmarks...
 
Also, as "HSR" rivaling the Great 2009 Health Insurance Debacle, is there some reason that, as a matter of national policy, we should be  
driving investor owned airlines out of business?  

.........................Vern...............

 
Well, since deregulation, a goodly number of the investor-owned airlines have done a pretty good job of running themselves out of business...
 
And some nationally owned ones as well (KLM? Swissair? Air Italia? anyone)


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rmgill
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of
 
« Reply #5 on: Nov 17th, 2009, 8:14pm »
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I think it's pretty clear that a LOT of the regulations killed passenger rail and made life VERY difficult for Freight Rail. Between mandated mergers, fixing of prices and freight tariffs and mandates for service, railroads really suffered due to the regulations. Further, when the railroads were targeted as choice sources for tax income, they suffered there as well, being NOT in their interest to have service to areas which were marginally profitable but good for the larger network of terminals being turned into grossly unprofitable lines.

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George_Harris
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« Reply #6 on: Nov 17th, 2009, 10:52pm »
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The reality is that when high speed rail systems are built, most of them by states or by cooperative ventures between states where practical. †(Is it any wonder that the systems most likely to actually happen are those that can be built entirely within the boundaries of one state, such as California, Florida, or Texas?)
 
For the most part, the operation of the system will be put out to contract. †Since Amtrak already runs several commuter systems under contract, it is highly likely that they will seriously attempt to get the contract to operate any high speed system that actually gets built. †
 
It is also highly likely that one of the European system operators may try for the contract. †If such happens they are very likely to get the contract, because Amtrak knows enough about the US regulatory and political environments that they would likley price themselves out of the running. †Over the years I have sen quite a few exmples in construction of contractors not getting a job because they know the situation too well. †For many of these sort of things, the low bidder ended up being sorry he got it. †
 
"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread" can be the reality for this stuff.


« Last Edit: Nov 17th, 2009, 10:53pm by George_Harris » Logged
electricron
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of
 
« Reply #7 on: May 27th, 2010, 11:43pm »
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I hope Amtrak never gets any HSR contracts. All one has to do is look at Amtrak's history with the Northeast Corridor to reach that decision.
After 50 years, Amtrak hasn't increased the average speeds of any of their trains, including Acela trains, along the entire corridor. Average train speeds are less than they were 50 years ago. I dread to think how bad Amtrak's performance would be if they had never bought any Acela trains....
 
If you want really fast trains, you should hire someone other than Amtrak to run them.
 
 


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jmlaboda
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« Reply #8 on: May 28th, 2010, 12:47am »
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I am sure if you have several billion you want to give them to help in that effort they would appreciate it but holding it against Amtrak because they don't get funding to improve on their alignments just doesn't make sense.  Its not Amtrak's fault they have been underfunded for so very long.


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HwyHaulier
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« Reply #9 on: May 28th, 2010, 6:33am »
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Jerry -  
 
"Underfunded" largely because the demi-gods of Congress, and their best and brightest staffs have never understood the Washington -  
New York - Boston RR they bought is one devilishly expensive monument. There have long been some real disconnects between the  
thinking of the better and smarter than you or I types, and the everyday operating realities...
 
I've wearied of these hypothetical fantasies. ACELA might be nice, but the market place pricing is way too high. Wish there were some  
studies that document why the riders are so very important and vital to the economy, that saving a few minutes on timings is worth the  
aggravation, to be paid by everyone else...
 
..................Vern.....................


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NYC_Subway_Fan
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« Reply #10 on: May 28th, 2010, 10:12am »
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on May 28th, 2010, 6:33am, HwyHaulier wrote:       (Click here for original message)
ACELA might be nice, but the market place pricing is way too high. Wish there were some  
studies that document why the riders are so very important and vital to the economy, that saving a few minutes on timings is worth the  
aggravation, to be paid by everyone else...
 
..................Vern.....................

 
Vern,
 
Well seeing as how except for the 36 miles or so where Acela can do its top speed of 150 MPH, in general Acela helps to pay for running all the other trains on the NEC which require the same infrastructure as Acela.  Last year NEC lost about $200,000 before Capital expenses, but with all other operating expenses and interest included.
 
The Regionals lost $66.6 Million, while Acela offset that with it's profit of $67.4 Million.


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HwyHaulier
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« Reply #11 on: May 28th, 2010, 10:26am »
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Alan -  
 
"36 miles"? He knows, he knows! This has been a venerable topic here, i.e., imagine an unlimited budget, and building an all  
new "Air Line Railroad" over same route. Proponents would get themselves exposed to workplace random drug tests!
 
The Accounting? SIGH! Take the Accounting, please. They have an odd little custom of not taking Depreciation charges, right?  
In addition, is there enough public data, "transparent" (Ha! Ha!) enough to consider the Allocation of Expense methods?
 
NEC is an inherently high cost piece of railroad. Not much can ever happen to change the realities...
 
......................Vern.....................


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ClydeDET
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« Reply #12 on: May 28th, 2010, 2:21pm »
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I have wondered if the Pennsy actually made money (or even its capital costs and carrying charges, much less the maintenance on catenary) on the New York-Philly-Baltimore-Washington main, much less if the New Haven did on its Boston-NYC trackage. Especially after electrification (to a consderable degree paid for with public money, I think, as part of the FDR Stimulus (Porkulus 1?) of the 1930s. Or if the rest of the lines subsidized it.  
 
And yes, i know a system cant fragment itself and break up to only operate the "profitable" segments, as they will almost certainly become unprofitable as soon as the connections to the rest of the system are lost. Still - it is good to know just what identifiable segments do and don't contibute. And what might be done to enhance contributions to the bottom line and what can be done to mitigate losses - which you can't do without knowing, eh?


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HwyHaulier
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« Reply #13 on: May 28th, 2010, 2:46pm »
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Clyde -  
 
You raise a good point. The old P R R surely put on one grand show when it was up to them to make it all happen! Whether it ever
brought net, net earnings down to the bottom line is a good question!
 
One didn't need a Ph.D. in Econ. or Operations Analysis, though, to appreciate the line needed heavy and constant traffic flows,  
else they were into deep stuff!
 
......................Vern......................


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NYC_Subway_Fan
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« Reply #14 on: May 29th, 2010, 12:10am »
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on May 28th, 2010, 10:26am, HwyHaulier wrote:       (Click here for original message)
The Accounting? SIGH! Take the Accounting, please. They have an odd little custom of not taking Depreciation charges, right?  
In addition, is there enough public data, "transparent" (Ha! Ha!) enough to consider the Allocation of Expense methods?

 
Amtrak doesn't include depreciation in the route analysis, since 1) it's not really a route operating expense and 2) how does one decide how much depreciation to charge to each route when a car could land on 10 different routes within the year?  Amtrak however does indeed deal with depreciation and in fact includes a table that reconciles the differences between the route totals shown in the monthly performance reports and the Consolodated Statement of Operations.
 
on May 28th, 2010, 10:26am, HwyHaulier wrote:       (Click here for original message)
NEC is an inherently high cost piece of railroad. Not much can ever happen to change the realities...
 
......................Vern.....................

 
I'm not denying that the NEC isn't a high cost railroad.  It most certainly is.
 
However, killing Acela would not change the costs of the NEC all that much, as maintaining things for 135 MPH over much of the WAS-NYP segment vs. 125 MPH isn't going to raise the costs very much at all.  Even maintaining 150 vs. 125 north of NYP isn't changing the costs all that much more than on the southern section.
 
So considering the amount of revenue that Acela produces vs. what the Regionals produce, it isn't fair to say that Acela pulls things down and forces people to pay for those who do ride Acela to save a few minutes.  Acela is more than covering the extra expenses that are associated with the slightly higher speeds.


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Alan,

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HwyHaulier
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« Reply #15 on: May 29th, 2010, 9:36am »
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NYC_Subway-Fan -
 
on May 29th, 2010, 12:10am, NYC_Subway_Fan wrote:       (Click here for original message)
...Amtrak doesn't include depreciation in the route analysis, since 1) it's not really a route operating expense and 2) how does one decide how much depreciation to charge to each route when a car could land on 10 different routes within the year?...  

Do you really wish to buy into this excuse making? Modern day, retail transaction accounting computer applications can instantly provide  
cost accounting guidance on any piece of new business...
 
Recall, a good while back, the railroads routinely did some truly fancy moves with pool equipment, so as to balance charges and mileages.  
All without computers!
 
Quote:
...However, killing Acela would not change the costs of the NEC all that much, as maintaining things for 135 MPH over much of the WAS-NYP segment vs. 125 MPH isn't going to raise the costs very much at all. †Even maintaining 150 vs. 125 north of NYP isn't changing the costs all that much more than on the southern section...    

 
I'm not saying park the ACELA trains. The responsible steward runs with the equipment they have. Yes, the ACELA equipment costs more  
to run. It is surely offset by the much higher fares. (Which, in many instances, are not SWA competitive.)
 
Where we get into fatuous and silly, IMHO, are the noisy types demanding even faster equipment. For what? Why can't the self important  
swells who would ride use computer virtual meetings? The vocal proponent types have no practical cheap fixes for the civil engineering to  
build a much higher speed "Air Line Railroad" physical plant. Serious questions whether it is worth the cost?
 
Finally, and should you have some reading time, see: http://www.jrtr.net/jrtr03/f32_tho.html   In it, a reasonably fair and objective, detailed  
assessment by Louis S. Thompson, for World Bank. I have some picky issues about report of Metroliner heritage, but that's another story...
 
......................Vern..................


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NYC_Subway_Fan
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« Reply #16 on: May 29th, 2010, 1:43pm »
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on May 29th, 2010, 9:36am, HwyHaulier wrote:       (Click here for original message)
NYC_Subway-Fan -
 
 †
Do you really wish to buy into this excuse making? Modern day, retail transaction accounting computer applications can instantly provide  
cost accounting guidance on any piece of new business...
 
Recall, a good while back, the railroads routinely did some truly fancy moves with pool equipment, so as to balance charges and mileages.  
All without computers!

 
If only Amtrak had a modern program.  But instead they have 30 year old software that can't handle things that are far less demanding.
 
And I've never seen a freight RR put out a report that factors depreciation into a particular route either.  No one calculates depreciation at a route level, not even airlines.  Why do you expect Amtrak to be different?
 
on May 29th, 2010, 9:36am, HwyHaulier wrote:       (Click here for original message)

I'm not saying park the ACELA trains. The responsible steward runs with the equipment they have. Yes, the ACELA equipment costs more  
to run. It is surely offset by the much higher fares. (Which, in many instances, are not SWA competitive.)
 
Where we get into fatuous and silly, IMHO, are the noisy types demanding even faster equipment. For what? Why can't the self important  
swells who would ride use computer virtual meetings? The vocal proponent types have no practical cheap fixes for the civil engineering to  
build a much higher speed "Air Line Railroad" physical plant. Serious questions whether it is worth the cost?
 
......................Vern..................

 
Vern, you said:
 
Quote:
Wish there were some  
studies that document why the riders are so very important and vital to the economy, that saving a few minutes on timings is worth the  
aggravation, to be paid by everyone else...

 
I gave you an answer that showed that everyone else isn't paying for that luxury, and that in fact Acela is helping to subsize the slower service.
 
As for being competative with SWA, at least for as long as Amtrak continues to own a majority of the market and people keep screaming about Amtrak making a profit, they'll continue to charge what people are willing to pay.  Or would you prefer that they place more burden on the taxpayer?


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HwyHaulier
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« Reply #17 on: May 29th, 2010, 2:24pm »
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on May 29th, 2010, 1:43pm, NYC_Subway_Fan wrote:       (Click here for original message)
...I gave you an answer that showed that everyone else isn't paying for that luxury, and that in fact Acela is helping to subsize the slower service...  

NYC_Subway_Fan -
 
And, just prior, note I stated there is no sense to parking the trains. What is a matter of concern? Why get swept into the hype over ever  
faster speeds, on what are fairly short average lengths of ride (haul), and make for a next logical step? There is a larger universe of riders  
(consumers) that won't get attracted, in any case...
 
On another note: Charges for Depreciation, Use of Money, and other related factors? This is the stuff of the old time, endless debates  
about the meaning of Uniform ICC Accounting, and Distribution of Costs. It could get quite wearying...
 
All I am saying is current day, transaction based, retail focused computer software can crank out some fairly reliable guides on per unit  
revenues and costs. Ask Wal-Mart! They know why they are doing a particular "Rollback" at your nearby outlet! (Maybe it is Freeware,  
Open Source, FAIK, on www.download.com)
 
Not to turn this into an Accounting Seminar (3.0 Credits), but, Depreciation (as well as some other charges) can be a bit devilish. That is,  
in transport use, one cannot precisely guess number of miles which will accumulate on specific assets during a study period, until the  
end of the period. Nevertheless, reasonably reliable estimated charges may be made in Cost Accounting styled projections.
 
Ah, well!   First, let us all Honor Our Local Heroes, The Vets This Memorial Day Weekend...
 
.........................Vern..................
 
 


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ClydeDET
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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« Reply #18 on: May 30th, 2010, 8:20pm »
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Ah, well!   First, let us all Honor Our Local Heroes, The Vets This Memorial Day Weekend...  
 
.........................Vern..................  
 
Hear, hear.  Our flag is out and will be out tomorrow as well.
 
Flew the Lone Star yesterday. And on April 25th (I know that is a while yet), it will be either a First National or Bonnie Blue. A warm fuzzy for anyone who knows why one of those on that day.


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Re: High Speed Rail in America, and can AMTRAK be a part of it?
 
« Reply #19 on: Jun 7th, 2010, 10:40pm »
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Unfortunately, the US will build the kind of high speed rail system being discussed here only if that becomes the only way to move people, and that is not likely to ever be the case. We can upgrade the NEC to bring it "up to date", though even that undertaking is frought with fiscal and politcal problems. Amtrak is not really the problem-- the problem is the current "culture" in the US. Without some major catastrophic dimunition in the supply of oil ( the Gulf tragedy notwithstanding), we will never be able to pull enough people out of their motor vehicles, or off the airlines to make building true high speed rail cost effective, and to make the fares those routes would charge low enough to attract the kind of ridership necessary to sustain the operations. †It just "ain't" going to happen.

« Last Edit: Jun 7th, 2010, 10:40pm by Walt_C » Logged

Please move to the rear and speed your ride-Regards, Walt
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