AmSnag Oddity/Status

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IndyLions

OBS Chief
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Nov 6, 2016
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748
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Brownsburg IN
The only suggestion I have is determination, perseverance and several hours of free time on the standard Amtrak site with a spreadsheet. Of course, you would have to do that every single day – which sounds like a nightmare.

With the current reduced schedule, the first step is to figure out which days are even possible for you to get the trains that you need. If you’re making a connection, the number of days that will work will probably go down significantly.

In my case, I was looking for a round trip itinerary from the Midwest to Florida at some point during the month of March. After about 75 minutes on Amtrak.com, I figured out that there were exactly 4 days southbound, and four days northbound that would work at all.

That resulted in 4 potential round trip itineraries to compare. Because March is coming up, there wasn’t a whole lot of difference in pricing between the four. So I ended up picking out the one that was a little bit cheaper but by far the most convenient date wise.

I don’t know the specific itinerary you are looking for nor the timeframe in which you’d like to travel. But unfortunately there’s not a shortcut that I can offer you. Amsnag was a terrific tool. Our only hope is that Amtrak will reverse course on their anti-scraping efforts, or bring their website into modern times with a useful search tool for travelers with flexibility looking for lower fares.
 

Sidney

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
509
I know the low buckets on the routes I normally take. I have never paid more than low bucket. Being retired,I have the luxury of choosing my dates. If there are no low bucket fares on the train I want I'll check other dates and trains
Booked 421 for May Chi-Lax. It is now well over $1000 for a senior roomette for one.
 

niemi24s

Engineer
Joined
Feb 11, 2015
Messages
2,648
Just in case you didn't know, the Roomette buckets on 421 between CHI and LAX for one adult are $623, 766, 899, 1042 and 1185. With the senior discount, they'd be $23.20 less. Fares are the same on the SWC.
 

Devil's Advocate

It's just a scratch.
Joined
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12,504
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Siding of Excellence
I was about to jump in; but you beat me to it. Whether I find a solution is questionable at this time.
Amsnag was an incredibly useful tool that saved money and helped further or settle fare related discussions. Are there any potential avenues for future solutions? Would it make sense to start a crowd funding option? I'd be happy to make the first donation.
 
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zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 22, 2009
Messages
4,751
Location
Washington State
While I am not, and I don't know, the developer, my opinion is that the latest redesign of the Amtrak website makes Amsnag's screen(HTML) scraping method of collecting the data very challenging. I am not optimistic Ansnag will return, unless Amtrak exposes a public or semi-public API which is extremely doubtful. I'd expect a multi day fare search tool from Amtrak itself, like many airlines have, before a public API.

Many thanks to the developer for a very useful too while it lasted.
 
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acelafan

OBS Chief
Joined
May 24, 2009
Messages
935
Location
Atlanta, GA
I think this is just a tough nut to crack - I do know the data can almost certainly be gathered since it appears in the web browser, but making it automated, reliable and decently fast is another matter.

Too bad Amtrak just won't change their web display to show a fare calendar view like the airlines. It might actually work to their advantage.
 

PaTrainFan

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 1, 2017
Messages
414
Location
Pittsburgh, Pa.
I think this is just a tough nut to crack - I do know the data can almost certainly be gathered since it appears in the web browser, but making it automated, reliable and decently fast is another matter.

Too bad Amtrak just won't change their web display to show a fare calendar view like the airlines. It might actually work to their advantage.
I can't recall where I read it now, but I know I saw somewhere in either the 5 year plan or the budget request that Amtrak has aspirations to bulk up the online fare and reservations systems to allow a seven day window in searches.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
23,174
Location
Austin Texas
While I am not, and I don't know, the developer, my opinion is that the latest redesign of the Amtrak website makes Amsnag's screen(HTML) scraping method of collecting the data very challenging. I am not optimistic Ansnag will return, unless Amtrak exposes a public or semi-public API which is extremely doubtful. I'd expect a multi day fare search tool from Amtrak itself, like many airlines have, before a public API.

Many thanks to the developer for a very useful too while it lasted.
One of our Members was the Major Figure behind this great tool!
 

PaulM

Engineer
Joined
Jun 27, 2008
Messages
2,289
Location
Quincy, IL
While I am not, and I don't know, the developer, my opinion is that the latest redesign of the Amtrak website makes Amsnag's screen(HTML) scraping method of collecting the data very challenging.
Yes, I'm certain it was the redesign of the website which, coincidentally or not, happened at the same time as the three day a week, that caused the program to fail. So don't hope for good news if and when they go back to daily.

The first version of the fare page that I worked with contained the information needed in plain old text; so it was possible to scrape. The second version a few years later contained the information in javascript functions and was much more complicated; but I was able to scrape it with the help of an AUer. But latest version is above my pay grade. Searching the result page, I can't find the train number, train name, coach price, or departing or arriving station.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 22, 2009
Messages
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Location
Washington State
Agreed. For many years the website just presented pretty static HTML in response to answered prompts. Now it appears to have gone to an AJAX style where much more of the process is done in the browser. As a result, it is more interactive and has more navigation paths. The increase in options and paths exponentially increases the complexity of creating a program that essentially has to imitate a human user, recursively. Let alone parsing the data results Also, the data presented is more opaque, even to human users. Just try and find the breakout between rail fare and accommodation charge now. It can be done, but it isn't easy.

That and supposedly they've changed their security so it is looking for rapid repeated queries, which makes sense from a security standpoint, but also adds to Amsnag's woes.
 
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Joined
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The whole thing makes me wonder if Amsnag "got in someone's craw" at Amtrak, and they purposely took steps to thwart its use.🤔
As #acelafan noted, it might even work to Amtrak's advantage to have a fare calendar available...
 

Railspike

Train Attendant
Joined
Nov 29, 2020
Messages
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Location
Houston
I can't recall where I read it now, but I know I saw somewhere in either the 5 year plan or the budget request that Amtrak has aspirations to bulk up the online fare and reservations systems to allow a seven day window in searches.
A seven-day window doesn't do much for long-term planning (i.e. for low fares). Maybe that's their goal.
 

PaTrainFan

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 1, 2017
Messages
414
Location
Pittsburgh, Pa.
From the Five Year Plan:

The next major enhancement, slated for release in early 2021, expands on the existing search result experience by presenting a seven-day calendar of available fares: those of the requested date as well as the lowest fare up to three days prior and three days forward. In addition to
offering customers more—and potentially lower—fare options with a single search, this solution will provide a better path for long distance customers to find available travel dates on trains operating less than daily.
 

bryher

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 7, 2019
Messages
18
I found this thread by Googling "biketrain amsnag not working". First Paul nice to meet you- you're a bit of a legend with me and my son. We love(ed) your site.

My son and I are also teaching ourselves html, css and Java. I'm wondering if this might be a good "final project" to work towards? Sounds like it's may be possible just really tedious to building something to scrape the current amtrak site? If so maybe we'll give it a go.
 

acelafan

OBS Chief
Joined
May 24, 2009
Messages
935
Location
Atlanta, GA
I found this thread by Googling "biketrain amsnag not working". First Paul nice to meet you- you're a bit of a legend with me and my son. We love(ed) your site.

My son and I are also teaching ourselves html, css and Java. I'm wondering if this might be a good "final project" to work towards? Sounds like it's may be possible just really tedious to building something to scrape the current amtrak site? If so maybe we'll give it a go.
If you can get it going, all power to you! It would be great if you can play around with it and get it working again.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
23,174
Location
Austin Texas
If you can get it going, all power to you! It would be great if you can play around with it and get it working again.
AUs own Paul M., who developed Amsnag, has pretty much indicated that this is a Cluster Flub that in reality isn't possible, thanks to Amtraks "Crack" IT system changes.
 

Devil's Advocate

It's just a scratch.
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12,504
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Siding of Excellence
AUs own Paul M., who developed Amsnag, has pretty much indicated that this is a Cluster Flub that in reality isn't possible, thanks to Amtraks "Crack" IT system changes.
I don't think enough investigatory research has been done to establish the potential suitability of alternative mechanisms. It sounds like future solutions will be slower and more tedious thanks to Amtrak's increasingly clumsy website but implying a usable solution is nearly impossible seems premature at this point.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
23,174
Location
Austin Texas
I don't think enough investigatory research has been done to establish the potential suitability of alternative mechanisms. It sounds like future solutions will be slower and more tedious thanks to Amtrak's increasingly clumsy website but implying a usable solution is nearly impossible seems premature at this point.
Thanks for the update from a Pro Chris!

This Luddite knows nothing about IT stuff, just that the Wizards that do it get the Big Bucks!😄
 

AmtrakBlue

Engineer
Gathering Team Member
Joined
May 6, 2011
Messages
12,631
Location
Delaware
AUs own Paul M., who developed Amsnag, has pretty much indicated that this is a Cluster Flub that in reality isn't possible, thanks to Amtraks "Crack" IT system changes.
And acelafan is the one who developed the status map/archive websites which use Amtrak data. He has also tried to help Paul with Amsnag. He’s well aware of the issues.
 
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