Expected state of Amtrak for the summer and fall travel season (2022)

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Sidney

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
842
Price is the only concern for me. Having done many long distance trips I am finding it harder and harder to justify those sky high roomette prices. Up until two years ago I would do a circle trip every year. Now I take the train one way and fly the other. When senior roomette fares are over $700 on the CS from LA to PDX and over $1000 on the EB from PDX to CHI that's where I draw the line.

In 2019 and 2020 low buckets on the CS and EB were around $400 and $505 from start to finish. Maybe they still are but I am not finding them. The SWC and TE/Sunset still have a few low buckets.

Amtrak continues to push sleeper prices out of range for average Americans. Amtrak describes sleepers as luxury travel. The alternative,sleeping in Coach for three nights ,unless you are young and I have done it,is rough.
 

Eric in East County

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 20, 2016
Messages
403
Location
East San Diego County
In another thread in a different forum, I asked if Amtrak appears to be in better or worse shape (personnel-wise, equipment-wise, website functions-wise, etc.) than it was a year ago. On our trip to Ohio last summer, everything appeared to be operating more or less like it did before COVID appeared. (The trains we traveled on were the Pacific Surfliner (business class) the Southwest Chief (bedroom) and the Capitol Limited (coach) so this might have had something to do with what we observed.) You would think that a year later, things would be even better, although judging from some of the comments that have been posted to this thread, that might not be the case. The cost of a bedroom is certainly higher than it was last year!
 

thully

OBS Chief
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
647
Location
Ann Arbor, MI
Currently looking at booking the Empire Builder this summer as part of a loop trip with the Canadian, and I’m starting to wonder whether I should avoid booking on days the train isn’t currently operating. I know they would try and reaccomodate me if they can’t operate as planned, though I don’t want to run the chance of there being no roomettes on the date I want to rebook to.
 

Arson451

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 21, 2022
Messages
16
Location
Washington D.C.
There will always be some issues hiring the right people, but one thing I think would help is to shorten the whole process. For too many years it has become normal for HR departments hiring process for labor jobs to take forever as if you were selecting people for a PHD program. It should not take weeks and months for candidates to hear back, and then months again in process. You lose too many people that would be good employees that way There also should not be a huge pre-qualification list for entry level jobs. If a candidate is wiling to work, maybe willing to move to a different city even, passes a drug test very early in the process, they should be in on the job training within a short period of time and give it a try in my view.
And most if not all railroad skills and jobs are only learned on the job anyway.
To make the hiring process overly-selective for skills on paper that often cannot be determined beforehand in my view makes it more difficult than it needs to be to get good workers to be willing to start a career with the railroad
I am currently waiting for my conditional offer to become permanent. I started the process back in January for an LSA position. It’s beyond ridiculous that it takes this long to fill spots where people are needed. The adjudication board has had my application for almost 4 weeks and their hang up is a dui I got 7 years ago. Each week they send back another question about it and then wait another week to send a follow up question. My HR liaison is beyond annoyed. I was slated for a 4/11 training start and she won’t know if I’m eligible for the class until 4/7. Also, I don’t know how they expect to give people such short notice when we have jobs and lives already.
 
Joined
Dec 18, 2007
Messages
992
Location
suburban Chicago (Deerfield)
In another thread in a different forum, I asked if Amtrak appears to be in better or worse shape (personnel-wise, equipment-wise, website functions-wise, etc.) than it was a year ago. On our trip to Ohio last summer, everything appeared to be operating more or less like it did before COVID appeared. (The trains we traveled on were the Pacific Surfliner (business class) the Southwest Chief (bedroom) and the Capitol Limited (coach) so this might have had something to do with what we observed.) You would think that a year later, things would be even better, although judging from some of the comments that have been posted to this thread, that might not be the case. The cost of a bedroom is certainly higher than it was last year!
My guess would be two things, one general and one Amtrak-specific.

1) The "Great Resignation" struck the economy after Covid eased up. I think it's more the Great Reshuffle than Resignation -- some people died or retired early, and others understandably took the chance to go up a rank or two, leaving the lower rungs of the economy scrambling for personnel. But nonetheless, it and the logistics tangles took hold not when Covid was at its worst but when it was easing off and people who had income during the worst but less to spend it on felt comfortable spending it again.

In this regard, it reminds me of the post-WWII boom when people paid well in a war economy (war industry workers, others taking jobs left open by millions going into the military) but with little to spend it on during rationing could now, legally and in their own consciences, spend it when the war ended. There are several pop-culture artifacts from the late 1940s (Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, anyone?) of housing shortages, logistics snafus, and price hikes from the increased housing demand slamming into a housing industry that had shrunk atrociously during the Depression and war rationing. I imagine there were other such 2021-seeming logistics issues (cars? radios? home appliances?) that didn't survive into pop-culture consciousness decades later.

1.5) The above manifests in increased Amtrak demand, echoing the general increased travel demand. People were choosing sleepers for safer socially-distanced travel during the worst of Covid, buoying demand and prices during what otherwise would have been a drought of Biblical proportion. But a lot of people weren't traveling in the first place.

Now, as most people feel comfortable traveling again, I'm sure some of the more Covid-cautious people who didn't travel at all during the worst of Covid are dipping their toes in and choosing sleepers, who in years past would've flown but don't feel quite that comfortable yet. I presume that demand is much greater than the "gotta travel, will take a sleeper" travelers of 2020.

2) Amtrak laying off or granting early retirement to repair personnel wouldn't have immediately shrunk the available fleet, it would have taken some time to have its effect. Conversely, its effects will linger as the rehired or new repair workers will first have to attack the backlog of out-of-service cars before returning to the pre-Covid repair rhythm.
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
1,692
Currently looking at booking the Empire Builder this summer as part of a loop trip with the Canadian, and I’m starting to wonder whether I should avoid booking on days the train isn’t currently operating. I know they would try and reaccomodate me if they can’t operate as planned, though I don’t want to run the chance of there being no roomettes on the date I want to rebook to.

I would probably consider that if I were you.
 

toddinde

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 23, 2015
Messages
474
Location
Sierra Vista, AZ
There will always be some issues hiring the right people, but one thing I think would help is to shorten the whole process. For too many years it has become normal for HR departments hiring process for labor jobs to take forever as if you were selecting people for a PHD program. It should not take weeks and months for candidates to hear back, and then months again in process. You lose too many people that would be good employees that way There also should not be a huge pre-qualification list for entry level jobs. If a candidate is wiling to work, maybe willing to move to a different city even, passes a drug test very early in the process, they should be in on the job training within a short period of time and give it a try in my view.
And most if not all railroad skills and jobs are only learned on the job anyway.
To make the hiring process overly-selective for skills on paper that often cannot be determined beforehand in my view makes it more difficult than it needs to be to get good workers to be willing to start a career with the railroad
Correct. Hiring the wrong person is an expensive disaster, but taking too long loses good candidates.
 

amtrakpass

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 21, 2016
Messages
199
My thought is that in the case of employees who are not supervisors, it may be a disaster to let people who are not catching on stay past their 90 day to 6 month or so probation/training period but most new hires actually work out fine at least until they find a better job; and too many prospective employees never get the chance to prove themselves able. Of course the process should be more in depth for supervisor or higher positions but regular workers I feel deserve a quick decision from job posting to hire date.
 

neroden

Engineer
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
9,549
Location
Ithaca, NY
Buzzing on personal time is fine but I do not want a distracted pothead near the controls of a plane, train, ship, or vehicle. It sounds like we need improved methods for preventing debilitative intoxication.
The hair test will test if you were exposed as much as 90 days earlier; it's useless. Even the urine test (2 to 3 days earlier) is essentially useless.

We have to go back to actually testing people's reaction times.
 

neroden

Engineer
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
9,549
Location
Ithaca, NY
2) Amtrak laying off or granting early retirement to repair personnel

This was a spectacularly stupid act of self-sabotage by Stephen Gardner, at whose desk the buck stops. He was warned explicitly not to do it by RPA. This, along with the timetables, is one of the two top reasons I consider him incompetent. And both of these horrific errors affect the NEC just as much as the so-called long-distance trains.
 

trimetbusfan

Train Attendant
Joined
Nov 27, 2021
Messages
73
Location
Portland
🤔 If Amtrak wasn't selling tickets for days outside the present five-day operation, wouldn't that make people nervous that daily service wasn't going to return?!

There is a good chance that they will end up canceling the train. My friend was literally about to book a trip on the silver meteor. He kept monitoring the prices daily. Then one day he checked, and *canceled.*

Not good for the people who were originally booked on that train.
 

joelkfla

Conductor
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
1,909
Location
12 miles from Walt Disney World
My friend was literally about to book a trip on the silver meteor. He kept monitoring the prices daily. Then one day he checked, and *canceled.*

Not good for the people who were originally booked on that train.
They would have been switched to the Silver Star, since the current SuperStar has the same number of coaches & sleepers as the normal Meteor & Star together. Unless they were making a connection, which for almost all cases don't work on the Star,
 

trimetbusfan

Train Attendant
Joined
Nov 27, 2021
Messages
73
Location
Portland
They would have been switched to the Silver Star, since the current SuperStar has the same number of coaches & sleepers as the normal Meteor & Star together. Unless they were making a connection, which for almost all cases don't work on the Star,

They ended up having to cancel because they were making a connection from Boston. Taking the star would have required a very early departure from Boston
 

Michigan Mom

Conductor
Joined
Jan 28, 2012
Messages
1,026
Location
MI
Looking at the current state of LD travel we are not using Amtrak in 2022. If the situation improves we will be back in 2023 but it certainly looks to me that Amtrak is doing everything to kill LD service.

Kind of in agreement, although I'm always going to hold out hope. I don't believe Amtrak is trying to kill LD service. They are marketing the HECK out of it. Have you seen the social media posts with the happy families sharing snacks and playing card games in their Bedroom? No Amtrak isn't going to tell you that this family is among those who can afford to shell out $1-2K for one way travel that doesn't even take into account destination costs. They are selling something that they know has buyers. For many of us old time Amtrak fans, we are reduced to giving out advice and reliving the days when we could afford to do this too. In the meantime, the limited supply is going to those who can afford to avoid flying or driving.
 

Michigan Mom

Conductor
Joined
Jan 28, 2012
Messages
1,026
Location
MI
I don't mean to sound negative. It's an economic reality, though, that I'm getting adjusted to.
There is a silver lining, which is Amtrak Coach, and Corridor trains. Pleasant mode of travel. Quite affordable. Downside is gets less pleasant for overnight. Increased services one day could, conceivably lead to daytime coach travel with hotel overnights that would be a fraction of the sleeper costs...Yet another silver lining, taking on added significance, is the AGR card. For me this may well be the path to future sleeper car trips, far less frequent, but at least attainable once in a blue moon.
 

jebr

Enthusiastic Transit Rider
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"The Last Great City of the East," St. Paul, MN
One thing I noticed today that's concerning - at least on the Empire Builder, the days of the week that currently have no train are now priced at the highest bucket through the end of September (departure date,) both in coach where only the Flexible fare is available, and in sleeper where it appears to be hard-set to the highest bucket. Other days seem to have standard variability based in sold seats, expected demand, etc. - it's just the days of the week that are cancelled through the end of May that are now high-bucket only through the end of September.

I imagine Amtrak would only do this if they feel that there is a decent likelihood that they'll have to cancel the train and reaccommodate people on different days - if you're planning on running the train, you'd let the standard pricing algorithm handle fare management. My guess is that while they don't know for sure yet whether the train will be cancelled, they're pricing it highly so very few people buy tickets, and thus they have fewer people to reaccommodate on a different schedule - plus, since they've paid high bucket, you don't have to worry about fare difference or potentially selling a seat too cheap for the day that it winds up being used on.

I have a trip around the 4th of July where our dates aren't super-changeable (we could leave one day later and skip a planned stop, but that day is also on the chopping block currently) and I've been looking at alternatives - none are very good. Amtrak could rebook us on the Thruway bus + Hiawatha, but that adds a couple of hours to our trip and misses a connection to the regional train we were planning on taking with no later options. We could skip that side trip and just settle on Chicago for the full trip, but even then replacing an 8 hour train ride with an 8 hour bus ride plus an hour and a half train ride is not an enjoyable prospect. Direct bus prospects aren't particularly great (no direct Megabus option, Flixbus only in one direction, and only three Greyhounds at relatively high pricing) and airfares are around double saver fare pricing (and quadruple what we paid with our advance booking.) I'm hoping Amtrak ultimately runs the train both ways as it's by far our best option, but I'm keeping track of our alternatives just in case.
 

Sidney

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
842
One thing I noticed today that's concerning - at least on the Empire Builder, the days of the week that currently have no train are now priced at the highest bucket through the end of September (departure date,) both in coach where only the Flexible fare is available, and in sleeper where it appears to be hard-set to the highest bucket. Other days seem to have standard variability based in sold seats, expected demand, etc. - it's just the days of the week that are cancelled through the end of May that are now high-bucket only through the end of September.

I imagine Amtrak would only do this if they feel that there is a decent likelihood that they'll have to cancel the train and reaccommodate people on different days - if you're planning on running the train, you'd let the standard pricing algorithm handle fare management. My guess is that while they don't know for sure yet whether the train will be cancelled, they're pricing it highly so very few people buy tickets, and thus they have fewer people to reaccommodate on a different schedule - plus, since they've paid high bucket, you don't have to worry about fare difference or potentially selling a seat too cheap for the day that it winds up being used on.

I have a trip around the 4th of July where our dates aren't super-changeable (we could leave one day later and skip a planned stop, but that day is also on the chopping block currently) and I've been looking at alternatives - none are very good. Amtrak could rebook us on the Thruway bus + Hiawatha, but that adds a couple of hours to our trip and misses a connection to the regional train we were planning on taking with no later options. We could skip that side trip and just settle on Chicago for the full trip, but even then replacing an 8 hour train ride with an 8 hour bus ride plus an hour and a half train ride is not an enjoyable prospect. Direct bus prospects aren't particularly great (no direct Megabus option, Flixbus only in one direction, and only three Greyhounds at relatively high pricing) and airfares are around double saver fare pricing (and quadruple what we paid with our advance booking.) I'm hoping Amtrak ultimately runs the train both ways as it's by far our best option, but I'm keeping track of our alternatives just in case.
We are scheduled to be on the Zephyr on a Sunday in July. Sunday is one of the days they are not currently running. I also noticed Coach fares are quite high. Earlier this month I talked to an AGR agent who assured me the Zephyr will be at seven days by Memorial Day. Still skeptical I asked if she could book us one day earlier. She could but the price would have been $500 more. It's coming on mid April. I wish Amtrak would give us a definative answer on the LD trains returning to seven day service. We do not want to be downgraded to Coach. Hope there is a definative answer soon. This is my wife's first time on the Zephyr. I really want her to experience that train and journey from Chicago to Sacramento.
 

west point

Engineer
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Jun 9, 2015
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SW ATL airport
It all about equipment availability. That is can Amtrak get enough cars roadworthy and passenger ready? As well have enough T&E + OBS personnel been revenue qualified?
 

daybeers

Conductor
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Jan 6, 2016
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1,602
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NHV
But they have, just as did with the earlier date. But they reserve the right to change their plans. ;)
Shouldn't need to; they've had more than enough time.

It all about equipment availability. That is can Amtrak get enough cars roadworthy and passenger ready? As well have enough T&E + OBS personnel been revenue qualified?
It's well known the problem starts with the HR department.
 

Pal2Pluto

Train Attendant
Joined
Sep 20, 2021
Messages
40
Location
Pennsylvania
One thing I noticed today that's concerning - at least on the Empire Builder, the days of the week that currently have no train are now priced at the highest bucket through the end of September (departure date,) both in coach where only the Flexible fare is available, and in sleeper where it appears to be hard-set to the highest bucket. Other days seem to have standard variability based in sold seats, expected demand, etc. - it's just the days of the week that are cancelled through the end of May that are now high-bucket only through the end of September.

ok...... I am SO confused and panicking a bit here. We have a cross country trip planned in July where the travel on Amtrak IS the vacation. Most of the time we are coach, but when we are on the EB, we splurged on a roomette, expecting that to be one of the highlights of the trip. I had no idea there were days of the week they sold tickets for but didn't run. What days don't they run??? I certainly don't want to end up on a bus crossing the country!

Where can I find a list of days they currently don't run????
 
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jebr

Enthusiastic Transit Rider
Gathering Team Member
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"The Last Great City of the East," St. Paul, MN
ok...... I am SO confused and panicking a bit here. We have a cross country trip planned in July where the travel on Amtrak IS the vacation. Most of the time we are coach, but when we are on the EB, we splurged on a roomette, expecting that to be one of the highlights of the trip. I had no idea there were days of the week they sold tickets for but didn't run. What days don't they run??? I certainly don't want to end up on a bus crossing the country!

Where can I find a list of days they currently don't run????

Down at the bottom of this page there's a list: Amtrak Timetables | Rail Passengers Association | Washington, DC - note that a couple of the trains (not the Empire Builder) are back to daily service. For the Empire Builder specifically it's departures on Thursday and Friday from their origination point.

Also, the bus in particular is only really relevant for MSP - there's a pre-existing bus connection from MSP to MKE to connect smaller towns in central Wisconsin to the Amtrak network. As far as I'm aware Amtrak isn't running replacement bus service for the long-term cancellations; they'll only offer a bus option if it's already there before the cancellations. (Note that if it's a day-of cancellation due to some sort of unforeseen circumstance they may have a replacement bus then - but not for these long-term cancellations.)
 

joelkfla

Conductor
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Oct 16, 2018
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12 miles from Walt Disney World
I had no idea there were days of the week they sold tickets for but didn't run.
That's not quite the situation.

These trains normally run every day, but, claiming equipment and staffing shortages due to the pandemic, Amtrak reduced the frequency earlier this year to 5 days a week. They had promised to restore daily service in March, but said they still had shortages and didn't do so.

Now they are saying they'll restore daily service on May 21, but people on this board are worrying that they'll push it back again.

So they are not selling tickets for days the train is not scheduled to run. They expect to be running daily by then. It's just that people here don't trust Amtrak to meet that expectation.
 
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