What’s In Store for Train #1?

OK, this could be a scoop … a bit of inside info … a possible sneak peak at some of Amtrak’s future plans that are yet to be announced. Here’s what happened:
This past April, I attended the annual meeting of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) in Washington, DC. To get there, I flew from Maui to the West Coast and took Amtrak trains from there to Washington and back.
An Amtrak supervisor was on one of those trains—I think it may be best not to identify the guy—and I took the opportunity to engage him in conversation. We spoke of several issues and at one point I mentioned the Sunset Limited.
That train runs three days a week in each direction between New Orleans and Los Angeles. The Sunset’s original route extended from New Orleans all the way east to Orlando, Florida. However, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina washed out a lot of track along the coastline in Mississippi and Alabama and that part of the Sunset’s route was suspended.
The track has long since been restored, but the Sunset Limited still terminates in New Orleans. However, there is growing pressure from NARP and a coalition of civic and government leaders to bring passenger rail service back to the Florida panhandle.
The Amtrak supervisor to whom I spoke indicated that a resumption of that service was in fact being studied. And, he emphasized, “It’s a serious study.” That’s potential good news … but there’s more.
He also said that Amtrak was planning to operate the Sunset Limited on a daily basis starting at the end of next year. This, too, is something that NARP has been urging for some time. Certainly, daily service will do wonders for the Sunset’s ridership. As the old railroad axiom says “Double the frequency, triple the ridership.”
There have been half-baked studies and rumors floating around before, but this could be legitimate. Let’s hope so.