Ideas for Amtrak to raise revenue

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TheCrescent

Lead Service Attendant
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Jun 24, 2020
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How about running significantly longer trains?

So much of a railroad’s expenses are overhead that freight railroads, and Amtrak with the Auto-Train, do well by running long trains. As long as the revenues from adding an additional car to a train are $0.01 or more huger than the added expenses, it’s pure profit.

Amtrak ought to be leasing as many cars as it can find, adding them to trains, and marketing them heavily, at a range of price points.

Adding former commuter train cars to its trains, as an inexpensive third class? Sure, airlines call it “Basic Economy” and the like.

Adding European couchette cars (if regulators will allow it)? Sure.

Adding Iowa Pacific’s vintage cars, spare Via cars, etc.? Sure.

Add as many cars as two locomotives on a long-distance train can haul!
 

zephyr17

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The really simple answer is running more trains with more cars.

In June of 2021, Amtrak lost ~$836,200,000 providing ~1,665,300,000 passenger miles, or a loss of ~$0.502 per passenger mile.
In June of 2022, Amtrak lost ~$724,500,000 providing ~3,381,000,000 passenger miles, or a loss of ~$0.214 per passenger mile.

Really running more trains on existing lines and/or increasing capacity on existing trains will help with this. Of course we all know there are equipment shortages, but if amtrak had the equipment this would be the best way to go.
 

west point

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Jun 9, 2015
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SW ATL airport
Really running more trains on existing lines and/or increasing capacity on existing trains will help with this. Of course we all know there are equipment shortages, but if amtrak had the equipment this would be the best way to go.
The links tothe PRIIA studies are no longer available. However the report of the Meteor said that adding one additional coach to its consist would increase revene over expenses greater than ~ $800.000 as best as I remember. The implied statememt was that that number would be for each added coach. Cannot remember if sleepers were listed but the much higher relative sleeper fares ----???.... Same report had Crescent but have no recall.
 

Northwestern

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Jan 3, 2022
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191
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Santa Rosa
I think the way Amtrak can raise revenue is for Amtrak to really want to raise revenue. I recently took an Amtrak survey, after a trip on the Coast Starlight in July, which seemed to only cover questions regarding on-time performance and a few mechanical and other problems with onboard services. I really would have liked to have seen a "fill in" field where you could list complaints and make suggestions for improvements and new services. Amtrak seems to want to "pop the hood" and fix problems, but doesn't seem to want to hear why new services and amenities are needed to take their trains into the 21st Century. How about a 2nd all-Pullman train, on a given LD route, with first class amenities and with limited stops.

For onboard services, a "foot court" car would be nice. Have it serve healthy food such as sandwiches, soup, and salads. Add some less healthy fast food such as pizzas, hamburgers, and Starbucks (or Peets, Dunkin, and Tim Horton for Canadian passengers). Baskin-Robbins for an ice cream cone. All could enhance revenue.

It seems like Amtrak needs to return to the days of Graham Claytor and Brian Rosenwald. Yes, tend to the bottom line but don't neglect the revenue enhancing services. I know of no corporation, industry, or business that can be successful if it doesn't offer a service or product that the public wants. But, maybe Amtrak thinks it's the exception.
 

jis

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Add business class on all LD trains (will require additional equipment, perhaps in the near future refurbishing the Amfleets replaced by the Ventures on routes through NYP and converting the CL and the CONO to single level equipment, freeing up Superliners.
There are not enough single level Viewliner Diners and Amfleet II Lounges to be able to do that conversion reliably.

Assuming that the conversions are carried out the Diner and Lounge allocations would be (assuming all trains other than the Card carry both a Diner and a Lounge) 12 of each required for SS, SM, Crescent. 9 for LSL, CL, CONO. And 2 Lounges for the Card. That is 21 Diners and 23 Lounges. 25 Diners and 24 Lounges available. So not enough margin for PM/BO and Protect.

I guess most do not realise that the current single level LD fleet is rather precisely sized for running the current single level LD trains reliably and well equipped and not much else.
 
Last edited:

rs9

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Dec 26, 2021
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There are not enough single level Viewliner Diners and Amfleet II Lounges to be able to do that conversion reliably.

Assuming that the conversions are carried out the Diner and Lounge allocations would be (assuming all trains other than the Card carry both a Diner and a Lounge) 12 of each required for SS, SM, Crescent. 9 for LSL, CL, CONO. And 2 Lounges for the Card. That is 21 Diners and 23 Lounges. 25 Diners and 24 Lounges available. So not enough margin for PM/BO and Protect.

I guess most do not realise that the current single level LD fleet is rather precisely sized for running the current single level LD trains reliably and well equipped and not much else.
I think the business class question is multi-faceted:

- On the existing single-level East Coast trains, a reasonable criticism is that the half BC/half cafe car does not provide enough lounge space for the train. The question becomes, would it be financially feasible for Amtrak to run both a full lounge car and a half BC/half cafe car. The BC car doesn't need to have its cafe staffed and could provide additional lounge space. Theoretically, the Venture BC cars coming online at some point in the future should create a lot of slack for the half BC/half cafe cars.

- Amtrak could, however, choose to be creative with its business class offerings. A regular coach car with designated 1 x 2 seating, properly placed in the consist so there will be limited walk-through traffic, would be a win-win for everybody. It would require no special equipment to maintain, would increase business class seats that could be sold and would create a differentiated product for solo travelers beyond expensive roomettes. Of course, there would need to be a bit of capacity in the coach car fleets to make this happen. The math on this works - with previous LSL business class, fares were 60% higher or so for business class. 75% capacity in a car with a 60% fare increase still comes out as a revenue increase over a full coach.
 

John819

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I think the business class question is multi-faceted:

- On the existing single-level East Coast trains, a reasonable criticism is that the half BC/half cafe car does not provide enough lounge space for the train. The question becomes, would it be financially feasible for Amtrak to run both a full lounge car and a half BC/half cafe car. The BC car doesn't need to have its cafe staffed and could provide additional lounge space. Theoretically, the Venture BC cars coming online at some point in the future should create a lot of slack for the half BC/half cafe cars.

- Amtrak could, however, choose to be creative with its business class offerings. A regular coach car with designated 1 x 2 seating, properly placed in the consist so there will be limited walk-through traffic, would be a win-win for everybody. It would require no special equipment to maintain, would increase business class seats that could be sold and would create a differentiated product for solo travelers beyond expensive roomettes. Of course, there would need to be a bit of capacity in the coach car fleets to make this happen. The math on this works - with previous LSL business class, fares were 60% higher or so for business class. 75% capacity in a car with a 60% fare increase still comes out as a revenue increase over a full coach.
Agree. And when the new NEC cars come into service there will be an opportunity to repurpose the existing Amfleet cars to add to LD trains. Of course, the real solution will come when Amtrak finally announces the new LD cars to replace the Superliners (probably single level).
 

zephyr17

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Maybe they should find a way to get rid of that 750 mile rule. Amtrak can add additional service without needing the states to fund it.
The way is for Congress to change the law, since it is part of the PRIIA act and is a law.

I am sure Amtrak management wants that, too. They much prefer corridors. Their Connect US proposal contains a dodge around it. That dodge being that Amtrak will help states apply for Federal grants that the states use to fund start up costs and the first few years of service. Obviously with the intent that once service is there, states will pay for it to continue. Sort of a drug pusher strategy, the first taste is free.
 

marcoloco

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Houston, TX
Before COVID hit, Amtrak was in good financial shape. The way they look at it, is what percent of the total cost of running amtrak, does Amtrak actually bring in. In one of their better years, I recall it was 90 percent which met the Federal Government just had to subsidize Amtrak very little. Since Covid hit, things went haywire, people stopped traveling, some trains were even cut to 3 days a week, which never happened before. So now that people are getting back to normal, it will be awhile before we get back to where we were (the 90%). Keep in mind Amtrak is a beauracracy and slow to adapt to reality and how much Amtrak pays the host railroads is something we don't know anything about (can the raise it, how to they figure it? etc.On most trains, Amtrak is still not letting coach passengers eat in the dining car. Amtrak is still, right now, in the COVID days
 

fredmcain

Service Attendant
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Sep 20, 2017
Messages
198
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Northeastern Indiana
I have long felt that as far as L.D. trains go, running head-end equipment carrying pre-sorted mail would help out a lot. I have always felt that Graham Claytor Jr. was on the right track with that.

Then later, Thomas Downs came in and by cutting most of the LD trains to less than daily operation, he lost most if not all of that business. I have always believed that was a mistake.

Later, that guy Ellis, or whatever his name was, (can't remember right now) tried to diversify into mail, package and light freight. But he made some mistakes. For one thing, he didn't make it completely clear to the freight roads what he intended to do and somehow stepped on their toes just a bit. Also, he bought a lot of new boxcars but failed to pay to have the necessary cables installed to deliver power to the passenger cars from the head end. So, the boxcars had to be placed at the back of the train and added on after the train left the station resulting in delays.

I have always felt that any mistakes Ellis had made could have been addressed and the head-end business model improved upon but instead, they "through the baby out with the bath water" and got rid of the mail and express business altogether.

I really wish Amtrak management would take another look at this but, unfortunately, they'd probably have to buy new equipment to carry mail with. If that ever happens, I hope they go the extra mile and install head end power cables this time.

Prior to Amtrak taking over in 1971, many passenger trains carried mail and express in equipment at the head end of the train. Growing up in the 1960s, I remember this well.

I also strongly agree with what others have posted in this thread that a great way to raise revenue is to have more trains that go more places, more often. Could carrying mail make a difference as well?
 

TheCrescent

Lead Service Attendant
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Jun 24, 2020
Messages
472
Amtrak ought to get employees to be nicer and more positive.

I’m on a train now, and when boarding and when having my ticket scanned, and when the crew made announcements upon departure, it’s all been borderline hostile, with no smiles or niceties.

Surely having positive interactions with employees would help.
 

zephyr17

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Jul 23, 2009
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Washington State
Amtrak ought to get employees to be nicer and more positive.

I’m on a train now, and when boarding and when having my ticket scanned, and when the crew made announcements upon departure, it’s all been borderline hostile, with no smiles or niceties.

Surely having positive interactions with employees would help.
Yes, but quality and consistency of onboard service has been a problem literally for decades.

The problem is it has never been a management priority and it continues not to be one.

To turn the ship around would require a significant cultural shift at Amtrak and will require years of specifc management attention and focus.

A good start would be to adopt VIA's practice of having an onboard Service Manager that the OBS staff is responsible to.
 

TheCrescent

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
472
Amtrak ought to:

1. Be listed on Expedia (so people who are booking flights can see train options).

2. Join the Star Alliance, Sky Team, Oneworld or another travel points group.
 

mlanoue

Service Attendant
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Oct 30, 2003
Messages
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Joliet, Illinois
Amtrak (like almost every other business right now) needs to successfully hire and retain employees. Fewer trains would be cancelled, more equipment could be serviced and upgraded, and staff might be in better moods during the trip, which would lead to more passengers saying, "Maybe again."
 
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