Promoting passenger trains as a transportation alternative in Florida since 1983.  We are citizens who advocate for Amtrak, commuter rail, intercity rail and transit for Florida's future.

Countering the short platform problem at the MIC

  • 15 Jul 2021 6:11 AM
    Message # 10752923

    Now that Amtrak has a new, better, and longer platform built at Tampa Union Station, It can now counter its problem with the platform length that has long stalled opening the station at the MIC. It's now a relatively simple problem to fix, and it won't cost a dollar in any capital funding for rebuilding roads around the railroad crossings next to the MIC.

    Amtrak needs to return to running its Florida trains with split segment operations south of Orlando and/or Jacksonville. A new, longer platform, is now in service at Tampa, which will also allow longer train segments up to 13 cars long, while the platforms at the MIC can't even allow for a train of half that length. As Amtrak makes plans to for such split operations, and as Tampa is now the leader in the state of Florida in producing passenger counts, while Miami counts have slightly dropped over the last few years, would it not make sense to  have the longer train segments run to/from Tampa instead of Miami?

    Also, the Florida trains would perfect for Amtrak to put their new Viewliner II baggage-dorm cars to use on Silver service trains. The bulk of sleeper car passengers are going to/from Orlando and Tampa, while sleeping cars on both Silver service trains have many unoccupied or vacant rooms beyond Orlando and Tampa, despite special daytime sleeper space offers. Their is no longer any need to room two or three sleeper cars to/from Miami, one would be sufficient, while two sleepers could go to Tampa, along with the baggage dorm car for the crew, while the  full-length baggage car could provide the luggage service to Miami. As for food service, this would make sense for the diner car to go to Tampa, and the lounge car to Miami.

    In housing the train crew, the diner car crew and sleeper car attendants to take up quarters in baggage-dorm car, which their purpose was originally built and intended for, on the Tampa section. On the Miami section, its one sleeper car attendant, lounge car attendant, and coach car attendant could share a single room in its lone Viewliner Sleeper car.

    This would allow Amtrak to run shorter trains on its Miami section with as few as five or six cars. When both sections are combined, the Miami section could run as the forward passenger section behind the two locomotives, with the lead power unit going to Tampa. The second power unit would go to Miami, with the full baggage car directly behind it to give passengers an extra buffer of safety in case of a collision on the head end, followed by the single Viewliner sleeper, the Amfleet coaches, and then the Amfleet Lounge car could act as a dividing point for the rear of the Miami section. That would be followed by the Tampa section of Amfleet coaches, Viewliner diner, Viewliner Sleepers, and baggage dorm car on the rear, which could act as a buffer to close off the rear of the train.

    Proper schedule adjustments for the Silver Star to run earlier southbound departures from New York and a return to a later schedule northbound would allow for same-day turnarounds of equipment and crew in Tampa. In fact, a turnaround in Miami might be possible too, should Amtrak elect to introduce east coast service on the Silver Star and consider splitting the train at Jacksonville instead of Orlando. 

    Schedules could also be adjusted for the Silver Meteor to depart New York a little later southbound and be adjusted to restore its connections with the Lake Shore Limited at the new Moynihan station. How about setting up an "across-the-platform" connection at New York? The same thing could be said for the northbound train connection to the westbound Lake Shore Limited. Equipment consists for the Silver Meteor could be exactly the same as those described earlier in this writing for the Silver Star. The Silver Meteor crews could be based in Florida, and since the train would be making a same -day turnaround in New York, Amtrak could dispense with the expensive hotel bills to house crews overnight, unless trains arrive several hours tardy to their final destinations. the same would hold true for the Silver Star in Florida. Both trains should be able to get by with running 3 sets of equipment, and a full standby set could be kept in New York to cue in for a late train, and likewise, in Florida, split in separate sections, at both Tampa and Miami.

    Going back to split sections would also allow Amtrak to dispense with the traffic problems involving getting Thruway buses on time at Orlando. No more will buses have to contend with traffic on I-4 through the tourist areas. Passengers can make a much easier transfer at Tampa with it being an end point for buses and trains. Again, if the schedules are set up right, a morning northbound Thruway bus on the west coast could shuttle passengers to a departing Silver Meteor, and make its return trip southbound after the Silver Star arrives around noon or so. Another Thruway bus northbound during the afternoon would connect with the Silver Star in Tampa, and then make its southbound run down the west coast in the evening after the Silver Meteor arrives in Tampa.

    In a more perfect world, the above would be the ideal schedules for both trains. Once that is completed, then Amtrak should look at extending the Palmetto south of Savannah overnight through Jacksonville and Orlando, all the way down to Miami. A late evening thruway bus northbound,  to Winer Haven, should be sufficient to cover the west coast of Florida, and a return southbound bus during the early morning hours, after the southbound train departs Winter Haven. Perhaps, from the MIC, another bus could connect to the Florida Keys during the morning hours after the Palmetto arrival, and that same bus could make a return to the MIC before the Palmetto departs northbound in the evening. Up north, another thing that could help the Palmetto would be if the schedule of the Capitol Limited be adjusted to make across-the-platform connections at Washington, should an arriving train be late. Such an extension would give Florida three daily options.

    Last, but not least, in bringing a fourth train between new York and Florida, might just be possible when the states of North Carolina and Virginia complete the rebuilding and reopening of the former SAL line between Ettrick and Norlina in Virginia in a few years from now. That would be the ideal time to reinstate The Champion between New York and Tampa.  The train could run at day between Tampa and Raleigh, while at the same time giving North Carolina their overnight train they have been asking for to run from Raleigh to the Northeast. While at this same time, it would be ideal for Amtrak to the Tampa section off the Silver Meteor at this time, and consider rerouting the silver Meteor along the "S" line to restore train service through Ocala, bypassing Orlando. Lakeland could serve as a mid-state transfer location when this is all completed, and service would be during daylight hours.

    When done right, this how the Amtrak New York-Florida service and frequencies be set up for their best potential. However, it is not going to happen if Amtrak doesn't get that rolling stock built, which is the key missing ingredient to improving service frequencies between major end points.

      

  • 16 Jul 2021 6:03 AM
    Reply # 10755523 on 10752923

    Some good points; don't know if any of this is logistically doable.

    As far as Ocala passenger service is concerned, this is not happening as an agreement was s1gned off on quite a few years ago relegating the "S" line to all freight in return for what is now Brightline, I believe.

  • 20 Jul 2021 5:10 AM
    Reply # 10763005 on 10752923

    The logistics of this is not going to happen if that rolling stock is not built. I attended a NARP meeting in the mid 1990s and NARP Chairman said that Amtrak is running the wheels off of their equipment to keep trains running. One train wreck can easily doom plans for expansions to having trains run daily.

    As for the "S" line, I seriously doubt passenger trains will return to the line anytime soon. The last time I was in Ocala, the train depot was in sad shape, and Greyhound does not even call their anymore. Some of the new Thruway bus locations are doing good at both Gainesville and The Villages, where the "S" line does not run through, so it is likely that the bus route will stay for the long term.

    I'd like to discuss the Sunset Limited and Chicago service is this forum, but under a separate thread. I've been over Amtrak's entire system of long-distance routes, including most of them that were cut decades ago, and kept many old timetables and maps for my own research, as well as for a historical file. I'm proud to be one of our archivists at Florida Coaliton of Passengers, including some of our older newsletters, which I will gladly make a copy for the printing and postage charges.

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