Amtrak Cafe service, vending machines etc. discussion

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Amtrak25

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They appear to do fine on the Piedmonts. Seems to be just a matter of getting used to something. ;)
I've never had a good cup of coffee from a vending machine, not even the ones that claimed to grind the beans to order. It's been about 5 years since I tried; maybe they've improved.
 

jis

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I've never had a good cup of coffee from a vending machine, not even the ones that claimed to grind the beans to order. It's been about 5 years since I tried; maybe they've improved.
Who said anything about getting good anything? :D
 

Amtrak25

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Well, before the floods in 2011, Minot station had a coffee machine for 50 cents. Terrible coffee but cheaper than Amtrak's $1.50. That and the $9 Havre Box Car chicken lunch are what I looked forward to.

As for the Piedmont trains, those vending machines replaced nothing because there were no predecessor trains. and they are not long trips like between Emeryville and Fresno.
 

jis

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Well, before the floods in 2011, Minot station had a coffee machine for 50 cents. Terrible coffee but cheaper than Amtrak's $1.50. That and the $9 Havre Box Car chicken lunch are what I looked forward to.

As for the Piedmont trains, those vending machines replaced nothing because there were no predecessor trains. and they are not long trips like between Emeryville and Fresno.
As I said, people get used to whatever crap is doled out to them eventually. That is life.

In any case it is California serving itself whatever it wants. It is not really Amtrak there, is it? They even brand it as Amtrak California, not Amtrak.
 

rickycourtney

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I too will be sad to see the departure of the cafe cars on the San Joaquin, particularly the selection of California craft beers.

That said, every time I order a beer and a fresh sandwich (which have been eliminated post-pandemic) I feel like I'm the outlier. Most people just want a snack and a soda... or too many beers.

On top of that, we all know by now that food service is a money pit. The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority (the actual operator of the line) thinks it's better to spend that money expanding service than paying Amtrak to staff an LSA.
 

GDRRiley

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Just wait for passengers to see the vending machines having replaced the traditional staffed cafe.
They made that move because so few people used the full cafe on that route.
In any case it is California serving itself whatever it wants. It is not really Amtrak there, is it? They even brand it as Amtrak California, not Amtrak.
Amtrak California is basically a dead brand at this point and has been for 5+ years.
 

Touchdowntom9

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They made that move because so few people used the full cafe on that route.

Amtrak California is basically a dead brand at this point and has been for 5+ years.
Is the only difference between Amtrak and Midwest or California basically that those states subsidize the routes? Or is this a different management team and separate org?
 

GDRRiley

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Is the only difference between Amtrak and Midwest or California basically that those states subsidize the routes? Or is this a different management team and separate org?
in both the states own or lease all the cars and locos and contract amtrak to run the service and maintain them.
California are governed not by a state board but more locally with Joint power authorities. JPA area a collection of county and sometimes city DOTs that have very few staff and are mostly just a way to unify the planning process.
 

railiner

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Just wait for passengers to see the vending machines having replaced the traditional staffed cafe.

They appear to do fine on the Piedmonts. Seems to be just a matter of getting used to something. ;)

As for the Piedmont trains, those vending machines replaced nothing because there were no predecessor trains. and they are not long trips like between Emeryville and Fresno.
Say what you will, but I'd wager that if the Hiawatha and Empire Service trains that currently offer nothing were provided with some vending machines, that would be well received...;)
 

MARC Rider

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Say what you will, but I'd wager that if the Hiawatha and Empire Service trains that currently offer nothing were provided with some vending machines, that would be well received...;)
Ah, but would presence of the vending machines generate enough additional revenue to cover the cost of providing them? (That would be revenue from the additional riders who wouldn't ride otherwise, plus the revenue from the vending machines.)
 

jis

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Ah, but would presence of the vending machines generate enough additional revenue to cover the cost of providing them? (That would be revenue from the additional riders who wouldn't ride otherwise, plus the revenue from the vending machines.)
Since the current food service costs are not fully covered, why is this asignificant issue? 🤔
 

railiner

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Ah, but would presence of the vending machines generate enough additional revenue to cover the cost of providing them? (That would be revenue from the additional riders who wouldn't ride otherwise, plus the revenue from the vending machines.)
Good points...
Although I don't know anyone who would be enticed to ride a train, they wouldn't otherwise, just to have the ability to patronize vending machines on board...;)
 

Crowbar_k

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This article makes a lot of good points. I mean, Japanese trains don't have food cars, and they are the best trains in the world.

I'd honestly just rather pick up some food to go from a restaurant beforehand. Let's be honest, the Cafe car food is not great.
 
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This article makes a lot of good points. I mean, Japanese trains don't have food cars, and they are the best trains in the world.

I'd honestly just rather pick up some food to go from a restaurant beforehand. Let's be honest, the Cafe car food is not great.
I understand that in Japan there is availability of high quality food to take on the train at many stations, something less common here in the US.
 

TransitTyrant

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This article makes a lot of good points. I mean, Japanese trains don't have food cars, and they are the best trains in the world.

I'd honestly just rather pick up some food to go from a restaurant beforehand. Let's be honest, the Cafe car food is not great.
Alon Levy is frustratingly ignorant about operations here, just check out his Twitter interactions with “transit twitter.” Alon’s solution to all problems is just fire everyone and start over. Awhile back they proposed that CAHSR should start over because it would only have a max speed of 110mph on the Caltrain portion

American and European trains need food service cars because of longer trip times and distances. The breakfast options weren’t bad and Amtrak updated the menu recently. They actually make a small profit too unlike traditional dining cars.
 

Amtrak25

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I got into a nasty feud with Alon Levy, an unteachable, insecure, slash-and burn type, in an article 6 years ago. He is a LIRR-NJT thru-running junkie, and he wants to fire train crews, service planners, and dispatching center personnel over various things for which he has no comprehension, and scrap brand new NJT multi-level cars to boot. IOW, whatever and whoever does not fit his agenda, be rid of it, then deliver sermons how things are done in France or Germany.

As for food service, many NEC stations have at best Dunkin Donuts (if you call that food) and on other corridors in the northeast, some stations have simply nothing. This ain't Japan. Levy has no sense of reality.
 

jis

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I got into a nasty feud with Alon Levy, an unteachable, insecure, slash-and burn type, in an article 6 years ago. He is a LIRR-NJT thru-running junkie, and he wants to fire train crews, service planners, and dispatching center personnel over various things for which he has no comprehension, and scrap brand new NJT multi-level cars to boot. IOW, whatever and whoever does not fit his agenda, be rid of it, then deliver sermons how things are done in France or Germany.

As for food service, many NEC stations have at best Dunkin Donuts (if you call that food) and on other corridors in the northeast, some stations have simply nothing. This ain't Japan. Levy has no sense of reality.
Fortunately not too many people take Alon's sermons too seriously.

Then again we have plenty of LIRR-NJT through running junkies who have comprehension of operating conditions in the NY area even worse than Alon if that were possible. You now who I speak of, including one self proclaimed LIRR expert for having worked for LIRR way back in his career for a while ;)
 

Amtrak25

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Fortunately not too many people take Alon's sermons too seriously.

Then again we have plenty of LIRR-NJT through running junkies who have comprehension of operating conditions in the NY area even worse than Alon if that were possible. You now who I speak of, including one self proclaimed LIRR expert for having worked for LIRR way back in his career for a while ;)

There is the ReThink group and now Tri-Sate Transportaion Campaign with a watered down version, which is a hoax, because their ulterior motive is to kill Penn Station South, which in turn renders Gateway Project pretty useless. Their comprehension of train operations, NYPS track ownership, concourse ownerships, and capacity analysis beyond Manhattan doesn't exist.

But we're veering off topic now.

The large cities along the NEC have a food court or a concession, but that is not sufficient substinence for 3 - 6 hours trips. Everyone boarding elsewhere according to Alon Levy is chopped liver.
 
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jis

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The large cities along the NEC have a food court or a concession, but that is not sufficient substinence for 3 - 6 hours trips. Everyone boarding elsehwere according to Alon Levy is chopped liver.
Frankly, I don't think even Baltimore has any real food available in the station, at least nothing like what you can get at a typical Japanese station.. Stamford or Trenton are even worse. And what are the people who travel on the numerous Virginia trains supposed to do once they get to Virginia?
 

Amtrak25

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Frankly, I don't think even Baltimore has any real food available in the station, at least nothing like what you can get at a typical Japanese station.. Stamford or Trenton are even worse. And what are the people who travel on the numerous Virginia trains supposed to do once they get to Virginia?

I haven't been in Trenton since before Covid, but thought they had a DD and pizza place, which is too clumsy to bring on the train. Alexandria and Charlottesvile I am sure have something near the station, but every place else, you're chopped liver.

I can't think of anything in Bridgeport or New London, which rolls up their sidewalks on Sundays, or maybe Levy thinks everyone there is taking a cross-Sound ferry and chowed down in their snack bars, or that a newsbutcher rolls his cart down the aisle during the stop in NYPS like they did on the LIRR until the 1960's.
 

rs9

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The Levy article is a bit disingenuous. Every instance of an Amtrak cafe car is also lounge space, often the only lounge space on the train. Likewise, at least for now before Venture introduction, many cafe cars double as business class (extra revenue).

I could see a case to eliminate cafe cars on regional trains (though I wouldn't do it, and it's interesting to learn that the cars turn a small profit). However, for long distance trains, Levy is making a crucial erroneous assumption: that long distance train riders are as knowledgable about rail travel as he is.

Imagine a CHI-ALB customer boarding the Lake Shore Limited and learning there is no food available on the train for purchase, and they brought no food with them. What is the train crew going to do, starve them?
 

Deni

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The Levy article is a bit disingenuous. Every instance of an Amtrak cafe car is also lounge space, often the only lounge space on the train. Likewise, at least for now before Venture introduction, many cafe cars double as business class (extra revenue).

I could see a case to eliminate cafe cars on regional trains (though I wouldn't do it, and it's interesting to learn that the cars turn a small profit). However, for long distance trains, Levy is making a crucial erroneous assumption: that long distance train riders are as knowledgable about rail travel as he is.

Imagine a CHI-ALB customer boarding the Lake Shore Limited and learning there is no food available on the train for purchase, and they brought no food with them. What is the train crew going to do, starve them?
Yeah, I was going to say a similar thing. One of the things I love about train travel is the ability to socialize and meet people, and how that is accomplished is by having lounge space. Most of my trips between Chicago and Macomb (a train I've been taking since going to college there in '89-'94) are spent at a cafe car table chatting with people. Taking away lounge space would make train travel a lot more like air travel. So I'm in favor of keeping it even on regional trains. Taking it away from a train that takes two days from beginning to end would be madness.

I've never heard of that Alon guy before, but he seems to be someone with very uninformed opinions.
 
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