Amtrak overcoming the Pandemic; back to tri-weekly service?

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Which airline? Of those that have reported numbers, vaccination rates are 90%+.
Do those estimates include regional contractors and subsidiaries? Perhaps both of you are right.


Is lying about vaccination status clouding the numbers? Maybe he's seeing a clearer picture.

 
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JoeBas

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You probably don't want to fly either. I can think of a lot of FAs out there that are refusing to get the vaccine. And some of them are really strict on the mask ordinance which makes it quite interesting in of itself. And the pilots are even worse on the vaccine rate.
In my office, the few anti-vaxxers are among the most militant around wanting masks and enforcement. They want everyone else to wear masks to protect them from the virus that isn't serious enough for them to get a vaccine for. 🤷
 

Bob Dylan

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In my office, the few anti-vaxxers are among the most militant around wanting masks and enforcement. They want everyone else to wear masks to protect them from the virus that isn't serious enough for them to get a vaccine for. 🤷
I'm sure there are lots of these folks, but around here these Idiots don't want Vaccine or Masks, they want FREEDOM!🤬😷

Cue Bob Dylan singing " License to Kill".
 

jis

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If Amtrak announces any service cutback a week after receiving the biggest handout in its history, I think that should present quite an opportunity to tar and feather the management thoroughly at least in the public and media court. I am sure that is keeping many of them quite sleepless as the decision point arrives. That should weigh quite heavily against any cutbacks happening, but then again it *is* Amtrak afterall 🤷‍♂️
 
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west point

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It only takes one T&E district with no other to cover the route to gum up the works. As far as OBS would take quite a few assigned there to cause a 3 day a week service. Some locations would be MIA, NOL, Maybe SEA.
 

neroden

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It only takes one T&E district with no other to cover the route to gum up the works. As far as OBS would take quite a few assigned there to cause a 3 day a week service. Some locations would be MIA, NOL, Maybe SEA.

After asking around about the rules related to staffing, it does seem like there is no way an OBS or maintenance shortage can cause service cuts given the current amount of lead time; replacements can be hired and trained fast enough. It is probably, but not definitely, the same with conductors; the required training time seems relatively short (although the *desired* training time is longer, the minimum isn't that long).

Engineers are the potential problem, and they're the problem because they require "route familiarization" or "route qualification" (I may be getting the term wrong) on a specific section of route, in addition to a pretty long course of training if they're fresh off the street (shorter if they're being poached from freight). I do think the estimate of "six months training" would be no problem if Amtrak had started in June, when smart people knew vaccine mandates would eventually be coming. But if Amtrak was caught flat-footed and didn't start recruiting new engineers until last month, it could be a problem. Amtrak could either have a total shortage of engineers; or could have a shortage of engineers who were qualified on a specific district; the first might take a bit over six months to fix, while the latter might take over two months to fix.
 
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me_little_me

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Do those estimates include regional contractors and subsidiaries? Perhaps both of your are right.

Is lying about vaccination status clouding the numbers? Maybe he's seeing a clearer picture.

And these are our future politicians! Future doctors. Future scientists. Future lawyers. But worst of all, future voters.
 

neroden

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That’s really interesting….because a few weeks back that the potential plan was 4x weekly for the Starlight…and nothing has been introduced internally yet. No updates to the consist plans or train schedules either.
Ah, good to hear about 4 days a week being considered. Some time back I managed to pass a message to someone within Amtrak who said that he managed to pass it through to the execs --- explaining *why* even 4 a week is significantly better for the traveller than 3 a week.

With 4 a week, you may have to move your scheduled travel date by one day in order to take the train. This is a pain, but often doable. With 3 a week, you may have to move it by two days, and that's just much much worse for customer scheduling; it's often too much. This is a large part of why I've never attended a certain convention my friends often go to in Indianaopolis. The convention schedule hits the Cardinal schedule wrong and would require two extra days in Indianapolis on each end (!), which is just not going to work for me (four extra days around a four day convention!). One extra day on each end would have been manageable.

In short, the convenience for the traveller is based on the *worst case scenario* for how far away in the future the next train is from the time they actually want to travel. You want to minimize the gap between trains.

I am glad to hear that this message may have gotten through, so that on routes where cuts may be necessary due to staffing shortages, they will try to pay attention to customer needs.
 

Willbridge

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Ah, good to hear about 4 days a week being considered. Some time back I managed to pass a message to someone within Amtrak who said that he managed to pass it through to the execs --- explaining *why* even 4 a week is significantly better for the traveller than 3 a week.

With 4 a week, you may have to move your scheduled travel date by one day in order to take the train. This is a pain, but often doable. With 3 a week, you may have to move it by two days, and that's just much much worse for customer scheduling; it's often too much. This is a large part of why I've never attended a certain convention my friends often go to in Indianaopolis. The convention schedule hits the Cardinal schedule wrong and would require two extra days in Indianapolis on each end (!), which is just not going to work for me (four extra days around a four day convention!). One extra day on each end would have been manageable.

In short, the convenience for the traveller is based on the *worst case scenario* for how far away in the future the next train is from the time they actually want to travel. You want to minimize the gap between trains.

I am glad to hear that this message may have gotten through, so that on routes where cuts may be necessary due to staffing shortages, they will try to pay attention to customer needs.
I made a business trip between Portland and Bozeman for which the North Coast Hiawatha eluded me in both directions with the two-day wait. Four or five days a week likely would have worked for my trip by rail both ways. I ended up eastbound on a NWA 727 and westbound on Greyhound. (It was my first flight using the Airstair and first Greyhound with an automatic transmission.) Here is the photographic evidence of what can happen with tri-weekly trains:

scan0010.jpg

1974 10 MC8 at Wallace.jpg
 

OBS

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After asking around about the rules related to staffing, it does seem like there is no way an OBS or maintenance shortage can cause service cuts given the current amount of lead time; replacements can be hired and trained fast enough. It is probably, but not definitely, the same with conductors; the required training time seems relatively short (although the *desired* training time is longer, the minimum isn't that long).

Engineers are the potential problem, and they're the problem because they require "route familiarization" or "route qualification" (I may be getting the term wrong) on a specific section of route, in addition to a pretty long course of training if they're fresh off the street (shorter if they're being poached from freight). I do think the estimate of "six months training" would be no problem if Amtrak had started in June, when smart people knew vaccine mandates would eventually be coming. But if Amtrak was caught flat-footed and didn't start recruiting new engineers until last month, it could be a problem. Amtrak could either have a total shortage of engineers; or could have a shortage of engineers who were qualified on a specific district; the first might take a bit over six months to fix, while the latter might take over two months to fix.
You are getting closer.... but, Conductors (not assistant Conductors) must pass the same route qualification tests as the Engineers, so they will need a comparable amount of time.
 

Trogdor

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I do think the estimate of "six months training" would be no problem if Amtrak had started in June, when smart people knew vaccine mandates would eventually be coming. But if Amtrak was caught flat-footed and didn't start recruiting new engineers until last month, it could be a problem. Amtrak could either have a total shortage of engineers; or could have a shortage of engineers who were qualified on a specific district; the first might take a bit over six months to fix, while the latter might take over two months to fix.
And exactly how was Amtrak to know six months ago that 1) there would be so many people who would rather lose their jobs instead of getting a vaccine, and 2) exactly which crew bases would need to have these crew members hired into in order to avoid such a shortage? With your perfect retroactive crystal ball, you should have been able to tell everyone far in advance exactly how this would play out.
 

pennyk

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According to Jim Mathews' presentation during the RPA webinar this afternoon, Amtrak is doing everything it can to avoid service cuts. My interpretation was that Jim appeared to state that Amtrak will not know to what extent service cuts may or may not be needed until December 8th. Jim did not respond to the question regarding how much lead time Amtrak will give passengers prior to service cuts.

I think I feel a little better after Jim's presentation, but I still feel my trip is in jeopardy. (If my trip is not canceled before I depart, I will be in the middle of the trip on December 8th - on the other coast - and I do not fly :eek: )
 

chubbycat

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According to Jim Mathews' presentation during the RPA webinar this afternoon, Amtrak is doing everything it can to avoid service cuts. My interpretation was that Jim appeared to state that Amtrak will not know to what extent service cuts may or may not be needed until December 8th. Jim did not respond to the question regarding how much lead time Amtrak will give passengers prior to service cuts.

I think I feel a little better after Jim's presentation, but I still feel my trip is in jeopardy. (If my trip is not canceled before I depart, I will be in the middle of the trip on December 8th - on the other coast - and I do not fly :eek: )
Thank you for sharing the info! I am nervous too as I am travelling between 12/5 and 12/13 (SEA to SBA)
 

jis

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The sense that I got from listening to Jim's presentation and Q&A is the now the Amtrak passengers are in the same boat as airline passengers, except that at least in the LD network with a once a day service, alternatives would be non-existent unless they go into a massive bustitution business, which I suspect they won't.

Airlines have been doing a massive amount of IRROPS and rerouting, but they have the network to do so, which Amtrak unfortunately does not. But I am sure they will try to do their best to re-accommodate, though I would not expect to get to my destination for a while if I depended only on Amtrak, and unfortunately the particular train I was on gets canned due to lack of staff. It did sound like cancellations might come very late in the game.

It was mentioned that so far cancellations seem unlikely for the Thanksgiving weekend.
 

jebr

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unless they go into a massive bustitution business, which I suspect they won't.
Even if they could, finding buses and drivers to bustitute people would be an incredible challenge, particularly lately. Transit agencies are having a difficult time getting people to drive buses throughout the city, and the intercity landscape isn't any better from what I've heard. Amtrak trying to get even more drivers is probably impossible to do quickly even if they wanted to.
 

fillyjonk

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Ugh, I have a trip planned on Dec. 15 and while I have a fair amount of wiggle room if that particular day gets dropped from a schedule, I suspect I'd have a hard time getting a roommette on a 'reschedule' day

(many many curse words at the whole pandemic and how it's dragging on forever and it's made so many small things in life harder and less pleasant)
 

flitcraft

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Is lying about vaccination status clouding the numbers? Maybe he's seeing a clearer picture.

That is why my university requires students, staff and faculty to submit medical documentation of their vaccination status. And that requirement is probably why our positive test rate is so low. 10% of students, faculty and staff every week are selected for random COVID testing. So far the positive rate is .3%--that is three out of every one thousand tests. Of course, we also have strict masking requirements, indoor and outdoors on campus. Overkill? Maybe. But we have a COVID rate closer to Japan or Taiwan's rather than, say, Idaho's. I'm fine with overkill myself...
 

pennyk

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Worrying about being stranded on 12/8, or after, was causing me too much stress. I just "modified" my December trip to a Gathering trip next October (after canceling my paid reservations). The new trip is fewer points than the previous points so I will get some points back less a 10% penalty. I was on the phone with AGR, then CR, then AGR (and a lot of time on hold) for more than an hour and a half. Time for 🍷
 

Sidney

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I have the CZ booked to Davis and the CS to LA the next day in January and the SL/TE to Chicago after an overnight in LA. If 3X a week is back my only change will be the San Juauquin and bus to LA instead of the CS.
 
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