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Amtrak high-speed rail to compete with airlines

Amtrak is hoping to lure travelers away from other means of transport, like airlines, with new high-speed rail service.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn will board an Amtrak train heading from Joliet to Bloomington today. The trip is meant to showcase part of the state's new high-speed rail line which will eventually run all the way to St. Louis.
 
Amtrak hopes the new faster service will lure travelers away from other means of transport, like airlines.
 
The high speed for Amtrak trains traveling through the state of Illinois is about 80 miles per hour eventually Amtrak hopes to boost speeds up to 110 miles per hour.  
 
Marc Magliari, a spokesperson for Amtrak, says the company wants to cut travel time between St. Louis and Chicago to around four hours. "Right now we are about two hours longer than flying. We're going to get that within an hour of flying or less over time and we'll get more business that right now is flying."
 
Magliari says faster trains mean more round trips per day, which for many travelers is an even bigger selling point than just speed. "Those are key elements when you sell travel. And certainly we've shown that everywhere we've added frequency and reduced travel times, the ridership goes through the roof because people are looking for better options than driving or flying."
 
Yet, not everyone is on-board with Amtrak's chances of luring riders away from regional air service. Professor Ray Mundy, the Director of Transportation Studies at the University of Missouri St. Louis, says people flying from St. Louis to Chicago are likely transferring onto other flights, meaning they aren't apt to take the train instead.
 
"So, literally the amount of people that are going from downtown St. Louis to downtown Chicago that would be affected by improved rail service…probably wouldn't be enough fill up on 737 that Southwest flies."
 
Victoria Day, with the industry group Airlines for America, points to places like the Northeast, where high-speed service has been available for years. Even there, she says, Amtrak still couldn't exist without government support. "Unlike commercial aviation which does pay for its own infrastructure and operating costs,  through taxes and user, high-speed rail doesn't and that doesn't maintain a level playing field when both modes are competing for the same passenger."
 
But it's not all about the passengers, improvements to railways also benefit freight carriers and lower shipping costs means cheaper goods for consumers.

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I'd be delighted to get back off the plane and take the train. So much more comfortable and civilized than those crammed disease factories in the sky. Trains are far more easily ventilated and it doesn't cost fuel to do so.

Aren't you sick and tired of getting sick, and tired of having to get to the airport 90 minutes early to take off your shoes and be groped, or irradiated? Wouldn't you like to just step aboard, knowing that you won't spend unknown amounts of time trapped on a runway, hoping you'll make your destination on time? To be able to carry a bottle of something, your multitool, whatever, w/o having to think about whether you might be judged a potential terrorist?
Gah. Flying is for the birds. Bring on the rail, I can't wait.

This article is important. It shows how mis information at a number of levels most folks are.
Professor Ray Mundy is completely mis informed on the market size. DOT data reports average daily locals (O&D) between STL and CHI airports is 705 passengers per day each way. It is a big market and would be bigger if a competitive product was offered.
The political oversite makes getting Amtrak competitive unlikely and sad. Congressman (R and D) insist on stops in their districts etc. No reason this shouldn't be a NON STOP train at 150 mph 5 times a day. That would increase ridership and utility for all. Sad that we call 110 mpg high speed. I used to commute by train in Europe and they just plow a path, schedule 180 to 200 mph and be done with it. High speed internet always on, show up 5-10 minutes prior to departure, get into a cab 10 minutes after you arrive, make cell calls have a MEAL, have a meeting..................etc. High utility, very comfortable competitive price for short haul markets. KEY is NON STOP and FAST. A walk up fare on United is $400 and SWA $300. Marc Magliari, the spokesperson for Amtrak -your attempt at 4 hours is sad. I advise airlines on these issues as a living, and they would never think in these terms. You've already lost if 4 hours is your huddle. Go for 2 hours and watch the ridership and money flow in.

You've nailed the intrinsic issues here -- I hope they're listening!

Apparently nobody at Amtrak can do simple math.

The as-the-crow-flies distance from Chicago to St. Louis is 262 miles. An airline will get you there reliably in one hour, ten minutes.

According to Amtrak's own schedules, the train will make the same trip in about five hours, thirty minutes. Pace Mr. Magliari, that's not "about two hours longer than flying."

Amtrak's current average speed: 48 miles per hour.

Average speed required to "cut travel time between St. Louis and Chicago to around four hours" (which was one of Mr. Magliari's inconsistent promises): 65 miles per hour. As the snail riding on the tortoise's back said: Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!

To compete with the airlines (if you call "takes twice as long as flying" competitive), that average speed will have to go up to 120 miles per hour, almost ten percent faster than Amtrak "hopes" to build up to on their "new high-speed rail line."

And that's average speed, not top speed. Looking at Amtrak's current ratio between top and average speeds, for them to show an average speed of 120 miles per hour, they'll have to top out at 200 miles per hour!

It's no surprise to me that "not everyone is on-board with Amtrak's chances of luring riders away from regional air service." Mr. Magliari's presentation was innumerate gobbledygook.

I don't know how it is in Chicago, but in Philadelphia, assuming that I need the same travel time to get to the station as I do the airport, I still need to plan for an extra 1.5 hours to get through airport security and plane boarding. You also need up to an hour on picking up my luggage when arriving in Philadelphia. In the case of my last flight, I had to add another hour filing a lost luggage report so there is 2.5 hours lost without losing luggage. I think if Amtrak could double the speed in which you can drive in one day then they could gain market share over flying. But as it stands if the taking a train from Philadelphia to NYC costs the same and takes as long as driving. You never know if the northeast train corridor is going to have delays or the NJ Turnpike will have delays. It is always a crap shoot and flying is just too expensive.

This article shows why HSR is something of a boondoggle. I take issue with the last sentence, however. How does a one hour speed increase from St. Louis to Chicago mean lower shipping costs and cheaper goods for consumers? I don't see any evidence that supports this.

Another great incentive to increase use for Amtrak would be to allow pets!!!

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