Auto train review

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b243923

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 21, 2010
Messages
47
We were passengers on auto train on February 13 from Lorton to Sanford.

We have taken the train for over 10 years annually now.

With the changes to coach passengers this will probably be our last.

You cannot get tea or coffee without paying and lining up with all the passengers trying to buy their dinner.

The breakfast is now grab and go. All the coach passengers line up, get a box and grab your bagel, cream cheese, cereal, milk, coffee etc.,and go back to your seat.

They have made a pleasant way to get to Florida to a low life experience.
 

Devil's Advocate

Conductor
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
11,152
I'm sorry for your poor experience. If you have the time and inclination I would like to suggest that you call Customer Relations to inform them that this is why you are leaving and won't be coming back. You might be offered a voucher toward future travel, and even if you choose not to travel again it should help create a paper trail that a future CEO can use to determine where Anderson and Gardner went wrong.
 
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Skyline

OBS Chief
Joined
Feb 19, 2016
Messages
654
It is sad to witness a group of people who are already living like second class citizens by circumstance be degraded to third class or lower by those in power. It happens throughout society, and now it's even happening on our pax trains.
 

Maglev

OBS Chief
Joined
Sep 4, 2016
Messages
838
Thank you for inspiring me. I just contacted my Senators and Representative about the destruction of food service on Amtrak, and specifically mentioned the cuts for coach passengers. This is a concerted effort to make trains unpopular and destroy the national network.
 

cocojacoby

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 13, 2014
Messages
299
I have taken the Auto Train twice in the last year (both ways in coach). Adding to the fact that the traffic NORTH of Lorton is getting more and more insane, the loss of the pleasantries is definitely going to influence my decision to probably not do it again.

The ride south to Lorton is particularly stressful with the early 2:30 cutoff time adding greatly to the stress of what should be a relaxing trip.

If it came north as far as New Jersey I would certainly reconsider and put up with some of the steerage class policies, but that ain't going to happen.

It is probably just easier and cheaper to drive overnight through the Northeast and get a hotel somewhere halfway.
 

MARC Rider

Conductor
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
1,649
I wonder if a fast ferry service between, say, Port Newark/Elizabeth and Port Canaveral, or Baltimore and Port Canaveral could be a profitable enterprise? There certainly seem to be a lot of overnight ferries in Europe that seem to stay in business.

Even south of Richmond, I-95 can be pretty brutal driving.
 

Maglev

OBS Chief
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Sep 4, 2016
Messages
838
I wonder if a fast ferry service between, say, Port Newark/Elizabeth and Port Canaveral, or Baltimore and Port Canaveral could be a profitable enterprise? There certainly seem to be a lot of overnight ferries in Europe that seem to stay in business.

Even south of Richmond, I-95 can be pretty brutal driving.
I think any water-transport vehicle would be pretty fuel-intensive compared to land transport, especially a fast-ferry compared to rail. Ferries are not at all competitive against highways.

I know that Washington State Ferries is the largest single user of diesel fuel in the state.
 
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MARC Rider

Conductor
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Apr 5, 2011
Messages
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I think any water-transport vehicle would be pretty fuel-intensive compared to land transport, especially a fast-ferry compared to rail. Ferries are not at all competitive against highways.
DFDS manages to run a ferry between Copenhagen and Oslo that stays in business. It's interesting because there's a direct highway connection, including a bridge across the Oresund, so one can drive direct without any ferry crossing at all. The drive takes about 6 1/2 hours (according to Google Maps), the ferry takes 18 or 19 hours. Fares for a car and one passenger in a cabin range from $325 - $400 one way. Without a car, the fares are $40-$70 one way. If I lived there, I'd probably drive (it's sort of like a drive from Baltimore to Cleveland) unless I wanted the cruise experience. But there must be enough people who take it for DFDS to stay in business.
 

Maglev

OBS Chief
Joined
Sep 4, 2016
Messages
838
DFDS manages to run a ferry between Copenhagen and Oslo that stays in business. It's interesting because there's a direct highway connection, including a bridge across the Oresund, so one can drive direct without any ferry crossing at all. The drive takes about 6 1/2 hours (according to Google Maps), the ferry takes 18 or 19 hours. Fares for a car and one passenger in a cabin range from $325 - $400 one way. Without a car, the fares are $40-$70 one way. If I lived there, I'd probably drive (it's sort of like a drive from Baltimore to Cleveland) unless I wanted the cruise experience. But there must be enough people who take it for DFDS to stay in business.
I wonder if it's subsidized?
 
Joined
Mar 10, 2016
Messages
805
I think the Norwegians just don't want to drive through enemy territory...

There's also a ferry to Kiel from Oslo, cuts off the congestion in Göteborg and örestad (Oresund City - Malmö/Copenhagen/etc). I remember driving that route before it was fully motorway in the late 80's - it was an all day drive from Oslo to just south of Copenhagen via the ferry at Hälsingborg.
 

Dakota 400

Conductor
Joined
Mar 5, 2014
Messages
1,526
We were passengers on auto train on February 13 from Lorton to Sanford.

We have taken the train for over 10 years annually now.

With the changes to coach passengers this will probably be our last.

You cannot get tea or coffee without paying and lining up with all the passengers trying to buy their dinner.

The breakfast is now grab and go. All the coach passengers line up, get a box and grab your bagel, cream cheese, cereal, milk, coffee etc.,and go back to your seat.

They have made a pleasant way to get to Florida to a low life experience.
What was your opinion of your dinner and its service, presentation, etc.
 

b243923

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 21, 2010
Messages
47
I forgot to mention there was no food truck at Lorton. I overheard they are not there more than they are.

We did not purchase dinner on the train. We stopped by the supermarket and purchased sandwiches, fruit and drinks for lunch and dinner.

I felt the prices they were charging for microwaved food was not worth the prices they charged.
 

Palmland

OBS Chief
Joined
May 25, 2006
Messages
756
I'm not sure what was the cause of the OP's displeasure with the trip. Coach and sleeper have always had just a continental breakfast (and never has been very good). I would think you could just eat it in the coach CCC rather than take it back to your seat, as he indicated was required. No dinner isn't included anymore but does that alone outweigh the benefit of getting you and your car to Florida at minimal expense? For coach, it's just transportation not necessarily very enjoyable.

I happen to have the Fare Bucket sheet from two years ago and compared it to the one posted on another recent thread. In November 2017 AT low bucket coach fare was $95 and the next highest was $112. The current one posted was $92 and $115. No price gouging there. I would think most coach passengers would bring a cooler with drinks and snacks. The cost of dinner wasn't mentioned but I can't imagine it being more than $20. But as we all know it's part of that silly mandate to eliminate food deficits. Still not a bad deal overall. Better to deal with buying your own dinner than having to pay the much higher sleeper prices :

In November 2017 the low bucket roomette was $152. Now it's $296 even with the expanded capacity capability with an additional sleeper in lieu of the coach dinner and still stay within the 50 car limit. But of course you get a free glass of wine and enhanced product as Amtrak advertises. Hardly worth the 95% fare increase! But, it's still a great way to go if you can afford it. Let's hope Anderson's bean counter approach hasn't killed a very good service. But the economic pain for passengers is skewed more towards the sleeper passengers rather than coach. But in either case I don't think it's 'degrading' to the person, as someone speculated, just really aggravating.

*******************
AUTO TRAIN ENHANCEMENTS

For sleeping car customers: an enhanced experience:
  • More availability of every type of sleeping car accommodation: Roomette, Bedroom, Family Bedroom and Accessible Bedroom
  • Upgraded bedding, towels, linens and other pleasantries added to every room
  • Introduction of a new sleeping car menu for dinner and breakfast
  • The addition of complimentary red or white wine to the dinner service
  • Complimentary meals offered exclusively for sleeping car customers
For Coach customers: a new dining experience and low fares:
  • The debut of the Cross-Country Café for Coach customers offering an expanded café menu, fresh offerings for sale and a festive environment during the trip
  • A complimentary continental breakfast prior to arrival
  • One-way fares as low as $89 + the cost of your vehicle
  • Expanded Share Fares now includes Auto Train on select departures, offering discounted travel up to 45% for small groups
 
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b243923

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 21, 2010
Messages
47
In coach previously you had a diner car and had both sit down dinner and breakfast. You were not treated like you were on a picnic for there grab and go breakfast.

There was coffee, tea, and hot chocolate available day or night.

We are people who do not expect much, but feel the change is not for the good. We will take our return trip back home in a few weeks, but will never purchase another trip. We drive 8 hours to get to the train which includes an overnight hotel. We only took the auto train was to have our car during our 3 week stay in Florida. We will bite the bullet and fly and pay the higher car rental price.
 

cocojacoby

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 13, 2014
Messages
299
Not true.
Not sure what exactly you are disagreeing with here. They have always offered a continental breakfast to all passengers in the diner/lounge (overflow). Warmed bagels, cereals, bananas, juice, coffee, jams, etc.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,259
Not true that they have always had just continental breakfast or not true that it has never been very good?
AFAIK, it has always been Continental breakfast.
I could be very wrong here, a friend of mine who took the auto train regularly complained about the Downgrades to breakfast a few years ago (for sleeping car passengers). I’m not sure on the specifics.

I’m also pretty sure that the pre-superliner auto train served a hot breakfast.
 
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railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
7,551
Thanks for your candid review. That, and what other's have commented, have reinforced my preference to drive all the way between my NY and FL homes.
I might have considered using the A-T, if it was more than just transportation...if it was an "experiential" train, like the original AT was, with entertainment and other niceties enroute.
 

Dakota 400

Conductor
Joined
Mar 5, 2014
Messages
1,526
Thanks for your candid review. That, and what other's have commented, have reinforced my preference to drive all the way between my NY and FL homes.
I might have considered using the A-T, if it was more than just transportation...if it was an "experiential" train, like the original AT was, with entertainment and other niceties enroute.
I think I understand your thinking. I have driven the I-95 route between Washington and Florida more than once. The Auto Train provided, for this patron, "something different" that would get me to where I wanted to go more quickly than driving that route once more. I'm glad I did so.
 

OBS

Conductor
Joined
Nov 9, 2011
Messages
1,550
I could be very wrong here, a friend of mine who took the auto train regularly complained about the Downgrades to breakfast a few years ago (for sleeping car passengers). I’m not sure on the specifics.

I’m also pretty sure that the pre-superliner auto train served a hot breakfast.
I worked the pre superliner A/T... trust me... no hot breakfast, and the continental was poorer quality than what is now served....
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,259
I worked the pre superliner A/T... trust me... no hot breakfast, and the continental was poorer quality than what is now served....
Interesting.... the friend who told me about the downgrade was a retired rail executive. Perhaps it was a downgrade in the continental breakfast though... I just assumed he meant from a hot breakfast.

Also... I’m totally jealous if you got to work in those old full domes!
 

OBS

Conductor
Joined
Nov 9, 2011
Messages
1,550
Interesting.... the friend who told me about the downgrade was a retired rail executive. Perhaps it was a downgrade in the continental breakfast though... I just assumed he meant from a hot breakfast.

Also... I’m totally jealous if you got to work in those old full domes!
Loved the full domes, the 3100 series heritage lounge, the 10-6 and 11 Br sleepers....aahhh the memories...LOL...
 

cocojacoby

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 13, 2014
Messages
299
Road those original Auto-Train domes. Was very impressed with the operation and bought about $1000 worth of AT stock. Lost all my money. Almost cried when I saw pics of them being cut up for scrap.
 

lordsigma

OBS Chief
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
840
Thanks for your candid review. That, and what other's have commented, have reinforced my preference to drive all the way between my NY and FL homes.
I might have considered using the A-T, if it was more than just transportation...if it was an "experiential" train, like the original AT was, with entertainment and other niceties enroute.
It’s all personal preference I guess whether one enjoys the drive.

I guess if the only thing one finds enjoyable about riding trains is the dining car, to me there’s a lot more to enjoy about a train ride and I usually ride sleeper which does still have dinner. But even without meals I’d still use the auto train over the drive any day.
 

RichieRich

Service Attendant
Joined
Dec 2, 2016
Messages
249
... I’d still use the auto train over the drive any day.
Between weather, traffic, accidents, chance of mechanical trouble...if it weren't for the leisurely, stress-free AT, I would never see Florida. P.S. - won't report back on my monthly trips re amenities...will report back when I see them! LOL
 
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