Amtrak scraps 5 Empire Builder runs; cold weather, hot economy are factors

  • Article by: Paul Walsh , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 12, 2013 - 8:44 PM

Cold, freight cause delays between St. Paul, Spokane.

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janetd500Dec. 12, 1312:34 PM

Congestion on the tracks is also causing daily delays on the Northstar Rail line despite a contract that is supposed to prevent that. Regulars are considering going back to driving.

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StevenDec. 12, 1312:55 PM

Cold weather AND a hot economy? equals, the heck with the passangers, we don't need them anyway. How sad for the consumer.

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MN MikeDec. 12, 13 1:01 PM

I suspect much of the problem is the same problem that caused BNSF to cancel passenger service in the 1970's; an unwillingnes to provide superior passenger service and a concentration on more profitable freight service. When passenger service has to take a back seat to freight service AMTRAK will always be behind the 8 ball when trying to provide and improve service.

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JMJohnnyDec. 12, 13 1:11 PM

This just illustrates why freight and passenger train operations do not mix well, especially in congested areas, and why rail rights-of-way in metro areas should, to the extent possible, be either all freight or all passenger/commuter. To this end, Amtrak should scrap the Empire Builder permanently between St. Paul and Spokane and let the private sector insert luxury bus service in that corridor instead. The rail capacity so created through ND and eastern MT is best used for critical energy, agricultural and merchandise/container freight that cannot be handled by alternative modes. And an exit plan should be developed for NorthStar for the same broader reasons, as express bus service over dedicated bus/transit lanes has always been the most sensible, cost-effective transit application for the NW exurbs. Its a shame that all that public money was spent to create a half-hearted commuter rail application on what should have remained a freight-only rail corridor. I just hope policy makers infatuated with tacking commuter rail operations on other high volume freight lines - Red Rock -- are taking note of all this.

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mfredricDec. 12, 13 1:34 PM

Here come the "Trains are always bad!" spewers. Get your raincoats on folks, since they won't shut up. In the meantime, the rest of the world continues to laugh at us and our obsession with driving -- God forbid we can't be cowboys and do it ourselves. We'll just ignore all of the other hidden costs (externalities) of cars and busses and trucks that are conveniently not in a handy single place to attack like with trains.

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Lifeguard06Dec. 12, 13 1:45 PM

if amtrak had their own track it would be different. but they lease from BNSF so they have to do what BNSF says.

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member23131Dec. 12, 13 2:24 PM

Here's to AMTRAK and the Empire Builder. Here's to catching up with the rest of the world on passenger rail transportation. The only reason we don't have better service is because of those people who manipulate the country with their political organization that has no use for most Americans.

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Lifeguard06Dec. 12, 13 2:35 PM

or i like getting to seattle in 3 hours not 2 days

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jojoobooDec. 12, 13 2:42 PM

And like the Minnesota Orchestra, Amtrak will probably lose less money having canceled the trips than if they had run.

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Comment44Dec. 12, 13 2:43 PM

I live next to the BNSF rail line in Southeast Minneapolis. The increased traffic is from oil tankers rather than "freight." There is a constant stream of these cars rolling by since early this this summer. I don't know how Amtrak expects to mitigate the problem. Empire Bldr. service is always late now. I know someone who was advised to take a bus (rather than the Empire Bldr.) to Chicago to make connections to the Amtrak train heading to New York. It is chronically late with no solution I'm aware of.

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