Fares fair?

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Some Amtrivia for all...
Which Amtrak cars contained the first "Economy Bedrooms"?
 
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Goodnight, I'll be back tomorrow with the answer, if no one recalls their story...
 
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johnmiller

Train Attendant
Joined
Sep 30, 2019
Messages
23
Before you start getting too upset at Amtrak sleeper fares, check this out:

Travel by train to destinations around North America on your luxurious private train car - the Chapel Hill Railcar.

I saw this car tacked on to the end of the Silver Meteor as it was roaring through Princeton Junction last week and looked it up to find out more about it.

They will give you a nice 3-day trip between Cincy and DC "starting at $15,000" for "up to 6 people" (4 bedrooms and a sleeper sofa in the observation lounge). I'm sure you don't have to worry about getting served flex meals, either. :) They'll plan your own bespoke rail tour across America to wherever Amtrak lets them, "starting at $6,000 a day." (And you know when they quote prices as "starting at ..." the most common price you'll end up paying is usually a good bit higher.) That means your 4-day trip across the country will be "starting at" $24,000, or $4,000 a person if you manage to get the right combination of couples and singles to fill up the car. It's also not clear if you have to pay to return the car back to base if your final destination isn't Cincinnati.

I also looked up the Royal Canadian Pacific, which will be offering public tours once they decide COVID is over. No prices being quoted yet, but some other stuff on the web suggests that a 4 day trip will be running $8,000.

It certainly makes the $400 Baltimore-Chicago trip I booked on the Lake Shore Limited look like a real bargain, even if I do have to eat Flex Meals. And that price includes business class from Baltimore to New York and a 2 hour layover at the new Metropolitan Lounge at the Moynihan Train Hall in New York.
Probably the ultimate apples-and-oranges analogy. Six people sharing an entire car versus all the people Amtrak fits into one of its cars. The prices will be a BIT different.
 

jloewen

Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 10, 2009
Messages
112
I hear you. I've been doing cross country trips for over thirty years. It's getting to the point where I can't justify sleeper prices. However,there are low buckets of $505 and $530 one person senior roomette fares on the CZ and EB.,even though there aren't too many left.Eastern trains are the worst. Continued flex dining,no sightseer cars,obviously and high prices.
A week ago I booked a trip in Nov. from DC to IND (on the Cardinal), then flying (!) to O'Hare, then CHI to Ann Arbor, then Ann Arbor via TOL back to DC (on the Capital Ltd.) Costs for the two overnites: WAS-IND, $261.40; AA-WAS $270. Then I needed to make a change, converting the outbound to WAS to South Bend on the Capital. That caused an increase of about $140 as I recall. But when I switched to a day earlier, the price went back down. Ironically, on both days I got roomette #2, in the center of the car, probably indicating a demand of zero to that point, but obviously the Fri. departure was still a higher bucket than the Th. departure. Prices still were not bad, tho, no?
For the record, I shall rent a car (Enterprise) at the South Bend station, drive to speaking events in Plymouth and Indianapolis, IN, then wind up in Chicago. I eliminated the flight.
I thought it had been ironic that the only use of an airplane had been the SHORTEST leg of my complex trip. Now it's just "trains and automobile," and oh yes, an Amtrak bus/limo/whatever, from AA down to TOL.
 

Ferroequinologist

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
374
Before you start getting too upset at Amtrak sleeper fares, check this out:

Travel by train to destinations around North America on your luxurious private train car - the Chapel Hill Railcar.

I saw this car tacked on to the end of the Silver Meteor as it was roaring through Princeton Junction last week and looked it up to find out more about it.

They will give you a nice 3-day trip between Cincy and DC "starting at $15,000" for "up to 6 people" (4 bedrooms and a sleeper sofa in the observation lounge). I'm sure you don't have to worry about getting served flex meals, either. :) They'll plan your own bespoke rail tour across America to wherever Amtrak lets them, "starting at $6,000 a day." (And you know when they quote prices as "starting at ..." the most common price you'll end up paying is usually a good bit higher.) That means your 4-day trip across the country will be "starting at" $24,000, or $4,000 a person if you manage to get the right combination of couples and singles to fill up the car. It's also not clear if you have to pay to return the car back to base if your final destination isn't Cincinnati.

I also looked up the Royal Canadian Pacific, which will be offering public tours once they decide COVID is over. No prices being quoted yet, but some other stuff on the web suggests that a 4 day trip will be running $8,000.

It certainly makes the $400 Baltimore-Chicago trip I booked on the Lake Shore Limited look like a real bargain, even if I do have to eat Flex Meals. And that price includes business class from Baltimore to New York and a 2 hour layover at the new Metropolitan Lounge at the Moynihan Train Hall in New York.
I can't see that this is relevant. This is a niche operation serving a tiny group of people and I very much doubt that it can be sustained. Amtrak's mission is not to serve a tiny elite.
 

MARC Rider

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I can't see that this is relevant. This is a niche operation serving a tiny group of people and I very much doubt that it can be sustained. Amtrak's mission is not to serve a tiny elite.
Well, some people think that long-distance premium-class train service is a "niche operation," and not Amtrak's primary mission. Long distance service has been mandated by Congress to provide mobility for rural areas, not focus on luxury-demanding travelers who want to cross the country. You're right that Amtrak's mission is not to serve a tiny elite, and you've just given an argument for Amtrak completely discontinuing sleeper and dining services. :)
 
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MARC Rider

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Probably the ultimate apples-and-oranges analogy. Six people sharing an entire car versus all the people Amtrak fits into one of its cars. The prices will be a BIT different.
Yeah, but Amtrak has to run their cars every day (or every 3 days for some train), and there are days when Amtrak's rooms are empty. The private car only runs when it has customers. So Amtrak's expenses may be just as great.

But the real point is, if you want a railroad sleeper experience, private cars or other luxury operations are the only other alternative (as long as we're stuck in the United States) to Amtrak, and they're a LOT more expensive than even Amtrak high-bucket fares. Do you have any public policy reason why taxpayer money should be used to subsidize premium service for the long-distance trains so the fares can be what you think they should be? The only reason Amtrak runs the premium classes is as a cash cow to cross-subsidize the coach service, which does have a public policy value.
 

Ferroequinologist

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Well, some people think that long-distance premium-class train service is a "niche operation," and not Amtrak's primary mission. Long distance service has been mandated by Congress to provide mobility for rural areas, not focus on luxury-demanding travelers who want to cross the country. You're right that Amtrak's mission is not to serve a tiny elite, and you've just given an argument for Amtrak completely discontinuing sleeper and dining services. :)
I don't think Amtrak's sleeping car service can be considered luxurious - and they have discontinued dining-cars. While it is not Amtrak's mission to run Orient Express style luxury trains, it is not their mission to provide barebones service. Sleeping cars should be more expensive than coach travel but priced within reach of a far larger segment of the population than is the case now.
 

Ferroequinologist

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
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Messages
374
Yeah, but Amtrak has to run their cars every day (or every 3 days for some train), and there are days when Amtrak's rooms are empty. The private car only runs when it has customers. So Amtrak's expenses may be just as great.

But the real point is, if you want a railroad sleeper experience, private cars or other luxury operations are the only other alternative (as long as we're stuck in the United States) to Amtrak, and they're a LOT more expensive than even Amtrak high-bucket fares. Do you have any public policy reason why taxpayer money should be used to subsidize premium service for the long-distance trains so the fares can be what you think they should be? The only reason Amtrak runs the premium classes is as a cash cow to cross-subsidize the coach service, which does have a public policy value.
I suppose it has something to do with what standards can be considered reasonable in a developed nation. There are lots of services that the government provides that are not absolutely critical but that improve the lives of citizens.
 

fdaley

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Jan 25, 2020
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Long distance service has been mandated by Congress to provide mobility for rural areas, not focus on luxury-demanding travelers who want to cross the country.
Who's demanding luxury? Edible food that's put on a plate, rather than served in its freezer tub, is not luxury. Amtrak's threadbare blue blankets are not luxury. We are a long, long way from luxury.
 

MARC Rider

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Who's demanding luxury? Edible food that's put on a plate, rather than served in its freezer tub, is not luxury. Amtrak's threadbare blue blankets are not luxury. We are a long, long way from luxury.
1. The food, while it could be better, is perfectly edible.
2. By serving food in its original packaging, they're able to cut back on staff, and thus improve the bottom line. And it doesn't make any difference to the diner, unless they're picky and insist on white glove service, in which case, try the Rocky Mountaineer for multiple times the price, and it doesn't have sleeping cars. OK, maybe also the Alaska Railroad, they have traditional dining cars, too, but they don't have sleepers, and you need an 8 hour flight to get to Alaska in the first place (unless you live there.)
3. The blankets, while a bit old, are not "threadbare." They keep me perfectly worn. More importantly, the sheets are always fresh.

The main point is that people are filling up the sleepers at the current service level at the current (high) fares. The only alternative to Amtrak for an overnight rail experience until foreign travel becomes practical again is a luxury rail tour costing far more money and which doesn't go to as many places as Amtrak does.
 

MARC Rider

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I suppose it has something to do with what standards can be considered reasonable in a developed nation. There are lots of services that the government provides that are not absolutely critical but that improve the lives of citizens.
Some people might argue about the United States being a "developed nation." :) (Well, at least some people might argue that we've been a banana republic since at least 2017, and we've been showing banana republic dysfunctions for at least 20 years before that.)

But then again, in undeveloped nations, real banana republics, the transport system for the elite can have very high service standards for relatively low fares. That's because the workers, of course, are poorly paid, and, in any event, the service is really only for the elite and a few well-off tourists.

Amtrak sleeper service is really a niche market. And the experience is more about riding the train, not having your whims catered to by a servant. In some ways, we should curse George Pullman for his business model of trying to make the ride in his sleeping cars the equivalent of a stay in a grand hotel. He was able to pull it off because he had lots of newly freed slaves available who were willing to work for peanuts and knew how to be docile.
 

Devil's Advocate

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The main point is that people are filling up the sleepers at the current service level at the current (high) fares. The only alternative to Amtrak for an overnight rail experience until foreign travel becomes practical again is a luxury rail tour costing far more money and which doesn't go to as many places as Amtrak does.
Depending on the train up to half of the sleeper rooms are apparently filled/blocked by Amtrak staff rather than customers and there are several US airlines ready to take every sleeper customer Amtrak is willing to lose over this. The people I feel bad for are the folks who cannot fly or drive and are stuck with Amtrak no matter what they do.

Amtrak sleeper service is really a niche market. And the experience is more about riding the train, not having your whims catered to by a servant. In some ways, we should curse George Pullman for his business model of trying to make the ride in his sleeping cars the equivalent of a stay in a grand hotel. He was able to pull it off because he had lots of newly freed slaves available who were willing to work for peanuts and knew how to be docile.
Your repeated attempts to shame people for wanting better service are getting old.
 

jimdex

Train Attendant
Joined
Feb 19, 2020
Messages
56
Yes sleeper fares can be crazy high. Either they will keep selling at the current prices, will create new first class air travelers from long time loyal Amtrak travelers (who will fly fraction of the sleeper price) , or it may collapse the LD service. Where is the comment from the Rail Passengers Association on their take on this?
Either demand for sleeper space will remain high, in which case Amtrak -- which needs every penny it can get -- will have no incentive to lower the fares. Or demand for sleeper space will fall, forcing Amtrak to lower sleeper fares. My bet would be that demand will fall as we get into the post-Covid era, and travelers regain confidence in flying or riding in coaches.
 

Sidney

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
580
1. The food, while it could be better, is perfectly edible.
2. By serving food in its original packaging, they're able to cut back on staff, and thus improve the bottom line. And it doesn't make any difference to the diner, unless they're picky and insist on white glove service, in which case, try the Rocky Mountaineer for multiple times the price, and it doesn't have sleeping cars. OK, maybe also the Alaska Railroad, they have traditional dining cars, too, but they don't have sleepers, and you need an 8 hour flight to get to Alaska in the first place (unless you live there.)
3. The blankets, while a bit old, are not "threadbare." They keep me perfectly worn. More importantly, the sheets are always fresh.

The main point is that people are filling up the sleepers at the current service level at the current (high) fares. The only alternative to Amtrak for an overnight rail experience until foreign travel becomes practical again is a luxury rail tour costing far more money and which doesn't go to as many places as Amtrak does.
Your #1 point..the food is barely adequate at best. Traditional dining is supposed to return July 1 hopefully. After that the point will be moot. Sadly it is only the Western trains. All of the Eastern trains are stuck with it. At the price people are paying for sleepers the food should be better with options for sandwiches and healthier options.

I just got off the Texas Eagle. I was on since Friday night. I never want to see a flex meal again. I had a hamsteak and eggs at Phlllipes in LA. Compared to what I was being served on the train,this felt like a five star gourmet .meal





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fdaley

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
314
1. The food, while it could be better, is perfectly edible.
2. By serving food in its original packaging, they're able to cut back on staff, and thus improve the bottom line. And it doesn't make any difference to the diner, unless they're picky and insist on white glove service, in which case, try the Rocky Mountaineer for multiple times the price, and it doesn't have sleeping cars. OK, maybe also the Alaska Railroad, they have traditional dining cars, too, but they don't have sleepers, and you need an 8 hour flight to get to Alaska in the first place (unless you live there.)
3. The blankets, while a bit old, are not "threadbare." They keep me perfectly worn. More importantly, the sheets are always fresh.

The main point is that people are filling up the sleepers at the current service level at the current (high) fares. The only alternative to Amtrak for an overnight rail experience until foreign travel becomes practical again is a luxury rail tour costing far more money and which doesn't go to as many places as Amtrak does.
I don't think that by wanting something better than what Amtrak is now offering, I'm "insisting on white glove service." And I cannot recall ever receiving "white glove service" in 40-plus years of riding Amtrak LD trains. If people are filling up the sleepers at Amtrak's current pricing and service levels, more power to them. Certainly on the routes with flex "dining," I no longer see value for price paid and have no desire to ride. I'd rather drive, fly or stay home. If traditional dining returns to the western trains, I'll probably ride them, though less often than in the past, because of the hassle of figuring out how to get from the Northeast to Chicago first.

Nearly all of my rail travel is ultimately to get from A to B, albeit sometimes by roundabout routing, so I am unlikely to take the Rocky Mountaineer or Alaska Railroad just for the experience. I've ridden Via Rail's Canadian and Ocean many times, and found both to be far superior to any Amtrak service even before Amtrak's recent downgrades, so I'll surely use them again whenever the border reopens.
 

fdaley

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
314
Amtrak sleeper service is really a niche market. And the experience is more about riding the train, not having your whims catered to by a servant. In some ways, we should curse George Pullman for his business model of trying to make the ride in his sleeping cars the equivalent of a stay in a grand hotel.
And I don't think that expecting to be treated decently at a restaurant, hotel or other hospitality business is the same as expecting to "have your whims catered to by a servant." Like it or not, Amtrak is in the hospitality industry as well as the transportation business.
 

AMTRAK709

Train Attendant
Joined
May 6, 2021
Messages
39
Location
Columbus, GA
I decided that I would throw my "2 cents worth" in the this discussion of outrageous sleeping car fares.
An intense railfan my entire 73 years of life; logged about 300,000 miles on the rails since the 1960's; and a strong supporter
of Amtrak for 50 years (it is the only rail we've got). My preference has already been a sleeping car bedroom. My initial shock was pricing a bedroom ATN-NYP-ATN just to ride and to see the new Moynihan Train Hall in New York ($2100 round trip) I did book and buy a roomette at $792.20 round trip for June 2021 (low bucket fare I think with senior discount).
REAL SHOCK VALUE: Had always wanted to be on the train Christmas Day so on 24 December 2015, my wife and I boarded the Empire Builder CHI-SEA. My wife and I had a bedroom SUITE (booked D and E). The ticket was $1,218.00. I priced that trip "if we should have wanted to go THIS Christmas" and it priced at: $4,628.00.
I am not sure what the point of all this may be but I post this just for discussion. Even as much as I love being on the trains, would NOT pay $4000+ under any circumstances.
 

Sidney

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
580
There are many schools of thought on these outrageous sleeper prices. Some say Amtrak should charge as much as someone would pay. If that means $4000 r/t ,so be it. Others,including myself think Amtrak is pricing sleepers out of the comfort range of average people. When I see roomettes already priced at well over $1000 on the SW Chief for next April,my first thought is how can these be booked that much so far in advance?

I have been riding Amtrak for over three decades taking cross country and circle trips every year. If the prices remain this high,I just won't go. I am sure many people here agree with me.
 
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