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Sidney

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
902
I know we've had a number of posts regarding Amtrak sleeper prices, and I do appreciate that, in times where everything is getting pricey, Amtrak sleepers have priced themselves beyond many of us. But, here is one little data point: We are taking our nine year old daughter to Disneyland from Seattle to Los Angeles as a special treat. I was assigned the job of booking the one way train journey southward, and my husband the job of booking the flight back to Seattle. Cost for the three of us in the family bedroom was $1533. I just filed our credit card statements, where I discovered that the cost of three of us coming back in coach from LA is $1170. That's coach, not economy plus or first class... Add in the price of the hotel for a night and the meals for two days that we won't have to buy to the flight fare, and Amtrak gets us there cheaper, even in a sleeper.

I'm honestly surprised, and I realize that high bucket would have made a difference. But, at least on occasion, Amtrak isn't more than airfare would be. And I know the three of us will enjoy the train trip vastly more than seats 21 DEF on the flight back!
With the price of virtually everything soaring,I'm surprised there are still some low buckets out there several months ahead. I'm concerned Amtrak will raise the price of low buckets anytime,so I booked my favorite "best bang for the buck" ride LAX to Bloomington Il for $448 for next January. Three nights,8 meals. I'll fill in getting to LA and back East later on. Did notice in mid January a one person roomette on the 30 and 48 from Chicago to DC or NY is well over $600.

Imagine driving from LA to Chicago for under $500 factoring in meals and hotels!
 
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
5,019
Location
Baltimore. MD
OK, I did a test booking for August 15. BAL - EMY (Coach in Northeast regional to Washington, Roomettes on the Capitol Limited and Zephyr) for 2 people. Fare quoted was $1,801. I also checked Southwest Airlines, full flexible fares BWI - OAK (Oakland) range from $400 a person ($800 for 2) to $715 ($1,430 for 2). The nonrefundable "Wannagetway" fares were about $100 a person cheaper, but there were only a few left, and some flights are already sold out. No nonstop flights.

Obviously, these are different products, as one can fly the distance, however uncomfortably, in 7-8 hours, plus 3 or so hours dealing with check-in and clearing the airport upon arrival, whereas the train takes 3 nights and part of 4 days. On the other hand, all you get on the plane is a bag of pretzels and a soft drink, and not even that if there's enough turbulence, whereas on the train you get 3 dinners, 3 breakfasts and 2 lunches, even if a dinner and breakfast are Flex meals, that's better than the last breakfast I had flying Southwest airlines, which was a hard-boiled egg and a Kind bar I bought at the airport newsstand.

The other alternative is driving. Baltimore to Oakland is a 2,800 Mile drive that my mapping software says can be done in 39 hours, 40 minutes. Let's say 40 hours just to be realistic. Actually, no. that's an average speed of 70 mph. I never average 70 mph, even on roads with 75 mph speed limits. The best I can do is 55-60 mph. At 55 mph average speed, those 2800 miles will take 50 hours. Driving 10 hours a day (which is about my limit), means this is a 5 day trip. Five days, one after the other driving 10 hours a day. By the end of the 5th day, I'd roll into Oakland pretty ragged out, and having to deal with Bay Area rush-hour traffic. As to cost, the IRS gives an allowance for operating costs of an automobile at 58.5 cents per mile, so it costs $1,638 to drive the 2,800miles (that includes gas, but maybe not at current gas prices). In addition, there are 4 nights of hotels, plus meals to consider. All of a sudden, that $1,800 train fare doesn't look so expensive. If anything, from a policy perspective, airline fares are too cheap, although I can't see any politically viable way of increasing them, such as a carbon tax.

Buses would be the other alternative. A through express bus that makes its intermediate stops along the highways and doesn't go into all the cities would probably be a lot faster than the train, and if it was configured with roomy 2x1 seating might be reasonably comfortable, although one would have to be willing to sleep in a recliner, not a bed. But nobody seems to run through long-distance buses anymore, so at the current time, a coast-to-coast trip involves changing a lot of buses at inconvenient times, and long-distance buses just aren't an alternative anymore.
 

Ryan

Court Jester
Joined
Apr 14, 2008
Messages
17,937
Location
Off looking for his sense of humor
I know we've had a number of posts regarding Amtrak sleeper prices, and I do appreciate that, in times where everything is getting pricey, Amtrak sleepers have priced themselves beyond many of us. But, here is one little data point: We are taking our nine year old daughter to Disneyland from Seattle to Los Angeles as a special treat. I was assigned the job of booking the one way train journey southward, and my husband the job of booking the flight back to Seattle. Cost for the three of us in the family bedroom was $1533. I just filed our credit card statements, where I discovered that the cost of three of us coming back in coach from LA is $1170. That's coach, not economy plus or first class... Add in the price of the hotel for a night and the meals for two days that we won't have to buy to the flight fare, and Amtrak gets us there cheaper, even in a sleeper.

I'm honestly surprised, and I realize that high bucket would have made a difference. But, at least on occasion, Amtrak isn't more than airfare would be. And I know the three of us will enjoy the train trip vastly more than seats 21 DEF on the flight back!

Why would flying back to Seattle from LA require you to stay in a hotel for an extra night or buy extra meals? Wouldn't you get back home a day earlier?
Presumably, they're planning their vacation the way that I do - to be home on a certain day (say Sunday, to be at work on Monday). If I'm flying home, I'm paying for meals Sat/Sun and paying for my hotel room Saturday night. If I'm taking the train, I'm leaving Saturday to be home on Sunday, and those costs are instead captured in the train fare paid.

Even if I'm leaving on Saturday either way and don't care when I get home, I'm still going to eat for the period of time that I would be on the train and thus would incur the cost of those meals.
 

flitcraft

Conductor
Joined
Jan 10, 2018
Messages
1,255
Why would flying back to Seattle from LA require you to stay in a hotel for an extra night or buy extra meals? Wouldn't you get back home a day earlier?
No, it's the difference between the train time and far and the air time and fare. Sure, we could simply cut our vacation by a day and save the money by staying home. Who needs vacation time, right? Well, we did enough staying-at-home the last couple of years that we wanted to maximize our vacation time. We're thinking of the train time as a day of vacation, whereas we would need hotel and meals unless we cut that day out from the vacation two weeks.

Edited to add: Yeah, Ryan explained this better than I did...
 

joelkfla

Engineer
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
2,417
Location
12 miles from Walt Disney World
On the other hand, all you get on the plane is a bag of pretzels and a soft drink, and not even that if there's enough turbulence, whereas on the train you get 3 dinners, 3 breakfasts and 2 lunches, even if a dinner and breakfast are Flex meals, that's better than the last breakfast I had flying Southwest airlines, which was a hard-boiled egg and a Kind bar I bought at the airport newsstand.
And you also still get your pretzels & soft drink at the Chicago lounge. ;)
 
Joined
Feb 23, 2022
Messages
6
Location
Santa Barbara, CA
I know that there are many patrons of this forum that are always very knowledgeable ref sleeping car "buckets". My travels are very frequently ATN-WAS-ATN on the Crescent, but I am almost clueless these days about what is a good low bucket fare or a ridiculous high bucket fare. I realize ATN is not a popular station. I also am really specially interested in Viewliner Bedroom fares. Could anyone who has any data choose a popular endpoint trip (NOL-NYP or ATL-WAS or such) and make a very simple comparison? Thanks!
The bucket fare list is here. This chart shows end-to-end fares in each bucket and fare class for each train. If you're not riding the train end-to-end, you can usually tell what bucket your partial fare is in by getting pricing for end-to-end on that train and then comparing that to the chart. In most cases, the partial distance fare will be priced at the same bucket level as end-to-end.
 

Willbridge

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
1,947
Location
Denver
OK, I did a test booking for August 15. BAL - EMY (Coach in Northeast regional to Washington, Roomettes on the Capitol Limited and Zephyr) for 2 people. Fare quoted was $1,801. I also checked Southwest Airlines, full flexible fares BWI - OAK (Oakland) range from $400 a person ($800 for 2) to $715 ($1,430 for 2). The nonrefundable "Wannagetway" fares were about $100 a person cheaper, but there were only a few left, and some flights are already sold out. No nonstop flights.

Obviously, these are different products, as one can fly the distance, however uncomfortably, in 7-8 hours, plus 3 or so hours dealing with check-in and clearing the airport upon arrival, whereas the train takes 3 nights and part of 4 days. On the other hand, all you get on the plane is a bag of pretzels and a soft drink, and not even that if there's enough turbulence, whereas on the train you get 3 dinners, 3 breakfasts and 2 lunches, even if a dinner and breakfast are Flex meals, that's better than the last breakfast I had flying Southwest airlines, which was a hard-boiled egg and a Kind bar I bought at the airport newsstand.

The other alternative is driving. Baltimore to Oakland is a 2,800 Mile drive that my mapping software says can be done in 39 hours, 40 minutes. Let's say 40 hours just to be realistic. Actually, no. that's an average speed of 70 mph. I never average 70 mph, even on roads with 75 mph speed limits. The best I can do is 55-60 mph. At 55 mph average speed, those 2800 miles will take 50 hours. Driving 10 hours a day (which is about my limit), means this is a 5 day trip. Five days, one after the other driving 10 hours a day. By the end of the 5th day, I'd roll into Oakland pretty ragged out, and having to deal with Bay Area rush-hour traffic. As to cost, the IRS gives an allowance for operating costs of an automobile at 58.5 cents per mile, so it costs $1,638 to drive the 2,800miles (that includes gas, but maybe not at current gas prices). In addition, there are 4 nights of hotels, plus meals to consider. All of a sudden, that $1,800 train fare doesn't look so expensive. If anything, from a policy perspective, airline fares are too cheap, although I can't see any politically viable way of increasing them, such as a carbon tax.

Buses would be the other alternative. A through express bus that makes its intermediate stops along the highways and doesn't go into all the cities would probably be a lot faster than the train, and if it was configured with roomy 2x1 seating might be reasonably comfortable, although one would have to be willing to sleep in a recliner, not a bed. But nobody seems to run through long-distance buses anymore, so at the current time, a coast-to-coast trip involves changing a lot of buses at inconvenient times, and long-distance buses just aren't an alternative anymore.
Ten hours on duty is the motor carrier safety rule. The State of Colorado even imposes this on transit operators, including pieces of work that have a long recovery time here or there. The same state puts up 75 mph speed limits and invites tourists to drive thousands of miles to get here.

When I think of who is on the highway with me, I remember having coffee in Watkins, Colorado with a trucker who had driven straight through (with pit stops) from Bangor, Maine. He was angry because it was Saturday, and he was going to have to wait for Monday to drop his load of steel at one of those eternal Glenwood Canyon projects. He was a nice guy, but it was only the calendar that kept him off of the toughest part of his trip after exhausting himself.

The IRS driving cost includes insurance on the predictable results of mixing barely compatible types of vehicles and driving styles on the same roads.

Next time try the train.
 

TheCrescent

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
468
When I was looking to buy a ticket for a room on the Crescent for an upcoming trip:

1. 3 rooms were available, with the lowest price of around $700 for a roomette.

2. A day later, only 1 room was available, but the lowest price had dropped to about $375.

3. Now 3 rooms are available, and the lowest price has increased to around $700 for a roomette.

I don’t understand this: wouldn’t the price (from Amtrak’s perspective) ideally go up significantly, with just one room available a few days before departure?

Thanks.
 

enviro5609

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 10, 2021
Messages
75
Location
New York
When I was looking to buy a ticket for a room on the Crescent for an upcoming trip:

1. 3 rooms were available, with the lowest price of around $700 for a roomette.

2. A day later, only 1 room was available, but the lowest price had dropped to about $375.

3. Now 3 rooms are available, and the lowest price has increased to around $700 for a roomette.

I don’t understand this: wouldn’t the price (from Amtrak’s perspective) ideally go up significantly, with just one room available a few days before departure?

Thanks.

“Rooms available” means rooms available at that price/bucket, not how many rooms are available total.

It’s confusing, and perhaps intentionally so.
 

pennyk

Amtrak Rider
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Jul 5, 2009
Messages
14,199
Location
Orlando, FL
When I was looking to buy a ticket for a room on the Crescent for an upcoming trip:

1. 3 rooms were available, with the lowest price of around $700 for a roomette.

2. A day later, only 1 room was available, but the lowest price had dropped to about $375.

3. Now 3 rooms are available, and the lowest price has increased to around $700 for a roomette.

I don’t understand this: wouldn’t the price (from Amtrak’s perspective) ideally go up significantly, with just one room available a few days before departure?

Thanks.
It is likely that the bucket changed when there was only 1 room available (lower bucket because of a cancellation). After that room was sold, it went back to bucket you first saw. I see this quite often when pricing rooms on the Silvers.
 

AmtrakBlue

Engineer
Gathering Team Member
Joined
May 6, 2011
Messages
14,215
Location
Delaware
“Rooms available” means rooms available at that price/bucket, not how many rooms are available total.

It’s confusing, and perhaps intentionally so.
On the website it does say "3 left at this price" once you click on the rooms box and the drop down shows what rooms are available. Maybe someone working on the app thought it would save "space" on our phones be leaving out the "at this price". 🤷‍♀️
 

daybeers

Conductor
Joined
Jan 6, 2016
Messages
1,671
Location
NHV
On the website it does say "3 left at this price" once you click on the rooms box and the drop down shows what rooms are available. Maybe someone working on the app thought it would save "space" on our phones be leaving out the "at this price". 🤷‍♀️
Or they did it on purpose; would be a good tactic for people to buy earlier than they otherwise would
 
Joined
Oct 7, 2018
Messages
514
Location
Frisco, TX
Well it appears the Coast Starlight has seen a fairly large jump in bucket prices in the last few days. According to the last chart, the top two buckets for roomettes were 680 and 765. for todays train (9/20) I’m seeing 846 (yes, just one occupant) and for the train I’ll be riding on the 30th 775. I’ve only seen one fare for bedrooms of 1776, up from 1626. That comes out to be just over a 9% increase.
I haven’t dug too much further, but todays EB bedroom prices are the same as the chart.
 

trimetbusfan

Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 27, 2021
Messages
184
Location
Portland
Well it appears the Coast Starlight has seen a fairly large jump in bucket prices in the last few days. According to the last chart, the top two buckets for roomettes were 680 and 765. for todays train (9/20) I’m seeing 846 (yes, just one occupant) and for the train I’ll be riding on the 30th 775. I’ve only seen one fare for bedrooms of 1776, up from 1626. That comes out to be just over a 9% increase.
I haven’t dug too much further, but todays EB bedroom prices are the same as the chart.
For those interested, I made a similar post with my findings on a different forum.


Long Distance Train Coach & Sleeper Fares (Buckets)

I think the only other route that has had a fare increase is the auto train. I hope the fares do not significantly increase on other routes.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
6,597
Location
Washington State
For those interested, I made a similar post with my findings on a different forum.


Long Distance Train Coach & Sleeper Fares (Buckets)

I think the only other route that has had a fare increase is the auto train. I hope the fares do not significantly increase on other routes.
That is probably just a matter of time since they've apparently kicked off the process of reviewing and resetting accommodation charges. And likely not very much time.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
6,597
Location
Washington State
Someday, someone will define "bucket" prices and "bucket" trips so the newer participants can understand.
Amtrak yield manages their fares, similar to airlines, but more simply. "Buckets" are yield management price points, Amtrak uses five for sleepers. I do not know the origin of the term, but you can imagine a bucket filling up and spilling over into the next one in line. Amtrak's yield management team allocates inventory across those buckets, and may reallocate that inventory as sales progress. Let us say a given departure of the Seattle sectioppn Empire Builder has an inventory of 17 revenue roomettes, 13 in the 30 car, 4 in the 32 car (transdorm). Let's call the buckets B1-B5, low to high.

When inventory is released for sale, 11 months before, an optimistic yield management team, well aware of the restricted inventory, since in more normal times the Builder ought to have 30 revenue roomettes (13+13+4), allocates inventory in higher buckets:
B1: 0
B2: 0
B3: 0
B4: 2
B5: 15

At about 5 months before departure, they review sales and see (no B1-B3 shown since no inventory was released for sale in those buckets):
B4: 2(2 sold)
B5: 15 (1 sold)

The inventory isn't selling well at those price points. Their objectives is to maximize revenue, and empty space earns no revenue, on the other hand, they want to sell for the maximum obtainable price. Based on sales and the historic trends of that travel period, they reallocate as follow:
B1: 0
B2: 2 (+2)
B3: 2 (+2)
B4: 7 (+5) (2 sold, 5 open)
B5: 6 (-9) (1 sold, 5 open)

The next day, I, planning a trip but unwilling to pay high bucket and checking fares regularly, see second lowest bucket show up and make a reservation. I know lowest bucket offerings are few and far between, so I grab that second lowest.
B1: 0
B2: 2 (1 sold, 1 open)
B3: 2
B4: 7(2 sold, 5 open)
B5: 6(1 sold, 5 open).

When someone tries to price a room, the display will show:
"Roomette:$(B2). 1 available at this price". The website will only show the lowest bucket price with available inventory.

A "bucket trip" is something entirely different, "bucket" in that context being a trip you want to take before you kick it.
 
Last edited:

SwedeC

Train Attendant
Joined
May 31, 2021
Messages
49
Location
NE Florida
Amtrak yield manages their fares, similar to airlines, but more simply. "Buckets" are yield management price points, Amtrak uses five for sleepers. I do not know the origin of the term, but you can imagine a bucket filling up and spilling over into the next one in line. Amtrak's yield management team allocates inventory across those buckets, and may reallocate that inventory as sales progress. Let us say a given departure of the Seattle sectioppn Empire Builder has an inventory of 17 revenue roomettes, 13 in the 30 car, 4 in the 32 car (transdorm). Let's call the buckets B1-B5, low to high.

When inventory is released for sale, 11 months before, an optimistic yield management team, well aware of the restricted inventory, since in more normal times the Builder ought to have 30 revenue roomettes (13+13+4), allocates inventory in higher buckets:
B1: 0
B2: 0
B3: 0
B4: 2
B5: 15

At about 5 months before departure, they review sales and see (no B1-B3 shown since no inventory was released for sale in those buckets):
B4: 2(2 sold)
B5: 15 (1 sold)

The inventory isn't selling well at those price points. Their objectives is to maximize revenue, and empty space earns no revenue, on the other hand, they want to sell for the maximum obtainable price. Based on sales and the historic trends of that travel period, they reallocate as follow:
B1: 0
B2: 2 (+2)
B3: 2 (+2)
B4: 7 (+5) (2 sold, 5 open)
B5: 6 (-9) (1 sold, 5 open)

The next day, I, planning a trip but unwilling to pay high bucket and checking fares regularly, see second lowest bucket show up and make a reservation. I know lowest bucket offerings are few and far between, so I grab that second lowest.
B1: 0
B2: 2 (1 sold, 1 open)
B3: 2
B4: 7(2 sold, 5 open)
B5: 6(1 sold, 5 open).

When someone tries to price a room, the display will show:
"Roomette:$(B2). 1 available at this price". The website will only show the lowest bucket price with available inventory.

A "bucket trip" is something entirely different, "bucket" in that context being a trip you want to take before you kick it.
Ah, so!! Thanks for the great explanation.
 

Sidney

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
902
I have found four to six months out is the sweet spot for finding the lowest fares on sleepers. You have to manually punch in each date to find the low bucket. If that low price comes up often,that is low bucket.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
6,597
Location
Washington State
I have found four to six months out is the sweet spot for finding the lowest fares on sleepers. You have to manually punch in each date to find the low bucket. If that low price comes up often,that is low bucket.
Agreed, me too.

Once they do the initial inventory allocation at 11 months out, they don't appear to start touching it for at least 5 months (6 months before departure). And that initial allocation is usually all in the highest or second highest buckets these days.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Aug 9, 2022
Messages
3
Location
Southern California
I booked a roomette on the SWC from LA to Lamy, NM and it cost me $600.00. I kept checking the price and sure enough just two weeks later it dropped $150.00. I modified via the app and got a quick refund of the difference. My room/car number changed. So I guess it's technically a rebooking and not just a modification. Thankfully, I went from the lower level room 14 to upper level room 6. Car 430.

Prices for the sleepers go up and down over time on the same train. I don't try to figure it out I just keep watching the price pretty much daily.

Trip is next week looking forward to it.
 

Sidney

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
902
I booked a roomette on the SWC from LA to Lamy, NM and it cost me $600.00. I kept checking the price and sure enough just two weeks later it dropped $150.00. I modified via the app and got a quick refund of the difference. My room/car number changed. So I guess it's technically a rebooking and not just a modification. Thankfully, I went from the lower level room 14 to upper level room 6. Car 430.

Prices for the sleepers go up and down over time on the same train. I don't try to figure it out I just keep watching the price pretty much daily.

Trip is next week looking forward to it.
$600 is low bucket on the full run of the SW Chief(senior). Even $450 is pretty steep considering you are only on for less than 24 hours,but you do get three decent meals.
 
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