Infrastructure Stimulus

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by Riverite »

In order to imbed consistency I will henceforth complain about any road that doesn’t make money.

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by kboish »

DColeKC wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:45 am
kboish wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 9:10 am
DColeKC wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 8:34 am


Probably because they’re tired of bailing out Amtrak with billions every single year.
Why must Amtrak make a profit and highways not? Does the FAA recoup all monies through fees for the BILLIONs they dole out? How about port infrastructure?

but you know this, this conversation has been had before on here, elsewhere. But no one updates their talking points. gets boring after awhile.
Sorry, I’ve never seen these conversations happening. So new to me.

Highways aren’t a quasi-public corporation and our tax dollars are already paying for the upkeep. The amount of people using highways and commercial aviation is astronomically greater than those using Amtrak. Amtrak’s not transporting goods in and out of the country either. So I don’t understand the comparison.

Let’s stop pumping money into an antiquated, dying form of transportation and put that money into future improvements like high speed rail that could actually compete with other popular forms of transportation. Amtrak is a joke. Not to be confused with local rail and streetcar systems which are a huge plus for communities.
The spirit of this response is much different than the spirit of your initial response to a comment about transit and Amtrak being "infrastructure".

The idea that a HSR won't need continuous operational funding supplements and/or capital reinvestment/grants/subsidy (or as you called it, "bailouts') is ridiculous. So your shift in tact to support HSR as a call for defunding antiquated Amtrak is suspect from my point view.

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by DColeKC »

kboish wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 11:46 am
DColeKC wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:45 am
kboish wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 9:10 am


Why must Amtrak make a profit and highways not? Does the FAA recoup all monies through fees for the BILLIONs they dole out? How about port infrastructure?

but you know this, this conversation has been had before on here, elsewhere. But no one updates their talking points. gets boring after awhile.
Sorry, I’ve never seen these conversations happening. So new to me.

Highways aren’t a quasi-public corporation and our tax dollars are already paying for the upkeep. The amount of people using highways and commercial aviation is astronomically greater than those using Amtrak. Amtrak’s not transporting goods in and out of the country either. So I don’t understand the comparison.

Let’s stop pumping money into an antiquated, dying form of transportation and put that money into future improvements like high speed rail that could actually compete with other popular forms of transportation. Amtrak is a joke. Not to be confused with local rail and streetcar systems which are a huge plus for communities.
The spirit of this response is much different than the spirit of your initial response to a comment about transit and Amtrak being "infrastructure".

The idea that a HSR won't need continuous operational funding supplements and/or capital reinvestment/grants/subsidy (or as you called it, "bailouts') is ridiculous. So your shift in tact to support HSR as a call for defunding antiquated Amtrak is suspect from my point view.
I didn't create the term "bailout". This is what the government calls it. This is what CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC and NPR call it. What else do you call it when a quasi-public company needs billions from the government every year so it doesn't have to fire thousands of employees? It's a bailout!

Capital investments and grants are budgeted and planned in advance, a bailout saves butts. If they're going to need a bailout every single damn year they've existed, sure, maybe they need a massive increase in funding OR we realize the horse is dead and invest in something more people might actually use. I'm not taking Amtrak to STL or Chicago, but I'd jump on High Speed rail in a second. For the popular Amtrak routes that actually make money, let's keep those. Shutter the others.

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by grovester »

https://www.businessinsider.com/amtrak- ... 20-2019-11

Seems like it was headed the right direction pre-pandemic.

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by shinatoo »

Let’s start putting some teeth into enforcing track priority and maintenance for AMTRAK before we throw them under the bus (or car, or airplane). It's law, but there are no penalties or fines for violating it. This would increase on time arrivals and decrease trip times, which are both the main drivers for low ridership and budget issues, respectively. Amtrak pays out huge amounts of overtime for staff that is just sitting on tracks, or sitting in stations waiting for trains, waiting for freight traffic, or cannot travel at speed because of poor track maintenance.

Some people say bailout while others say funding. Of course if you are a politician that doesn't like a certain program you can underfund it and then when you are forced to find money for it later on you can paint it as a bailout. Watch the funding of Medicaid in Missouri for a future example.
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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by DaveKCMO »

DColeKC wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:35 am
Not sure if it’s still true, but years ago more people flew on private planes per year than rode on Amtrak.
More trips on public transit in KC (9.5 million) than at KCI (4.5 million) last year. So what's your point?

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by DaveKCMO »

DColeKC wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 12:45 pm
I didn't create the term "bailout". This is what the government calls it. This is what CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC and NPR call it. What else do you call it when a quasi-public company needs billions from the government every year so it doesn't have to fire thousands of employees? It's a bailout!

Capital investments and grants are budgeted and planned in advance, a bailout saves butts. If they're going to need a bailout every single damn year they've existed, sure, maybe they need a massive increase in funding OR we realize the horse is dead and invest in something more people might actually use. I'm not taking Amtrak to STL or Chicago, but I'd jump on High Speed rail in a second. For the popular Amtrak routes that actually make money, let's keep those. Shutter the others.
First, the "government" is the majority shareholder in Amtrak, which is a corporation it created by rescuing private sector failures. Its board is appointed by the government. None of the appropriations for Amtrak use the word "bailout".

"Bailout" is what Republicans have called it since 1971 (Nixon created Amtrak, btw), except when the service is threatened in their districts (see Moran, and almost all of his R predecessors). There's an annual dance where Rs threaten to cut it all, but the capital and operating subsidy survives under every single administration and regardless of who controls either chamber of Congress.

It's a big number, but it's a smidgen of what supports the rest of the surface transportation network -- none of which makes money for the government. In fact, the Highway Trust Fund has been BLEEDING CASH for years and requires a subsidy from the general fund because Congress won't raise the user fee (gas tax).

Amtrak receives a subsidy for operating AND capital expenditures. It's operating subsidy has gone down because it has adopted "dynamic pricing" from the now-unregulated airlines. The reason it struggles is because there is no long-term funding strategy for either capital or operating expense because Congress -- mostly Republicans, but some centrist Democrats -- refuse to set a long-term funding strategy for Amtrak (the company it owns and created) like they do airports, highways, and public transit.

Also, Amtrak is LEGALLY REQUIRED to maintain a national network. You can argue about what "national" means, but that's generally understood to mean you can travel across the nation. Thus, you can't just dismantle the sections that don't meet your definition of useful.

Glad you got your talking point in the thread, but it is just that and the actual ACTION of Congress belies another story: Passenger rail provides a valuable connection to urban and rural areas that the private sector has repeatedly failed to provide.

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by DColeKC »

DaveKCMO wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 7:45 pm
DColeKC wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:35 am
Not sure if it’s still true, but years ago more people flew on private planes per year than rode on Amtrak.
More trips on public transit in KC (9.5 million) than at KCI (4.5 million) last year. So what's your point?
You’re comparing a mostly free public, short distance mode of transportation to a single cities airport traffic.....during a pandemic where air travel was drastically down? Ok!

I don’t consider Amtrak and say, the local streetcar comparable just because they both utilize tracks. Amtrak is junk, antiquated and not a form of travel many people want to use or have the time to use. Why not phase it out and improve new HSR or Hyperloop technology?

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by DColeKC »

DaveKCMO wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 7:56 pm
DColeKC wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 12:45 pm
I didn't create the term "bailout". This is what the government calls it. This is what CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC and NPR call it. What else do you call it when a quasi-public company needs billions from the government every year so it doesn't have to fire thousands of employees? It's a bailout!

Capital investments and grants are budgeted and planned in advance, a bailout saves butts. If they're going to need a bailout every single damn year they've existed, sure, maybe they need a massive increase in funding OR we realize the horse is dead and invest in something more people might actually use. I'm not taking Amtrak to STL or Chicago, but I'd jump on High Speed rail in a second. For the popular Amtrak routes that actually make money, let's keep those. Shutter the others.
First, the "government" is the majority shareholder in Amtrak, which is a corporation it created by rescuing private sector failures. Its board is appointed by the government. None of the appropriations for Amtrak use the word "bailout".

"Bailout" is what Republicans have called it since 1971 (Nixon created Amtrak, btw), except when the service is threatened in their districts (see Moran, and almost all of his R predecessors). There's an annual dance where Rs threaten to cut it all, but the capital and operating subsidy survives under every single administration and regardless of who controls either chamber of Congress.

It's a big number, but it's a smidgen of what supports the rest of the surface transportation network -- none of which makes money for the government. In fact, the Highway Trust Fund has been BLEEDING CASH for years and requires a subsidy from the general fund because Congress won't raise the user fee (gas tax).

Amtrak receives a subsidy for operating AND capital expenditures. It's operating subsidy has gone down because it has adopted "dynamic pricing" from the now-unregulated airlines. The reason it struggles is because there is no long-term funding strategy for either capital or operating expense because Congress -- mostly Republicans, but some centrist Democrats -- refuse to set a long-term funding strategy for Amtrak (the company it owns and created) like they do airports, highways, and public transit.

Also, Amtrak is LEGALLY REQUIRED to maintain a national network. You can argue about what "national" means, but that's generally understood to mean you can travel across the nation. Thus, you can't just dismantle the sections that don't meet your definition of useful.

Glad you got your talking point in the thread, but it is just that and the actual ACTION of Congress belies another story: Passenger rail provides a valuable connection to urban and rural areas that the private sector has repeatedly failed to provide.
I’ve heard dozens of Democrats use the term bailout. It’s not a Republican invention or talking point. How easy is it for the federal government to drop the “national” route requirements and focus the services where it’s actually needed and popular? Airlines drop routes if there’s not enough passengers to support it. You’d probably know, but I doubt most people riding the train across the country are doing it because it’s the only option they can afford but rather for the experience. And comparing road transportation to Amtrak doesn’t make much sense to me considering 91% of households own or have access to at least one vehicle. Meaning almost all Americans utilize the road systems but I’m guessing 1 out of 10 have ever been on a train, not counting a local streetcar.

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by normalthings »

DColeKC wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:56 am
DaveKCMO wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 7:45 pm
DColeKC wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:35 am
Not sure if it’s still true, but years ago more people flew on private planes per year than rode on Amtrak.
More trips on public transit in KC (9.5 million) than at KCI (4.5 million) last year. So what's your point?
You’re comparing a mostly free public, short distance mode of transportation to a single cities airport traffic.....during a pandemic where air travel was drastically down? Ok!

I don’t consider Amtrak and say, the local streetcar comparable just because they both utilize tracks. Amtrak is junk, antiquated and not a form of travel many people want to use or have the time to use. Why not phase it out and improve new HSR or Hyperloop technology?
If serious about reducing emissions and building more rail, why soo much $$$ going to electric cars and rebuilding road and bridge infrastructure. We should be talking about converting highways to rail lines not rebuilding or expanding them. Wished the government would fund O&M on corridor routes just as they subsidize corridor car traffic

Amtrak travel is slow but has made big strides to boost quality and profitability. As soon as they can get high speed reliable Internet on all their trains, the speed thing I think will be much less of a concern (coming soon with Star Link?). Seems like just about the entire locomotive and rolling stock fleet will be replaced by 2030. Speed reliability on the main lines seems like the next missing piece. Need enforcement against the railroads to guarantee Amtrak’s right to priority.

MO River Runner now has pretty solid Wifi which makes the trip fly by. Pre-Covid, most Amtrak trains I took were packed. People want to travel on Amtrak.

The government spends $300 million a year to subsidize flights to small towns in the middle of nowhere. Seems like $5 million per town is common from the ones I have reviewed. Long distance trains can hit many more towns per $$$.

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by mean »

DColeKC wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:35 am
mean wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:04 am
lol @ "bailing out" Amtrak
Amtrak has lost money almost every single year it’s been in existence. It’s been given well over 35 billion in bailouts and for years, this was because it was run like a complete shit show. Not sure if it’s still true, but years ago more people flew on private planes per year than rode on Amtrak.

How far could we be with high speed rail at this point with all these billions and how much longer are we going to give a few billion per year to an already federally subsidized company to cover their losses?
I actually thought you were somehow making a joke. How can the government bail itself out of its own bad budgeting? That just seemed too absurd to be a thing you were actually saying. I will make sure I take future absurd comments at face value.

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by DColeKC »

mean wrote:
Sun Apr 04, 2021 12:37 am
DColeKC wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:35 am
mean wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:04 am
lol @ "bailing out" Amtrak
Amtrak has lost money almost every single year it’s been in existence. It’s been given well over 35 billion in bailouts and for years, this was because it was run like a complete shit show. Not sure if it’s still true, but years ago more people flew on private planes per year than rode on Amtrak.

How far could we be with high speed rail at this point with all these billions and how much longer are we going to give a few billion per year to an already federally subsidized company to cover their losses?
I actually thought you were somehow making a joke. How can the government bail itself out of its own bad budgeting? That just seemed too absurd to be a thing you were actually saying. I will make sure I take future absurd comments at face value.
Yes, I’m joking about dumping money into a form of transportation that’s been around almost as long as this country. Call it what you want. Sure, the government underfunds it each and every year and sure, historically it’s been operated poorly. Doesn’t change the fact it still needs more money every year to make up for the lack of revenue. I’m not suggesting we close it down tomorrow and leave the people who need that form of transportation out of options. I’m saying let’s be honest that it’s not going to go up in popularity unless it gets insanely faster and more reliably on time. I’m sorry that people with decades more experience in government than you decided to call it a bailout. I didn’t invent the term, but here you are calling my comments absurd. I guess using established terminology, made popular by all your favorite news hosts is now absurd.

I think what’s absurd is pouring billions into a form of transportation that hit its prime 100+ years ago! You can fly cross country for $130 and in 6 hours or, over $1000 and a absurd 67 hours via Amtrak. But sure, let’s keep funding Amtrak’s national routes for the train nerds out there. This type of thinking is why we still don’t have HSR. “We can’t give up on Amtrak, a tiny percentage of the American population uses it!”

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by normalthings »

DColeKC wrote:
Sun Apr 04, 2021 1:55 pm
mean wrote:
Sun Apr 04, 2021 12:37 am
DColeKC wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:35 am


Amtrak has lost money almost every single year it’s been in existence. It’s been given well over 35 billion in bailouts and for years, this was because it was run like a complete shit show. Not sure if it’s still true, but years ago more people flew on private planes per year than rode on Amtrak.

How far could we be with high speed rail at this point with all these billions and how much longer are we going to give a few billion per year to an already federally subsidized company to cover their losses?
I actually thought you were somehow making a joke. How can the government bail itself out of its own bad budgeting? That just seemed too absurd to be a thing you were actually saying. I will make sure I take future absurd comments at face value.
I’m saying let’s be honest that it’s not going to go up in popularity unless it gets insanely faster and more reliably on time.
Amtrak ridership has grown greatly over the past 20 decades. With reasonable funding increases, I am certain it would continue to grow.

We know highways are not cost-effective, bad for the environment, bad for people, and bad for personal finance. Does the current proposal not propose putting more into those than they do rail?

Image

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by WoodDraw »

I really enjoy the River runner. My dream has always been to see it upgraded.

Even as is, I very much enjoy the trip to stl that way over driving or flying. Obviously the trip requires a level of flexibility that not all people have, but I’m far more productive and relaxed going that way than driving or flying.

The “profitable” talk is obviously nonsense. Every transportation around the world is funded through a balance of use fees, taxes, sponsorships, etc. Getting that balance right can be getting politically difficult or even sometimes wrong, but it’s all a dance we go through.

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by TheSmokinPun »

Really hoping the era of "IT HAS TO MAKE MONEY OR WHAT'S THE POINT, THIS IS AMERICA!" is almost at an end.

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by DaveKCMO »

TheSmokinPun wrote:
Mon Apr 05, 2021 8:56 am
Really hoping the era of "IT HAS TO MAKE MONEY OR WHAT'S THE POINT, THIS IS AMERICA!" is almost at an end.
Right? Despite many attempts, the government needs to provide the infrastructure to let providers make money -- in the case of Amtrak, that should be facilities (rails and stations in good condition). If that investment was made reliably -- which has not been the case -- Amtrak can very likely end it's need for an operational subsidy. The fact that only one company is offering a competing service (intercity passenger rail) right now proves that there's no money to be made unless the infrastructure is improved (and that company is Brightline, which owns its own tracks).

Same applies to Greyhound, actually, which has been shedding assets for years because they can barely make money on just running buses (let alone owning/operating stations). And, of course, we don't blame Greyhound if the roads are in terrible shape.

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by DColeKC »

TheSmokinPun wrote:
Mon Apr 05, 2021 8:56 am
Really hoping the era of "IT HAS TO MAKE MONEY OR WHAT'S THE POINT, THIS IS AMERICA!" is almost at an end.
Who cares about it making money, just would be nice if the cost to benefit ratio was I don’t know, reasonable.

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by DColeKC »

normalthings wrote:
Sun Apr 04, 2021 2:36 pm
DColeKC wrote:
Sun Apr 04, 2021 1:55 pm
mean wrote:
Sun Apr 04, 2021 12:37 am


I actually thought you were somehow making a joke. How can the government bail itself out of its own bad budgeting? That just seemed too absurd to be a thing you were actually saying. I will make sure I take future absurd comments at face value.
I’m saying let’s be honest that it’s not going to go up in popularity unless it gets insanely faster and more reliably on time.
Amtrak ridership has grown greatly over the past 20 decades. With reasonable funding increases, I am certain it would continue to grow.

We know highways are not cost-effective, bad for the environment, bad for people, and bad for personal finance. Does the current proposal not propose putting more into those than they do rail?

Image
Yet just 5.6% of the workforce uses Amtrak and over 50% of those passengers are in 3 or 4 major cities. Almost all passengers are in 20 cities total.

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by FangKC »

DaveKCMO wrote:
Mon Apr 05, 2021 9:13 am
TheSmokinPun wrote:
Mon Apr 05, 2021 8:56 am
Really hoping the era of "IT HAS TO MAKE MONEY OR WHAT'S THE POINT, THIS IS AMERICA!" is almost at an end.
Right? Despite many attempts, the government needs to provide the infrastructure to let providers make money -- in the case of Amtrak, that should be facilities (rails and stations in good condition). If that investment was made reliably -- which has not been the case -- Amtrak can very likely end it's need for an operational subsidy. The fact that only one company is offering a competing service (intercity passenger rail) right now proves that there's no money to be made unless the infrastructure is improved (and that company is Brightline, which owns its own tracks).
Some things required for society don't make money. In the early days of the streetcar system, lines were owned by different private parties. They all went bankrupt, or ended up in serious financial trouble. The CIty had to take over and consolidate local transit through a transportation authority because it was a necessary function. This all happened before widespread-adoption of automobiles. It happened in many major cities. Again, the streetcar systems were started by private enterprise, and later bus routes too, and they failed. By then cities had become too spread out to expect residents to walk everywhere.

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Re: Infrastructure Stimulus

Post by phuqueue »

DColeKC wrote:
Sun Apr 04, 2021 1:55 pm
mean wrote:
Sun Apr 04, 2021 12:37 am
DColeKC wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:35 am


Amtrak has lost money almost every single year it’s been in existence. It’s been given well over 35 billion in bailouts and for years, this was because it was run like a complete shit show. Not sure if it’s still true, but years ago more people flew on private planes per year than rode on Amtrak.

How far could we be with high speed rail at this point with all these billions and how much longer are we going to give a few billion per year to an already federally subsidized company to cover their losses?
I actually thought you were somehow making a joke. How can the government bail itself out of its own bad budgeting? That just seemed too absurd to be a thing you were actually saying. I will make sure I take future absurd comments at face value.
Yes, I’m joking about dumping money into a form of transportation that’s been around almost as long as this country. Call it what you want. Sure, the government underfunds it each and every year and sure, historically it’s been operated poorly. Doesn’t change the fact it still needs more money every year to make up for the lack of revenue. I’m not suggesting we close it down tomorrow and leave the people who need that form of transportation out of options. I’m saying let’s be honest that it’s not going to go up in popularity unless it gets insanely faster and more reliably on time. I’m sorry that people with decades more experience in government than you decided to call it a bailout. I didn’t invent the term, but here you are calling my comments absurd. I guess using established terminology, made popular by all your favorite news hosts is now absurd.

I think what’s absurd is pouring billions into a form of transportation that hit its prime 100+ years ago! You can fly cross country for $130 and in 6 hours or, over $1000 and a absurd 67 hours via Amtrak. But sure, let’s keep funding Amtrak’s national routes for the train nerds out there. This type of thinking is why we still don’t have HSR. “We can’t give up on Amtrak, a tiny percentage of the American population uses it!”
Amtrak doesn't exist to take people across the country in 67 hours, it exists to move people between the intermediate city pairs along those long-distance routes. The Southwest Chief, as an example, runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, but fewer than 10% of its riders actually take it from Chicago to Los Angeles. On these shorter-distance stretches, the train is often time-competitive with driving (notwithstanding that the River Runner takes forever) and in some cases it's arguably time-competitive with flying when you factor in time getting to the airport, going through security, waiting around for your flight, actual flying time, getting back into the city after you land, etc. Many of the towns where the train stops on the long-distance routes are also not on or near an interstate (and, it should go without saying, are nowhere near an airport), so the train is their most direct link to the national transportation network. You asked in an earlier post what it would take to get rid of the long distance routes, and I guess your starting point would have to be convincing Republican legislators to cut their own constituents off from the rest of the country.

It's worth pointing out that these long-distance routes are the money losers for Amtrak, while many of its short-distance routes (and all of the short-distance routes collectively) are profitable, so it would be fair to say that Amtrak's subsidies (or "bailouts," if you prefer) exist solely to serve these smaller towns that evidently can't support their own service. The government similarly subsidizes small airports across the country for exactly the same reason, and of course, road subsidies have been raised repeatedly in this thread as well (but it "doesn't make sense" to you to compare two modes of transportation, apparently). With all of that in mind, it's still not really clear what your beef actually is with Amtrak alone, although the fact that you think long-distance routes exist specifically to facilitate end-to-end cross-country travel suggests that maybe you have never ridden a train before, so maybe it's just the standard right-wing "the government must only spend money on me" mindset.

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