As I threatened to do in Post #2 above, I have split up the Texas RailFest 201X into two separate events. The remaining new Texas RailFest 201X
would include just Dallas and Houston (and the Thruway bus ride to get from the Texas Eagle in Longview, TX to Houston). The other stops on the former Texas RailFest were moved to a new Eagle RailFest 201X
. This one would take in Austin, the Heartland Flyer to & from Oklahoma City, Little Rock, and St. Louis.
I also added the future L-Star regional commuter rail line between Austin & San Antonio to the above Eagle Rail Fest, however if it won't be ready in the short term, it could be moved to the later Texas RalFest since we have to pass through San Antonio anyhow.
This change would make it possible to do another Eagle RailFest as soon as summer 2012, since no other new rail lines are expected to come online within the next few years in those cities. The Texas RailFest might not be until 2014 or 2015, depending on when the DART Orange Line in Dallas and any extensions in Houston come online.
The upside, or downside, as it may be, is that you have to ride two round trips on the Texas Eagle over the course of those upcoming years to cover everything we would have done in one round trip (albeit with many stopovers en route).
In other news, I am going to withdraw two Fests from the future list to save space and reflect reality. The Pittsburgh RailFest has been a staple of this list going back many years. However with the cons far outweighing the pros as to whether such a Fest is feasible, and with potential route cuts coming and fare inreases this week, the thought of going there is a big downer. While the announcement about what exactly will be cut (now that things have been scaled down) will come sometime in January, the fare increases and lack of a Day Pass make this trip prohibitive. I figured out the transit costs for the Pittsburgh travel alone, and with all the boardings and necessary transfer purchases, I get a total of $22.50 over the course of two days. The cheapest weekly pass is $32.50 with this weekend's increase, so we would have to overpay 10 bucks just to have an unlimited fare instrument. Just by comparison, you can make a one-day Amtrak round trip on the Sunday of the Fest all the way to Johnstown and back for as little as $25.20 (AAA rate).
Furthermore, both the bus I had chosen to take us between Pittsburgh Penn Station and the Duquesne Incline, and the Brown Line LRT are in danger of being eliminated. We'll know for sure by the end of January when they announce what will still be cut and what will be saved. Losing our ride to one of the Inclines as well as one of our light rail lines is bittersweet. The trip becomes less worthwhile, but we do get to save some of those fares!
The other Fest idea I put out there earlier this year is the Southwest RailFest. This was to have included Albuquerque and Phoenix. As we know, Phoenix is easier accessed by the Southwest Chief and Thruway buses between Flagstaff and Phoenix than it is by the Sunset Limited. But those buses still run at unfriendly hours. It may also require an overnight stay in Flagstaff at a poor choice of non-chain motels near the station. I really want to get to Albuquerque to ride RailRunner, having cut it out of the SoCalFest 2009 due to costs. I'll try to re-work it into something else. Perhaps it could be combined with St. Louis (via SW Chief & Missouri River Runner), and the latter then removed from the aforementioned Eagle RailFest to streamline that one. As for Phoenix, my hopes are that a revamped Sunset Limited, or whatever name it eventually takes, will again serve Phoenix like it's supposed to do.