Tuesday, December 8, 2015

For all of the Discussion; Amtrak Not Coming According to Reynolds in 2012

From Bill Reynolds in 2012

From: Bill Reynolds
To: City Council
Cc: Ashton Hayward
Subject: Amtrak Service Restoration
Date: Sunday, March 04, 2012 12:58:25 PM

Ladies and Gentlemen of the City Council,

Below is an analysis for the restoration of passenger Amtrak travel along the former Sunset
Limited Amtrak Route that was halted following hurricane activity. As you know, many of the
rail lines west of Pensacola were damaged and that was the cause of the suspension of the
service. Essentially, the line has not been restored due to lack of funding.

Amtrak was last reauthorized through the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of
2008 (P.L. 10-432). Section 226 of that legislation required Amtrak to develop a plan to
restore service on the Gulf Coast.

Amtrak met the plan requirement and published its report which can be found at
c=Page&pagename=am%2FLayout&cid=1241245669222 (look for Gulf Coast Service Plan Report under PRIIA submissions and reports - PRIIA Section 226).

The report laid out three different plans to restore service to the region. The plans for
restoration ranged in cost between and initial $32.7-$96.6M start-up, with an annual
operating loss ranging between $4.8-$18.4M.

Despite the damage to the lines west of Pensacola, CSX restored the 100 miles of track and 12
bridges over a 6 month time frame between New Orleans and Alabama. While CSX resumed
service on the line, Amtrak has obviously not restored service from New Orleans to Florida.
Interestingly, Amtrak did resume the service from Louisiana west which connects New
Orleans and Los Angeles and has some of the lowest ridership for one of their longest routes
(and is consistently hammered as being wasteful). By all accounts, cash-strapped Amtrak is
focused on the NE high speed corridor. While the annual operating loss/subsidy issue is
probably the largest hurdle facing the Sunset Limited route, the other upfront costs that
Amtrak would face in restoring the route are substantial and include rehabilitation of rail
stations (making them ADA compliant), replacing rail cars, replacing station tracks (which
have not been replaced by rail carriers like CSX), and restoring personnel.

Congressman Miller has been intimately involved in the results stemming from the Amtrak
report, but he is very strongly against having tax payers subsidize the losses of the route. If
there is a way that Amtrak can restore the routes with existing funds, then he is all for it – but
that is very unlikely. In addition, Governor Scott refused $2B in stimulus funds from Obama
for Florida high speed rail, making it unlikely that the Administration will be sympathetic to
the State’s pleas for restoration of Amtrak service. A large part of the efforts in the last decade
with Amtrak have been focused on the NE corridor and on high speed rail service.

Just wanted to give everyone a reality check. In a different life, I was involved in funding
issues with Amtrak. During that time (2000-2008), it was clear that Amtrak was looking for
an opportunity to ditch those routes it was operating at a loss. It is going to be a real political
struggle to have this route reengaged.

My best,
William H. Reynolds
City Administrator


NotaGOB said...

People are again being given false hope about train service in and out of Pensacola. Many years ago we were wooed with talk of train service to New Orleans just to find out that the train only came into our little depot by "graffiti bridge" two weekday mornings a week before 7:00 AM. That's right no daily service for the many who wanted the route for day-tripping in the crescent city without the worry of driving home drunk or tired. The train trip one-way from Pensacola to New Orleans was 6-8 hours and cost an exorbitant amount. Accordingly the train service was rarely used by anyone and was a money losing route. The only way train travel between Pensacola and New Orleans will ever gain traction is if they actually run one or two daily trains (especially on the weekends) to New Orleans and back and price the ride in the 35-55 dollar range and make the travel time one way 4 hours or less to make it attractive to riders. Otherwise you will again find that the local service will be underused and non-profitable. Had the route been profitable in the first place then Amtrak would have made more of an effort to get it back running.

Anonymous said...

Bill Reynolds was correct. Passenger service will never return to Pensacola. But that hasn't stop our illustrious local newspaper from stirring the pot with yet another concocted article.

It appears that no one works at the News Journal on the weekends. Sunday's papers are filled with garbage fluff written by employees of Quint Studer (Randy Hammer, Shannon Nickinson, and Rick Harper). Gee, does anyone really want to read those statistics that they dig up from census reports? This is proof positive that the News Journal is controlled by Quint Studer. Why should the News Journal hire real reporters when Studer will give them his version of the news for free? And, it fills up s-o-o-o-o-o-o much space none of the News Journal's employees have to write anything! Perfect! Let's all have a good laugh when the PNJ's editor tells us that they are "independent!"