Amtrak Dining

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jruff001

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
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225
No one will argue that America is a land of many abuses and sins to humanity. In humble respect to these atrocities and to your comments. The railroad building era did not respect the dignity of human individuals ... and that needs to be acknowledged. This includes Chinese slave labor where lives were sacrificed to build rail across the great divide... and others who were brought in to build the road beds across mountain passes... as well as the service on the cars... which involved so much humility and suffering. Standing in solidarity with the need for respect to all humanity.

This predates Amtrak but I wonder is Amtrak acknowledges the human injustices in its history.
Wow, great response, thanks.

And very interesting & thought-provoking question about Amtrak acknowledging the human injustices in its history. I seem to recall it did something to recognize the former Pullman Porters who were now SCAs at one point a few years ago, although I may be confusing that with something else in my admittedly poor memory so I welcome being corrected.

In any case, Amtrak has only been around since the 1970s, so I am not sure what human injustices you are referring to. I don't think it can be responsible for things that happened to other, not really even related companies before it even existed? It's not like Amtrak was a simple change of owner / successor company to (say) Santa Fe in a 100% stock purchase, inheriting all the liabilities and getting rich in the meantime. Rather, it inherited the decrepit physical assets of a bunch of semi-broke companies and did what it could to survive.
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
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Theres only 1 Left here in Austin and they're serving the Food Cafeteria Style.

Vegas is doing the same thing with their Buffets, which arent cheap anymore!( they're also re-instating Pay to Park, Opening Shows and going to 100% Capacity in the Casinos!)
Savoring the memories of Horn and Hardart in NYC... you put in 25c and opened the door to take some really great food. It was so very magical!

Pies, hot coffee, and sandwiches... yum yum... it was the height of dreams!

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20th Century Rider

Conductor
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They've pretty much disappeared around here ...
The Metropolitan Lounge in CHI had a self serve buffet of veggies, cheese, and dip. Although the food was fresh and appetizing, I avoided it because everyone handled the serving ware - and even though pre-covid, it appeared to be dangerously unsanitary. For my own health and safety, I avoid common handled serving utensils; and prefer pre wrapped snacks.

Many of the airline lounges around the world have gone to pre-wrapped individual serve items for quite some time.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
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Oct 21, 2015
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The Metropolitan Lounge in CHI had a self serve buffet of veggies, cheese, and dip. Although the food was fresh and appetizing, I avoided it because everyone handled the serving ware - and even though pre-covid, it appeared to be dangerously unsanitary. For my own health and safety, I avoid common handled serving utensils; and prefer pre wrapped snacks.

Many of the airline lounges around the world have gone to pre-wrapped individual serve items for quite some time.
It bothered me how many passengers were refilling water bottles from the water and soda machines at the Lounge even though signs clearly said not to. :-/
 

lordsigma

Conductor
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Sep 15, 2017
Messages
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The cafe food has a lower target quality but seems to get closer to actually reaching it. Or at least it did before the pandemic. Doesn't sound like they carry many of the previous options anymore.
Only on the auto train - auto train cafe still has everything - but Covid cuts removed “fresh” options (salads, sandwiches) basically everywhere else with only longer shelf life microwaveable type items along with the snacks and junk food remaining.. NEC Corridor cafe still bare bones at least as of my last trip a little more than a week ago. So far the only F&B “restored” is Acela first - and as we all know they did NOT get the previous Acela meals back they basically got flexible dining minus salads.
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
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IMHO ... tired of the relentless disregard and abuse by Amtrak for the American rail traveler... I wanna say:

Let us not lose sight of the basic need for basic comforts when traveling 2 nights and 3 days on the Western routes... and 3 nights and 3 days of the Texas Eagle.

Fairly fresh and healthful food is a must for such a long journey. And in all those days and hours... a central car for stretching, meeting other travelers, and viewing the passing scenery of this vast nation... the SSL.

That Amtrak has done away with these essentials by taking away the SSL's and basic dining essentials...simply bringing an affront on the long distance traveler who pays for and expects these basic amenities.

Here is the point of despair... Amtrak is losing loyal clientele who want to spend more to enjoy traveling through America to see the scenery... in relative comfort and with some kind of appropriate dining amenities. We are willing to pay charges which are quite steep! Other countries are way ahead of Amtrak with LD services of abundant appropriate amenities and at more affordable charges.

Amtrak wants to do away with basic amenities for the long distance traveler... with a total disregard. A lack of planning and goals has us wondering if they just want to vaporize their business.

Perhaps by begging them to keep our patronage... we are selling ourselves short. So in the deterioration of basic service are we as a clientele not big enough and strong enough to just walk away???

Always it has been a fundamental American capitalist occurrence that when there is a bankruptcy of wanted goods and services which blows up in the face of the consumer... another entrepreneurship comes along to save the day. The competitor get the business and revenue... and the consumer gets what they are crying our for.

So let us no be so dependent on government run Amtrak... who is so apparently spoiled by the American desire for decent rail service... but thoughtless in disregard! Either serve the American public with viable passenger rail... or let a competitor take over!
 

jruff001

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
225
So let us no be so dependent on government run Amtrak... who is so apparently spoiled by the American desire for decent rail service... but thoughtless in disregard! Either serve the American public with viable passenger rail... or let a competitor take over!
What "competitor" is interested in taking over Amtrak?
 

fillyjonk

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 10, 2011
Messages
495
I suspect if we got a privately-run passenger train system, it would be one of two things:

1. Greyhound on rails, but worse
2. So expensive that only Silicon Valley tech-bros and celebrities can afford it.

Then again: If the govt. stopped subsidizing airlines I suspect their services would be even worse and a lot of smaller areas would lose air service.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
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Oct 21, 2015
Messages
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I suspect if we got a privately-run passenger train system, it would be one of two things:

1. Greyhound on rails, but worse
2. So expensive that only Silicon Valley tech-bros and celebrities can afford it.

Then again: If the govt. stopped subsidizing airlines I suspect their services would be even worse and a lot of smaller areas would lose air service.
Isn’t Amtrak long distance a weird mix of both of those?
 

jiml

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Isn’t Amtrak long distance a weird mix of both of those?
Presuming a private operator was saddled with running some "essential" routes, they would still focus on what makes money. There would probably be no changes to the NEC and they might try one long-distance "experiential" train. Everything else would be bare bones.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
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Oct 21, 2015
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Everything else would be gone in fairly short order.
Honestly that might be better than what we have now. If Amtrak is determined to make long distance trains worse just go ahead and kill them off. With flex dining, soon to be worse schedules, and now the loss of SSL’s on at least some trains... what’s the use of trying.

Even Many of the “Amtrak fans” on this board think Amtrak should just run corridor trains.
 
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jiml

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Everything else would be gone in fairly short order.
I made the presumption that some services would be mandatory and would have to be continued by a private operator in exchange for the lucrative ones. Such a requirement would be unpalatable to most applicants, effectively thinning the pool.
 

zephyr17

Conductor
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Washington State
I made the presumption that some services would be mandatory and would have to be continued by a private operator in exchange for the lucrative ones. Such a requirement would be unpalatable to most applicants, effectively thinning the pool.
Effectively privatizing the longstanding, unspoken political deal that has been in place since the mid-late 70s. Northeast gets to keep the Corridor in exchange for a thin national network.

Might work better, as long as they were held to it.

Who pays the capital costs and maintenance expenses for the NEC physical rail infrastructure, though? When those are factored in the NEC is massively underwater.
 

Devil's Advocate

Conductor
Joined
May 24, 2010
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12,422
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Texas
Honestly that might be better than what we have now. If Amtrak is determined to make long distance trains worse just go ahead and kill them off. With flex dining, soon to be worse schedules, and now the loss of SSL’s on at least some trains... what’s the use of trying.
How is that better than what we have now? Leaving something behind for future generations to rebuild again is better than destroying everything that is no longer appealing to us. Once a service is downgraded it's difficult to get it upgraded again, but still a whole lot easier than trying to start over from nothing at all.
 
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jruff001

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
225
I made the presumption that some services would be mandatory and would have to be continued by a private operator in exchange for the lucrative ones.
There are no lucrative ones.

At least depending on how "lucrative" is defined. An LD route out there might make technically make an operational profit once in a while for a short period of time when there are no disruptions and during a peak time of the year. But consistently and on a large enough scale to offset other routes? No way.

And that would not count capital costs, like equipment. I suppose this new operating successor would inherit Amtrak's current equipment but no way they would be willing / able to invest in new equipment.
 
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Amtrakfflyer

OBS Chief
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Messages
584
Even having the discussion of this page is acknowledging Gardner and Flynn have won. They haven’t and they won’t. Buttigieg isn’t a complicit empty suit like Elaine Choi was. Biden may literally have the weight of the world on his shoulders but Amtrak’s cleaning of the house can be done in an afternoon.

As far as talk of no suitable replacements left in this day and age? Come on. Any competent public transportation official for operations along with a competent person from the hospitality industry whether that be hotel, dining and yes even an airline. They could even poach someone from Via for that matter.

I’m sure someone like Brian Rosenwald with recent knowledge of Amtrak would be happy to consult part time as well. The fact of the matter is people in all walks of life like trains and train travel. it would be a personally rewarding job for the right set of people. Right now we just have bean counters in charge with no skin or interest in the game or train travel. These guys we have don’t even ride the trains they manage.
 
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jiml

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There are no lucrative ones.

At least depending on how "lucrative" is defined. An LD route out there might make technically make an operational profit once in a while for a short period of time when there are no disruptions and during a peak time of the year. But consistently and on a large enough scale to offset other routes? No way.

And that would not count capital costs, like equipment. I suppose this new operating successor would inherit Amtrak's current equipment but no way they would be willing / able to invest in new equipment.
What started out as basic agreement with your position in Post #1535, seems to have put me on the side of "privatize Amtrak" people.;) My position was that few buyers would be rushing to step in and that those who might would primarily be interested in "for-profit" routes such as the NEC, Auto Train and perhaps one experiential long-distance train in the style of the Canadian or Rocky Mountaineer - maybe the Zephyr? On that premise those routes could be considered lucrative. However, if a prospective buyer was also forced to operate "essential" routes, such as the freight railroads were prior to Amtrak, their interest would wane even more. The best current example of this is Britain forcing private companies to operate "parliamentary" routes as a condition of their license to operate for-profit ones.
 

me_little_me

Conductor
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There are no lucrative ones.

At least depending on how "lucrative" is defined. An LD route out there might make technically make an operational profit once in a while for a short period of time when there are no disruptions and during a peak time of the year. But consistently and on a large enough scale to offset other routes? No way.

And that would not count capital costs, like equipment. I suppose this new operating successor would inherit Amtrak's current equipment but no way they would be willing / able to invest in new equipment.
You are, of course, assuming that the government would simply turn over Amtrak's equipment, routes, etc to a private organization.

On the other hand, the government could retain ownership and responsibility for everything including purchasing of new equipment except the operation and fund that separately from providing the contractor with a fixed fee for running everything. That could produce different results and get more bi-partisan support albeit would require the government to closely monitor things to insure a chance of success. There are successful cases of something like e.g. our National Park lodging and amenities are run privately but owned by the government.

I am only suggesting that there are other possible alternatives to selling to a private for-profit company outright and not saying it WOULD be better than what we have but as of now, Amtrak seems to have no more interest in what their customers want than the worst of the private companies and apparently are not answerable to those who are actually paying the bill - the taxpayers.
 

jis

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Privatization works long term only when you selectively privatize the profit and socialize the loss. Even if NEC is sold to some private entity, they will then figure out ways of socializing out all the losses and foist it back upon the government or society at large, and cream skim only the profit part. That is a natural way of doing things which is hard to change.
 
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