Amtrak has a new plan out on how to improve service on the Sunset Limited, the long-distance passenger train that comes through Houston on its way between Los Angeles and New Orleans.
Any plan would likely improve service, since the Limited is notorious for long, long delays. In fact, that's why there's a plan -- Amtrak is required by a recent law to review performance on their worst lines, and the Limited certainly qualifies.
Amtrak's plan: Run the Limited every day, instead of just three times a week.
"Amtrak's Market Research & Analysis Group and Finance Department estimate that the new service will add 124,100 additional riders and generate over $10 million in additional revenue across the Amtrak system," the report says.
Much of that won't come through Houston -- it will be part of the Texas Eagle route that branches off at San Antonio and goes to Chicago.
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Amtrak is at least honest about the Limited:
Since Amtrak's inception in 1971, the Sunset Limited has been one of the weakest financial performers in the Amtrak long distance network. Tri-weekly service and historically poor on-time performance have turned away potential customers and resulted in inefficient equipment and staff utilization. These burden the service with disproportionately higher costs and lower revenue and ridership.
Over the years, Amtrak has managed a number of efforts to improve the financial performance of the Sunset Limited. Most of these focused on cost reduction, which generally resulted in degraded service leading to lower revenues and declining financial performance. Following Hurricane Katrina, Amtrak suspended the Eastern portion of the route between New Orleans and Orlando.
The proposed changes are still a way off; for one thing Amtrak would have to negotiate with Union Pacific over the increased use of track.
But rail fans are nothing if not blindingly optimistic, so start making plans now!