Discussion:
Hail of a ride for Cleese
(too old to reply)
Marty Helgesen
2010-04-17 22:18:03 UTC
Permalink
Under that headline there was a story in today's New York Post that
began:

"OSLO, Norway -- Monty Python comedian John Cleese was feeling
'Norwegian blue' about being stuck in Oslo after the ash plume from an
Icelandic volcano left travelers grounded -- so he opted for a daylong
cab ride halfway across Europe."

There also was a photograph of Cleese, captioned, "Pining to get out
of fjords."

The story was credited to Bloomberg News. I checked its web site and
found that the story there did not have the "Norwegian Blue" and
"pining for the fjords" references.

--
Marty Helgesen
Mygmailuseridis mnhccatcunyvm

All syllogisms have three parts. Therefore, this is not a syllogism.
Keith F. Lynch
2010-04-18 20:34:18 UTC
Permalink
Post by Marty Helgesen
"OSLO, Norway -- Monty Python comedian John Cleese was feeling
'Norwegian blue' about being stuck in Oslo after the ash plume from
an Icelandic volcano left travelers grounded -- so he opted for a
daylong cab ride halfway across Europe."
The rich are not like you and I.
--
Keith F. Lynch - http://keithlynch.net/
Please see http://keithlynch.net/email.html before emailing me.
Cryptoengineer
2010-04-19 13:37:27 UTC
Permalink
Post by Keith F. Lynch
Post by Marty Helgesen
"OSLO, Norway -- Monty Python comedian John Cleese was feeling
'Norwegian blue' about being stuck in Oslo after the ash plume from
an Icelandic volcano left travelers grounded -- so he opted for a
daylong cab ride halfway across Europe."
The rich are not like you and I.
Yes, they have more money.

pt
netcat
2010-04-19 13:44:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by Keith F. Lynch
Post by Marty Helgesen
"OSLO, Norway -- Monty Python comedian John Cleese was feeling
'Norwegian blue' about being stuck in Oslo after the ash plume from
an Icelandic volcano left travelers grounded -- so he opted for a
daylong cab ride halfway across Europe."
The rich are not like you and I.
You and I would have likely bought a cheap used car.

Well, not literally _you_ and _I_ since I don't have a driver's licence
and I gather you don't have one either. Cases like this are a good
argument for having one, though.

But that's what I hear the not-rich people who are currently stuck are
doing.

rgds,
netcat
Michael Benveniste
2010-04-19 15:24:21 UTC
Permalink
Post by netcat
You and I would have likely bought a cheap used car.
Actually, I have done the equivalent of hiring a cab in lieu
of a flight.

I once got stuck at LaGuardia when all shuttle flights to Boston
got canceled, allegedly due to thunderstorms. Myself and three
other businessmen ended up hiring a livery sedan to drive us to
Boston.

Since we split the ride 4 ways, it turned out to be less
expensive and faster than heading back into town to take a
train. My employer didn't even blink at the expense report.
--
Mike Benveniste -- ***@murkyether.com (Clarification Required)
Its name is Public opinion. It is held in reverence. It settles
everything. Some think it is the voice of God. -- Mark Twain
Keith F. Lynch
2010-04-21 01:00:11 UTC
Permalink
Since we split the ride 4 ways, it turned out to be less expensive
and faster than heading back into town to take a train.
Why are train rides so expensive? They ought to be enormously cheaper
than four-person taxi rides, since a train needs no more drivers than
a taxi, but carries far more passengers, and consumes far less energy
per passenger.
--
Keith F. Lynch - http://keithlynch.net/
Please see http://keithlynch.net/email.html before emailing me.
Michael Benveniste
2010-04-21 04:59:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by Keith F. Lynch
Why are train rides so expensive? They ought to be enormously cheaper
than four-person taxi rides, since a train needs no more drivers than
a taxi, but carries far more passengers, and consumes far less energy
per passenger.
There are several answers to that question. First, the trip itself.
We would have had to get from LaGuardia to Manhattan to catch the
train, then the three other guys would have had to get from South
Station to their cars at Logan airport in Boston. My wife, bless her,
was willing to hang around town for the extra three hours. But we
would have ended up paying for those extra 7 legs both in time and
money.

We were also able to negotiate with the livery driver. We wouldn't
have been able to negotiate with Amtrak; instead we would have paid
the full walk-up fare each.

On Amtrak, you aren't just paying for one driver. You're paying for
the entire crew of the train, the controllers, the reservation agents,
maintenance workers, plus all of the G&A staff. For the hourly
employees, you're paying them all union wages. About half of Amtrak's
annual expenses go towards salaries, wages, and benefits. In Amtrak's
Fiscal Year ending in September of 2009, this worked out to over
$62 per passenger trip taken in salaries alone. It would have been
less back then, but still more than our driver made.

The fuel figures are closer than you might think because of overhead
and Amtrak's low passenger load factors. At the time, it was well
under 50%. Amtrak's fuel usage worked out to about 41 passenger-
miles per gallon. The town car, which probably got around 18 miles
per gallon, got 72 passenger-miles to the gallon. But you have to
divide that in half since the driver had to deadhead back to NYC.
Result: Train: 41, Car: 36.

In addition to Salaries, Wages, Benefits and Energy, Amtrak's
Operating Results also include expense lines for Train Operations,
Materials, Facility & Communications, Advertising and Sales, Casualty
and Other Claims, Depreciation and "Other Expenses."

http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer/Page/1241245669222/1241256467960

So for my particular trip, it was a matter of timing and location.
Had I known about the canceled flight _before_ taking a cab to
LGA, the train would have been a few dollars cheaper.

In general, train rides are expensive because of all those costs
you have to take into account besides the fuel and one driver.
In 2008, Amtrak ended up spending over $0.55 per passenger
mile.
--
Mike Benveniste -- ***@murkyether.com (Clarification Required)
Its name is Public opinion. It is held in reverence. It settles
everything. Some think it is the voice of God. -- Mark Twain
Cryptoengineer
2010-04-21 13:38:20 UTC
Permalink
Why are train rides so expensive?  They ought to be enormously cheaper
than four-person taxi rides, since a train needs no more drivers than
a taxi, but carries far more passengers, and consumes far less energy
per passenger.
There are several answers to that question.  First, the trip itself.
We would have had to get from LaGuardia to Manhattan to catch the
train, then the three other guys would have had to get from South
Station to their cars at Logan airport in Boston.  My wife, bless her,
was willing to hang around town for the extra three hours.  But we
would have ended up paying for those extra 7 legs both in time and
money.
We were also able to negotiate with the livery driver.  We wouldn't
have been able to negotiate with Amtrak; instead we would have paid
the full walk-up fare each.
On Amtrak, you aren't just paying for one driver.  You're paying for
the entire crew of the train, the controllers, the reservation agents,
maintenance workers, plus all of the G&A staff.  For the hourly
employees, you're paying them all union wages.  About half of Amtrak's
annual expenses go towards salaries, wages, and benefits.  In Amtrak's
Fiscal Year ending in September of 2009, this worked out to over
$62 per passenger trip taken in salaries alone.  It would have been
less back then, but still more than our driver made.
The fuel figures are closer than you might think because of overhead
and Amtrak's low passenger load factors.  At the time, it was well
under 50%.  Amtrak's fuel usage worked out to about 41 passenger-
miles per gallon.  The town car, which probably got around 18 miles
per gallon, got 72 passenger-miles to the gallon.  But you have to
divide that in half since the driver had to deadhead back to NYC.
Result:  Train: 41, Car: 36.
In addition to Salaries, Wages, Benefits and Energy,  Amtrak's
Operating Results also include expense lines for Train Operations,
Materials, Facility & Communications, Advertising and Sales, Casualty
and Other Claims, Depreciation and "Other Expenses."
http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer/Page/1241245669222/124125...
So for my particular trip, it was a matter of timing and location.
Had I known about the canceled flight _before_ taking a cab to
LGA, the train would have been a few dollars cheaper.
In general, train rides are expensive because of all those costs
you have to take into account besides the fuel and one driver.
In 2008, Amtrak ended up spending over $0.55 per passenger
mile.
At the moment, the GSA allowance for using POVs for business purposes
is $0.50/mile.

It would be cheaper to shut down Amtrak and lend passengers cars.
Considering the miniscule number of passengers Amtrak has compared to
the roads, the increase in road traffic would be lost in the noise.

pt
Michael Benveniste
2010-04-21 16:13:54 UTC
Permalink
Post by Cryptoengineer
At the moment, the GSA allowance for using POVs for business purposes
is $0.50/mile.
It would be cheaper to shut down Amtrak and lend passengers cars.
I doubt very much that a government administered plan could manage
a motor pool/rental agency that efficiently, and for at least some
people like Keith you'd also have to lend drivers.

According to subsidyscope, Amtrak is actually profitable on the
Acela Express service, and is near breakeven on other Northeast
corridor service. But IIRC, the NYC-BOS Acela Express Fare is a
minimum of $95.00 for a 180-mile trip, which again is close to that
$0.55 per mile figure.

For at least one of the longer Amtrak routes, though, it would
literally be cheaper for the taxpayer to drive people to and from
the airport and buy them plane tickets.
--
Mike Benveniste -- ***@murkyether.com (Clarification Required)
Its name is Public opinion. It is held in reverence. It settles
everything. Some think it is the voice of God. -- Mark Twain
David Friedman
2010-04-21 17:44:05 UTC
Permalink
Post by Michael Benveniste
Post by Cryptoengineer
At the moment, the GSA allowance for using POVs for business purposes
is $0.50/mile.
It would be cheaper to shut down Amtrak and lend passengers cars.
I doubt very much that a government administered plan could manage
a motor pool/rental agency that efficiently, and for at least some
people like Keith you'd also have to lend drivers.
Couldn't the government merely pay the cost of renting from private car
rental firms?
--
http://www.daviddfriedman.com/ http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/
Author of
_Future Imperfect: Technology and Freedom in an Uncertain World_,
Cambridge University Press.
Michael Benveniste
2010-04-21 20:50:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Friedman
Couldn't the government merely pay the cost of renting from private car
rental firms?
Good point. Yes. But there are a few caveats to that "merely"
qualifier.

-- There's still going to be government oversight and hence overhead
for the program, even if the actual service is out of the private
sector.
-- The rental car companies can (and do) refuse to rent a car to people
based on age, previous driving record and/or lack of credit. So the
program would either have to exclude these higher risk drivers or
the government would incur the costs of insuring those risks.
-- I have doubts that the rental car companies can provide the service
at $0.55 per mile either. According to Enterprise/National/Alamo, a
rental car is driven an average of 71 miles a day. Profit margins in
the industry run about 5%. So unless the average "all-in" price of
rental cars is $41 or less per day, they aren't reaching that price
point today.

But I don't know what that average price is, nor the additional costs
incurred for one-way rentals, nor how to adjust for fuel costs, since
sometimes the customer pays the rental firm (at a very nice markup!)
and sometimes they buy it themselves. Compared to privately owned
vehicles, there are other differences in the cost structure as well.
--
Mike Benveniste -- ***@murkyether.com (Clarification Required)
Its name is Public opinion. It is held in reverence. It settles
everything. Some think it is the voice of God. -- Mark Twain
Jette Goldie
2010-04-21 21:21:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by Michael Benveniste
Post by David Friedman
Couldn't the government merely pay the cost of renting from private car
rental firms?
Good point. Yes. But there are a few caveats to that "merely"
qualifier.
-- There's still going to be government oversight and hence overhead
for the program, even if the actual service is out of the private
sector.
-- The rental car companies can (and do) refuse to rent a car to people
based on age, previous driving record and/or lack of credit. So the
program would either have to exclude these higher risk drivers or
the government would incur the costs of insuring those risks.
-- I have doubts that the rental car companies can provide the service
at $0.55 per mile either. According to Enterprise/National/Alamo, a
rental car is driven an average of 71 miles a day. Profit margins in
the industry run about 5%. So unless the average "all-in" price of
rental cars is $41 or less per day, they aren't reaching that price
point today.
But I don't know what that average price is, nor the additional costs
incurred for one-way rentals, nor how to adjust for fuel costs, since
sometimes the customer pays the rental firm (at a very nice markup!)
and sometimes they buy it themselves. Compared to privately owned
vehicles, there are other differences in the cost structure as well.
Surely this misses the point of "letting the train take the strain"?
When I take a train journey it's because it's a longer journey than I
want to drive. I'm paying for the convenience sitting down in my
train seat, turning on my netbook and logging into the free wifi,
enjoying the scenery passing me by as I drink coffee and eat
sandwiches without worrying about watching out for other drivers,
changing lanes, not missing my turnings, keeping my speed within the
legal limits, etc - and not having to find a parking place in the
centre of a strange city at my destination.
--
Jette Goldie
***@gmail.com
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wolfette/
http://www.jette.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/
http://wolfette.livejournal.com/
("reply to" is spamblocked - use the email addy in sig)
Michael Benveniste
2010-04-21 23:29:19 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jette Goldie
Surely this misses the point of "letting the train take the strain"?
When I take a train journey it's because it's a longer journey than I
want to drive. I'm paying for the convenience sitting down in my
train seat, turning on my netbook and logging into the free wifi,
enjoying the scenery passing me by as I drink coffee and eat
sandwiches without worrying about watching out for other drivers,
changing lanes, not missing my turnings, keeping my speed within the
legal limits, etc - and not having to find a parking place in the
centre of a strange city at my destination.
The initial question was why is the train so expensive. If you're
willing to pay nearly the full price for that convenience, I'm cool
with that even if it's more expensive than driving a car.

But Amtrak was created because the railroads wanted to get out
of the passenger rail business. In fact, they wanted out so much
that they paid Amtrak either in cash or rolling stock to be allowed
to exit the business. Amtrak has never come close to break even;
it's probably both unrealistic and unfair to expect them to. But
for the service offered, Amtrak's losses seem high. In fact,
they spend over $3 for every $2 of revenue. So it's not terribly
surprising that there are calls to shut it down or find alternatives.

Trying to compute comparative direct and indirect subsidies for
different forms of transportation is more of a political exercise
than an actuarial one. The numbers _I_ like put the per-mile
losses at Amtrak at about 3 times that of the net indirect and
direct subsidies for automobile travel, and Amtrak benefits from
some of the same indirect subsidies as well.

Other people like other numbers. Hence the debate.
--
Mike Benveniste -- ***@murkyether.com (Clarification Required)
Its name is Public opinion. It is held in reverence. It settles
everything. Some think it is the voice of God. -- Mark Twain
Nate Edel
2010-04-19 19:26:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by netcat
Post by Keith F. Lynch
The rich are not like you and I.
You and I would have likely bought a cheap used car.
Here in the states, under similar circumstances, more likely rented one.

There are extra charges for returning the car in a different location/state
but they're not huge, and the rental fees are primarily time-based - it's
probably the cheapest way to get 3 or more people across the country, and
not slower than the train or bus if you have 3 (or more) people and drive in
shifts.

Sometimes, even the rich do that - several executives of my then-employer,
being stranded by the Sept. 2001 groundings, rented a car and drove from
upstate NY back to California.
--
Nate Edel http://www.cubiclehermit.com/
preferred email |
is "nate" at the | "I do have a cause, though. It's obscenity. I'm
posting domain | for it."
netcat
2010-04-20 08:49:14 UTC
Permalink
In article <***@claudius.sfchat.org>, ***@sfchat.org
says...
Post by Nate Edel
Post by netcat
Post by Keith F. Lynch
The rich are not like you and I.
You and I would have likely bought a cheap used car.
Here in the states, under similar circumstances, more likely rented one.
The idea is, you sell the car once you get home for more than you paid
for it, get back the cost of the trip entirely. Not everyone stranded
has sufficient credit to rent a car, yet a bunch of people can pool
their cash and buy a really cheap one.

rgds,
netcat
Nate Edel
2010-04-20 20:48:39 UTC
Permalink
Post by netcat
says...
Post by Nate Edel
Here in the states, under similar circumstances, more likely rented one.
The idea is, you sell the car once you get home for more than you paid
for it, get back the cost of the trip entirely. Not everyone stranded
has sufficient credit to rent a car, yet a bunch of people can pool
their cash and buy a really cheap one.
There's probably some important fact about the European used car market that
I'm missing, but why would the car be worth more at your destination than at
your origin?
--
Nate Edel http://www.cubiclehermit.com/
preferred email |
is "nate" at the | "I do have a cause, though. It's obscenity. I'm
posting domain | for it."
Keith F. Lynch
2010-04-20 23:57:37 UTC
Permalink
Post by netcat
The idea is, you sell the car once you get home for more than you
paid for it, get back the cost of the trip entirely.
Can you drive one-way across national borders without having to pay
ruinous customs duties at each border?
--
Keith F. Lynch - http://keithlynch.net/
Please see http://keithlynch.net/email.html before emailing me.
Nate Edel
2010-04-21 00:03:27 UTC
Permalink
Post by Keith F. Lynch
Post by netcat
The idea is, you sell the car once you get home for more than you
paid for it, get back the cost of the trip entirely.
Can you drive one-way across national borders without having to pay
ruinous customs duties at each border?
In the Schengen countries you certainly won't pay them at the border; I'd
imagine that it might be like how some US states will charge sales tax on
cars at registration time because private parties don't collect it at sale
time.
--
Nate Edel http://www.cubiclehermit.com/
preferred email |
is "nate" at the | "I do have a cause, though. It's obscenity. I'm
posting domain | for it."
Cryptoengineer
2010-04-21 04:12:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by Keith F. Lynch
Post by netcat
The idea is, you sell the car once you get home for more than you
paid for it, get back the cost of the trip entirely.
Can you drive one-way across national borders without having to pay
ruinous customs duties at each border?
Inside the Schengen zone, I'd expect so.

pt
Jette Goldie
2010-04-21 06:46:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by Cryptoengineer
Post by Keith F. Lynch
Post by netcat
The idea is, you sell the car once you get home for more than you
paid for it, get back the cost of the trip entirely.
Can you drive one-way across national borders without having to pay
ruinous customs duties at each border?
Inside the Schengen zone, I'd expect so.
In most of Europe there are no customs or borders posts.
--
Jette Goldie
***@gmail.com
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wolfette/
http://www.jette.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/
http://wolfette.livejournal.com/
("reply to" is spamblocked - use the email addy in sig)
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