Covid will dictate the future

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Ferroequinologist

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This morning's Wall Street Journal includes an article on the likelihood that Covid-19 is becoming endemic, i.e. that it may be here indefinitely. The New York Times this morning writes about the British variant of the virus which is rapidly spreading in the US. Meanwhile last week there were many reports that the vaccines may not prevent transmission. All of this points to the likelihood that social distancing and masks are permanent. What does this mean for Amtrak? First of all, it seems realistic to conclude that the dining-car will never return. Even before Covid there were reports of passengers, especially younger ones, who did not like sitting with strangers. That aside, the reality now is that it is unsafe to do so and may remain so for a very long time, possibly forever. It seems much more likely that Amtrak will have to focus on improving food quality both in cafe cars which will provide take out service and for 1st class passengers who will be served in their rooms. Another factor that will need to be addressed is that of shared toilets. If anything has improved in recent decades, it is in the standard of bathroom amenities. Both homes and hotels now emphasize comfortable and well equipped bathrooms. People have come to expect a high standard. This makes the use of shared toilets for long distance passengers all the less acceptable. Amtrak will need to reconfigure its next sleeping car order to include in room toilets, preferably en suite (enclosed in a separate room as in existing Bedrooms). With Covid and its variants likely to be around for decades, if not forever, Amtrak will have to incorporate health safety measures into the design of its equipment and service model. What do readers of this website think? How do they think Amtrak should adapt to the changing social conditions Covid has created?
 

AmtrakBlue

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Hmm, you're saying sleepers pax should have the PRIVILEGE of not having to use a shared bathroom, but what is your suggestion for coach pax?

I personally don't think bathrooms are unsafe. It's not like I'm within 6 foot of someone talking.
 

IndyLions

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A couple of things. First, while Covid may be here to stay - how deadly will it be after the vaccination? If the vaccines and boosters don’t stop the spread - but the mortality rate goes down by a couple of orders of magnitude - society will go back to “normal”. Then it truly will be like the flu.

Secondly, I have no doubt that restaurants and public restrooms are not going away, even if Covid continues to be a factor. As it pertains to Amtrak - I could see some people wanting private restrooms and/or eat in their room - but those options already existed pre-Covid.

The factors that cause people to accept public restrooms (lower cost) and to want to eat in a dining car (better food & the experience) will also continue. If diners go away, it will be cost-based - not because of Covid.
 

Ferroequinologist

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A couple of things. First, while Covid may be here to stay - how deadly will it be after the vaccination? If the vaccines and boosters don’t stop the spread - but the mortality rate goes down by a couple of orders of magnitude - society will go back to “normal”. Then it truly will be like the flu.

Secondly, I have no doubt that restaurants and public restrooms are not going away, even if Covid continues to be a factor. As it pertains to Amtrak - I could see some people wanting private restrooms and/or eat in their room - but those options already existed pre-Covid.

The factors that cause people to accept public restrooms (lower cost) and to want to eat in a dining car (better food & the experience) will also continue. If diners go away, it will be cost-based - not because of Covid.
Restaurants on the ground won't go away but they will have to continue distancing if these reports prove true. There isn't a way of distancing people in the dining-car. For a variety of reasons I think the dining-car is finished. New trains are going to be needed. This will be the time to redesign sleepers to include en suite bathrooms. The old Roomettes accommodated one, not two people, and at least had a toilet and sink. Current Roomettes are far too small for two. It's an unacceptable design. It would be a mistake to repeat it, especially with the likelihood of a virus that lasts for many years in one form or another.
 

jis

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AmtrakBlue

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They are able to social distance in the diners. They just won’t be able to seat a lot of people for each time slot.
I ate in the CZ diner last fall. I had the table to myself. No one was seated at the tables next to mine nor at the table across from me. A couple was at a table across diagonally from me. Singles, like myself, were at the other tables.
 

Mailliw

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I refused to travel in Viewliner I roomettes because of the toilet issue and Bedrooms are ridiculously unaffordable for solo travelers. I'm looking forward to the Viewliner IIs. Sleeping cars are expensive enought as is; increasing the the size of all accommodation to include ensuite facilities is unnecessary and likely to increase fares further out of reach for Millennials and Post-Millennials. Dining with strangers isn't what kept younger travelers out of dining cars; it was the high prices.
 

Dakota 400

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This morning's Wall Street Journal includes an article on the likelihood that Covid-19 is becoming endemic, i.e. that it may be here indefinitely. The New York Times this morning writes about the British variant of the virus which is rapidly spreading in the US.
Will Covid be like the flu, polio, measles, etc. and be with us forever? Yes, I can accept that and just like other diseases we will find a way of living with it. The Flu virus mutates yearly, it seems, and our scientists find a way to make a vaccine that helps to fight this new variant. Sometimes, more successfully than other times.

We need to get Covid under control before we will be able to comfortably begin to learn to live with this. The vaccines and following the recommended safety proposals ought to get us to that point. Hopefully, before the 2022 New Year's Baby is on the horizon.

I envision the need to get a yearly Covid vaccine shot as well as my usual yearly flu shot.

I hope that the need to wear masks and be socially distanced will no longer be required.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Another factor that will need to be addressed is that of shared toilets.
I've yet to see anything that indicates secondary surface contact is a significant issue with this pandemic. Conversely I've seen lots of evidence that aerosolized transmission remains the primary transmission vector.

If anything has improved in recent decades, it is in the standard of bathroom amenities. Both homes and hotels now emphasize comfortable and well equipped bathrooms. People have come to expect a high standard.
Long before the pandemic most hotels I visited were removing and downgrading bathroom amenities (like quality bar soap) and replacing them with low quality crap (like neon "bodywash" goop).

This makes the use of shared toilets for long distance passengers all the less acceptable. Amtrak will need to reconfigure its next sleeping car order to include in room toilets, preferably en suite (enclosed in a separate room as in existing Bedrooms).
At best around half of our members seem to want toilets inside their room. The other half do not want restrooms in our sleeping compartments. I'm not sure how many times this has to be repeated but I guess we're not done yet.
 
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FrensicPic

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They are able to social distance in the diners. They just won’t be able to seat a lot of people for each time slot.
I ate in the CZ diner last fall. I had the table to myself. No one was seated at the tables next to mine nor at the table across from me. A couple was at a table across diagonally from me. Singles, like myself, were at the other tables.
Last fall on the Coast Starlight, California Zephyr and Empire Builder, diners were as you described. We all of our meals in the diner (instead of in our room) on those trains and felt safe doing so with the distancing. Tables were cleaned/sanitized after every use. Diners are open on most trains.
 

Ferroequinologist

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I've yet to see anything that indicates secondary surface contact is a significant issue with this pandemic. Conversely I've seen lots of evidence that aerosolized transmission remains the primary transmission vector.


Long before the pandemic most hotels I visited were removing and downgrading bathroom amenities (like quality bar soap) and replacing them with low quality crap (like neon "bodywash" goop).


At best around half of our members seem to want toilets inside their room. The other half do not want restrooms in our sleeping compartments. I'm not sure how many times this has to be repeated but I guess we're not done yet.

Isn't the issue what the general public want, not just rail fans? I disagree that standards of hygiene have dropped. Hotels have far more luxurious bathrooms than they have ever had. Some hotels have reduced moisturizers and that sort of thing but bathrooms remain a million times better than they were a few decades ago. Public bathrooms: the virus lingers in the air, hence small unventilated public toilets on trains are highly risky.
 

Mailliw

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Just be clear I have no problem with ensuite facilities as long as it's own cubicle with a door. Otherwise I'm fine with saving money with shared facilities. If half of passengers want ensuites and half don't then the logical thing to do would offer compartments both with and without them and let passengers choose.
 

Mailliw

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I meant something more along the lines how the Superliners and Viewliner IIs offer a choice between ensuite Bedrooms and cheaper Roomettes with shared facilities.
 
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flitcraft

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COVID may very well be here indefinitely, but how it is experienced will depend on how our governments and societies deal with it. Mutations are a problem that turns on the number of infections--every new infection is an opportunity for a mutation. This is why it is critical that vaccines be provided to all countries, whether they can afford them or not. Anywhere the virus runs rampant is a mutation-situs waiting to happen.

If and when people realize that vaccines are the key to something like normal life returning, I am optimistic that we can drive infection rates down to the point where mutations are less of a problem. In the meantime, we have to be vigilant about avoiding spread--wear a mask today so you don't have to wear a mask forever.
 

Mailliw

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Given everything I've seen over the past year I'm very pessimistic about Americans' ability to maintain restrictions like social distancing or mask wearing long term. If things are mostly back to normal by the end of the year it's going to become impossible to enforce any restrictions and politics and tribalism will get even worse.
 

LookingGlassTie

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I think that once COVID-19 becomes endemic, a lot more people will want to return to normal, because at that point we will (or should) learn to live with that particular coronavirus and manage it pretty much the same way as other viruses. I will say though that there will probably be many holdouts in terms of social distancing, masks, etc.

As for me, I want to live with the COVID-19 coronavirus and manage it as I would other coronaviruses (such as those which cause the common cold).

If I happen to ride on Amtrak while its mask policy is still in force, I will abide by that. However, I will otherwise treat my train trip as I normally would.
 

Barb Stout

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Even when the pandemic is pacified, I believe I will continue to wear masks a lot when I'm out because I found mask-wearing to have other benefits, some unexpected, including
1) less allergies
2) I haven't gotten any kind of infectious illness this year. Along the same lines
3) I'm hearing that the flu season has been almost non-existent so far
4) Less exhaustion and nausea during/after exercise. Elaboration: For some reason, when I'm breathing hard as in exercising (walking is my current exercise) or out in a breeze, I will frequently get nauseous and totally exhausted and it takes the rest of the day to recover. I believe that's because some of the excess air that I'm breathing in gets into my GI tract and gets it agitated. I'm not really sure if that's the reason, but when I wear a mask, I haven't gotten nauseous and I experience less exhaustion while out walking. I totally did not expect that. I expected to be more exhausted after exercising while wearing a mask, but the opposite occurred.
5) Wearing a mask cuts down on detection of any bad smells (unless the bad smells are emanating from my mouth) that might be in the area.
 

20th Century Rider

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Even when the pandemic is pacified, I believe I will continue to wear masks a lot when I'm out because I found mask-wearing to have other benefits, some unexpected, including
1) less allergies
2) I haven't gotten any kind of infectious illness this year. Along the same lines
3) I'm hearing that the flu season has been almost non-existent so far
4) Less exhaustion and nausea during/after exercise. Elaboration: For some reason, when I'm breathing hard as in exercising (walking is my current exercise) or out in a breeze, I will frequently get nauseous and totally exhausted and it takes the rest of the day to recover. I believe that's because some of the excess air that I'm breathing in gets into my GI tract and gets it agitated. I'm not really sure if that's the reason, but when I wear a mask, I haven't gotten nauseous and I experience less exhaustion while out walking. I totally did not expect that. I expected to be more exhausted after exercising while wearing a mask, but the opposite occurred.
5) Wearing a mask cuts down on detection of any bad smells (unless the bad smells are emanating from my mouth) that might be in the area.
I've been double masking recently... and began mask wearing 10 months ago. I also got a flu shot. What has been real for me... other than getting used to masking... no colds and no flu for this year... which has been a problem in the past.

There are clearly benefits to wearing masks in addition to protection against COVID, which is now estimated to become endemic.

Am hoping new technologies will bring masks that are more comfortable, more effective, and easier to wear. BTW... it does infuriate me when I see people in crowded place not wearing masks... very selfish and inconsiderate!!!

Please everyone... be considerate and wear a mask!

How-to-wear-a-mask.jpg
 

Ziv

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Barb, your comment made me laugh at myself. I have been shortening my time between dental teeth cleanings from 6 months to 4 months and I really ought to invest in Listerine because I have become WAY MORE conscientious about good dental hygiene of late! LOL!
One minor upside of mask wearing!

...
5) Wearing a mask cuts down on detection of any bad smells (unless the bad smells are emanating from my mouth) that might be in the area.
 

Barb Stout

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Barb, your comment made me laugh at myself. I have been shortening my time between dental teeth cleanings from 6 months to 4 months and I really ought to invest in Listerine because I have become WAY MORE conscientious about good dental hygiene of late! LOL!
One minor upside of mask wearing!
Yep, mask mouth smell is a great motivator for me to brush and so forth after every meal or non-water drink.
 
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20th Century Rider

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COVID may very well be here indefinitely, but how it is experienced will depend on how our governments and societies deal with it. Mutations are a problem that turns on the number of infections--every new infection is an opportunity for a mutation. This is why it is critical that vaccines be provided to all countries, whether they can afford them or not. Anywhere the virus runs rampant is a mutation-situs waiting to happen.

If and when people realize that vaccines are the key to something like normal life returning, I am optimistic that we can drive infection rates down to the point where mutations are less of a problem. In the meantime, we have to be vigilant about avoiding spread--wear a mask today so you don't have to wear a mask forever.
Even when the pandemic is pacified, I believe I will continue to wear masks a lot when I'm out because I found mask-wearing to have other benefits, some unexpected, including
1) less allergies
2) I haven't gotten any kind of infectious illness this year. Along the same lines
3) I'm hearing that the flu season has been almost non-existent so far
4) Less exhaustion and nausea during/after exercise. Elaboration: For some reason, when I'm breathing hard as in exercising (walking is my current exercise) or out in a breeze, I will frequently get nauseous and totally exhausted and it takes the rest of the day to recover. I believe that's because some of the excess air that I'm breathing in gets into my GI tract and gets it agitated. I'm not really sure if that's the reason, but when I wear a mask, I haven't gotten nauseous and I experience less exhaustion while out walking. I totally did not expect that. I expected to be more exhausted after exercising while wearing a mask, but the opposite occurred.
5) Wearing a mask cuts down on detection of any bad smells (unless the bad smells are emanating from my mouth) that might be in the area.
Some take aways from this immense COVID tragedy...

Mask wearing may become more commonplace with technologies innovating more comfortable and effective facial protections in an ever more populous world.

Restaurants will maintain some kind of see through dividers that prevent the spread of bacteria when someone sneezes or is talking when chewing... which has always been annoying!

Picture and sound platforms that connect people was available before COVID, but may gain in favor as a way of avoiding travel to business meetings.

I believe that passenger trains and planes will permanently upgrade health protocols... remembering the bad bad case of flu I got after traversing the country from Oregon to Maine two years ago.. being so sick that I stayed in my hotel room trying to recover, before getting on the train for the 5 day trip back.

Only time will tell! :rolleyes:
 

Devil's Advocate

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Isn't the issue what the general public want, not just rail fans?
I can only go by what people tell us they want and what Amtrak does with limited funds. Apparently the in-room toilet is not as big of a deal as previously assumed. That said, if you have evidence that most of the general public needs in-room toilets and that improved ventilation and cleaning would be insufficient to keep them safe then post it here.

I disagree that standards of hygiene have dropped. Hotels have far more luxurious bathrooms than they have ever had. Some hotels have reduced moisturizers and that sort of thing but bathrooms remain a million times better than they were a few decades ago.
What standards and which hotels are you talking about? Over the last few decades I've visited around 70 brands across hundreds of locations but I have not seen the "million times better" improvement you have.
 
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20th Century Rider

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Mask wearing is here to stay... that is... double masking is here to stay... even after you get the vaccine.

No... it's not my personal opinion... it's what the doctors are telling us to do!

Reality is not only a pleasant topic. :rolleyes:


 
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