Long Distance (LD) fleet replacement discussion (2022-23)

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rs9

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If one assumes that the usable internal floor space in a typical car with external width of 10'6" is 10' then indeed after you set aside 36" ADA required aisle width you are left with 84" which divided 4 ways is 21" which would be the width of each seat in a 2x2 configuration. OTOH, while Brightline has its 2x1 seats 23" wide, in principle in a 2x1 arrangement one could get a seat upto 28" wide without breaking the ADA36" aisle requirement.
Thanks for the information.

The Siemens Venture seats are cited to have a width of 19.1 inches. Source: Faster Wi-Fi but slimmer seats: Here’s a first look on board Amtrak’s newest trains - The Points Guy

This board cites Superliner seats as "ranging from 20 to 23 inches," which probably accounts for SL1/SL2/overhauled versions.

So it would seem that maintaining current long distance seat width is possible, from these back-of-the-napkin calculations, though perhaps there would be a small sacrifice for armrests/mid-seat power outlets.
 
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The other interesting consideration is accommodating passengers with disabilities. The current method of relegating people to a room downstairs and bringing them food isn't equitable access. That means that a future bi-level may need to include an elevator and wider, wheelchair-accessible aisles. Something that will need to be considered as part of the costs/benefits of bi-level equipment.
It seems to me that total equitable access on a train would be unrealistic for disabled people. Special elevators would be too costly. In addition, making wider aisles for wheelchairs would be impossible. Its a train folks!
I think AMTRAK has tried to accommodate the disabled by having a place on the lower level. However, in my opinion, why not improve the area Instead of remaking the entire train to look like a space station?
They could start by putting a little color to the interior instead of the prison grey that I observed on the Coast Starlight. In addition, enlarge the shower stall and lastly have a plan to clean the whole cabin more often. I am sure there are more ways to make the area more pleasant and functional for some of the creative people at AMTRAK.
 

Anderson

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Overall, I really like this concept. But no sightseer lounge? Both coach and sleeper folks need a place to escape to for a while, other than the diner. The SSL is pretty full most days, so if the long distance lounge had any less space, or was used for dining, would be pretty crowded.

I'm greedy. Even with a room, I spend most of my daytime in the SSL.
No SSL per se, but I presume that function would be filled by the cafe space (it should be possible to have larger Viewliner Diner-type windows in the cafes). [Edit: To be fair, I kept "food service cars" vague on purpose. I generally presume one diner/one cafe, but other options might exist.]

[I'd be open to having one coach be a half-coach half-lounge (or perhaps half-BC, half-lounge), but questions of space utilization come to mind.]

Also, I say "coaches" - the difference between a coach and a BC car is probably mostly seating configuration, so if what you really have is 3-4 coaches, 1 BC car, and everything else is the same...that's not a big shift.
 
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Anderson

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I do hope that when these are ordered, enough are purchased for future expansion and not just to cover the current routes + one more. If these are going to last half as long as the superliners they might see new routes appear
So, if you place a big order, you could probably arrange to stagger delivery so you have room to add sets to the order for a few years.

Ideally, this and the corridor sets would be from the same supplier; if you set things up so you have one of these sets or two Regional/Corridor sets delivered each month (essentially, 3-4 cars per week), that would be about a ten-year order period...and that's presuming no states hop on with additional orders. Knowing that several states would likely place orders and that Brightline+VIA are ordering equipment, that might be enough to actually keep a line running close to indefinitely.
 

Crowbar_k

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I know everyone is going to hate this because the superliners have a lot of fans, but the superliners have a lot of problems from a passenger perspective. First of all, the the steps are too narrow and difficult to go up/down while carrying a suitcase. It is also annoying when people are trying to go up and and down at the same time. The overhead rack is also too small to fit most suitcases. Another major problem is the fact that theh only have one door per car. Combine that with the narrow aisle on the lower level, and boarding and exiting is a mess. People crowd the stairs and narrow aisle at every stop. The door problems also lead to a longer dwell time at stops. Overall, it just seems like double decker trains are more trouble than their worth, especially on Intercity trains where people have a lot of baggage. They don't even increase capacity by that much.
 
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I know everyone is going to hate this because the superliners have a lot of fans, but the superliners have a lot of problems from a passenger perspective. First of all, the the steps are too narrow and difficult to go up/down while carrying a suitcase. It is also annoying when people are trying to go up and and down at the same time. The overhead rack is also too small to fit most suitcases. Another major problem is the fact that theh only have one door per car. Combine that with the narrow aisle on the lower level, and boarding and exiting is a mess. People crowd the stairs and narrow aisle at every stop. The door problems also lead to a longer dwell time at stops. Overall, it just seems like double decker trains are more trouble than their worth, especially on Intercity trains where people have a lot of baggage. They don't even increase capacity by that much.

Just make them a little longer to accommodate slightly larger stairs and a wheelchair lift. Superliners aren't the max length for passenger cars.
 

Siegmund

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Seat width in coach for long distance trains is going to be an interesting issue for Amtrak to address (or not address). Perhaps someone with available schematics can address - are the Siemens Venture coaches in the Midwest representative of maximum seat width for 2 x 2 seating with full ADA compliance?
Those seats just don't seem feasible for an overnight journey....

At least two possibilities come to mind:

One of them is having 36-inch aisles on only one level of a bilevel car -- and perhaps having 2x1 seating on that level and 2x2 seating on the other. That might be a really handy way to ensure the availability of coach and business class, or long- and short-distance coach seating, on every bilevel train.

The other would be looking harder at what the airlines were required to do to make their 20" aisles be legal: was it just provide their own wheelchairs that fit down the aisle? There is probably more to it than that but it's not my department to say what.
 

fdaley

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To me, whether the trains are single level or bilevel, the most important issue is whether there's a good lounge space for taking in the scenery, and I fear this is the component the current leadership at Amtrak is most likely to undervalue. If the lounge space in the new train sets resembles the Superliner Sightseer cars or a full-length single-level dome car, great. If it resembles an Amfleet II lounge, that's not going to cut it, particularly on the western routes. And if they're going to try to get by with just a single food-service car, as they're doing now on the Capitol, Crescent and Cardinal, that's really not going to cut it.

I have features I like and dislike about the current sleeper and coach spaces that I'd like to see preserved or fixed in any new design, and I agree with the goal of having the whole train be wheelchair accessible. But how Amtrak handles the lounge and dining spaces and services is really what will determine whether I'll want to ride the long-distance trains of the future.
 

Anderson

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So, I decided to fiddle a bit more with car design for the "long" trains. I'd note that the baggage car can go at either end.

Here's a set idea:

[01] Baggage Car
[02] Coach (59 seats)
[03] Coach (59 seats)
[04] Coach (59 seats)
[05] Coach (59 seats)
[06] Cafe/Lounge (N/A)
[07] Business (36-42 seats)
[08] Diner (N/A)
[09] Sleeper-Lounge (4 berths)
[10] Sleeper (28 berths)
[11] Sleeper (28 berths)
[12] Sleeper (28 berths)
[13] Sleeper (28 berths)
[14] Sleeper/Dorm (6-10 berths) or Bag-Dorm (0 berths)


Notes:
-Coaches are basically Amfleet IIs in terms of seat layouts, but should err towards Viewliners in terms of window space. A sticking point would be handling the upper windows (since closing blinds/drapes there could be tricky) and luggage rack space/placement.
-Business is a 2-1 configuration. Business pax have access to the diner (whether meals are paid vs included is a negotiable point). Inclusion of a bar/snack area is something I'd consider here (I presume there's a little bit of extra space to work with - my basis here is the Amfleet I Business-Cafe configurations, but potentially with a bit of extra seat pitch since some pax will be overnight-ish).
-The diner is a 42-44 seat diner (I presume the loss of a table due to ADA issues). On three meal turns this would give a capacity of 126-132.
-The Sleeper-Lounge essentially has 2-3 bedrooms on one end (I favor two slightly enlarged rooms), 4-6 tables towards the other (offering 32-72 extra diner seats), and some "social" seating areas in the middle. A bar is optional (but preferred if possible).
--> Four sleepers plus four extra berths equals 116 sleeper pax, possibly plus six if you do a sleeper-dorm and sell three bedrooms. So call it 120 sleper pax. A sellout in Business would add about another 40 pax with diner access rights, so 162-164. If the diner can fit 126, that needs another 34. I think the four table configuration is safe given that the odds of filling every sleeper berth (i.e. two per roomette) are pretty close to zero.
-The sleepers are all essentially Viewliner IIs in terms of capacity.
-The sleeper-dorm/bag-dorm car is a little bit of a wild card. I believe you'd probably need about 8-10 spaces in it for OBS (depending on the situation - I assume two coach attendants, 1 cafe attendant, 1 BC attendant (who depending on various decisions could augment the cafe or diner at certain peak times), 4-5 diner staff, plus one attendant for the sleeper-lounge (who would do food service for the "overflow" pax in the sleeper-lounge at mealtimes). So if you do sleeper space in it, you probably only have the three bedrooms (which could reasonably be attached to the neighboring sleeper).

Adding extra (non-coach) capacity from here gets tricky. If you wanted to add sleeper space, you'd probably need to convert the sleeper-lounge into another full lounge-ish car to add the requisite dining space, and indeed the kitchen might be a tricky proposition. One option might be something akin to a twin-unit diner (I forget how many tables those had, but if it mirrors the upstairs of a Superliner diner that'd give you 72 slots, and I don't think there's a reasonable design that lets you do much less than that "step"). And adding a bunch of extra cars starts to present platforming issues at a lot of smaller stations - a double-spot is one thing, but spotting 3-4 times is entirely another.
 

Mailliw

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Regarding long-distance coach seating; aren't most coach passengers traveling shorter distances (closer to corridor trips)? It might make sense just to have the same seating setup on corridor trains and gear "business class" towards long-distance passengers. 2:1 seating is a huge benefit to solo passengers overnight. Also should Amtrak make long-distance trains bidirectional like they are corridor trains? If so it would be a good idea to rotate most seating to face travel direction. Also cab cars wouldn't be needed if you went top and tail instead. Of course if the trains aren't bidirectional then the sleeper lounge should obviously be the last car and have rear viewing windows.
 

Anderson

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Regarding long-distance coach seating; aren't most coach passengers traveling shorter distances (closer to corridor trips)? It might make sense just to have the same seating setup on corridor trains and gear "business class" towards long-distance passengers. 2:1 seating is a huge benefit to solo passengers overnight. Also should Amtrak make long-distance trains bidirectional like they are corridor trains? If so it would be a good idea to rotate most seating to face travel direction. Also cab cars wouldn't be needed if you went top and tail instead. Of course if the trains aren't bidirectional then the sleeper lounge should obviously be the last car and have rear viewing windows.
It's mixed. Yes, coach pax tend to take shorter trips, but you still get quite a number of folks doing long trips in coach. Looking at the RPA data on the Zephyr as an example, the only travel length where a clear majority of pax were in sleepers was 2000+ miles. It was an even split for 1000-1499 and the majority for 1500-1999 were in coach. You of course have a lot of turnover in the <600 mile range - the average coach trip on that train is about 540 miles - but you've also got a decent number of long-haul pax.

Looking at the Meteor, something like 2/3-3/4 of the 1000+ mile pax are coach pax. Anecdotally, you'd have two coaches full of NEC-Florida passengers on there, with the other 2-3 coaches being the "intermediate turnover" passengers.
 

districtRich

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And here in Finland, new overnight trains on the way!

VR buying new sleeper, vehicle coaches for €50m

The overnight ones here don't have a daytime configuration though. They're used from the big cities in the south. You board at night and then you arrive in Lapland the next morning. There's not really a need for them to have it where you can sit and stare out the window during the day.
 

Crowbar_k

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My dream would be for Amtrak to have coaches similar to the business class on overnight intercontinental flights, with the seat that lies flat and turns into a little bed. This would give people who want to travel overnight but don't want to cough up the money for a sleeping car a better option.
 
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Also should Amtrak make long-distance trains bidirectional like they are corridor trains? If so it would be a good idea to rotate most seating to face travel direction.
I don't think anyone makes reversible seating anymore.
The overnight ones here don't have a daytime configuration though. They're used from the big cities in the south. You board at night and then you arrive in Lapland the next morning. There's not really a need for them to have it where you can sit and stare out the window during the day.
That seems to be the standard in Europe & Asia, perhaps everywhere in the world outside of North America.
 

Crowbar_k

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That seems to be the standard in Europe & Asia, perhaps everywhere in the world outside of North America.
Yup. If only Americans weren't so concerned about privacy, we could have shared sleeper cars like in Europe, and the price would be the same as a coach seat.
 

Mailliw

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I don't think anyone makes reversible seating anymore.

That seems to be the standard in Europe & Asia, perhaps everywhere in the world outside of North America.
Russian trains have decent daytime set ups, but neither platzcart or shared compartments would fly in North America. Nightjet's new sleeping car design looks like it could be adapted for daytime, not so much the couchette pods. That new Finnish design looks adaptable as well; the key thing would larger windows.
 

jis

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Russian trains have decent daytime set ups, but neither platzcart or shared compartments would fly in North America. Nightjet's new sleeping car design looks like it could be adapted for daytime, not so much the couchette pods. That new Finnish design looks adaptable as well; the key thing would larger windows.
Yeah the Nightjet compartments for two seem to be eminently convertible for daytime use, with a few little tweaks.
 
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I know everyone is going to hate this because the superliners have a lot of fans, but the superliners have a lot of problems from a passenger perspective. First of all, the the steps are too narrow and difficult to go up/down while carrying a suitcase. It is also annoying when people are trying to go up and and down at the same time. The overhead rack is also too small to fit most suitcases. Another major problem is the fact that theh only have one door per car. Combine that with the narrow aisle on the lower level, and boarding and exiting is a mess. People crowd the stairs and narrow aisle at every stop. The door problems also lead to a longer dwell time at stops. Overall, it just seems like double decker trains are more trouble than their worth, especially on Intercity trains where people have a lot of baggage. They don't even increase capacity by that much.
My experience confirms what you say. I'll add one more problem with stairs on the Superliner: On the Capitol Corridor (commuter train from Sacramento to San Jose) I was going down the narrow stairs near my stop, with a small overnight in one hand and my other hand on the railing, when the train suddenly came to a quick stop. I was almost thrown down the stairs!! If my hand had not been on the railing, if would not have been pretty! Especially since I'm a senior citizen.
 

Kramerica

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My two cents on a couple of the the points made above:

- Can't have backwards-facing seats on LD trains. The fact that they have them on corridor trains is really annoying. There are many people (my wife) that can't face backwards or they'll get motion sickness. Just turn the dang train at each end.

- Have we given up on coach passengers being able to buy a meal in the diner? What a shame. They're not just cattle. I don't want to eat in the diner every meal... but once on the LD train as a treat would be nice.

- Conversely, the biggest upgrade I want on a train is to lay flat to sleep. Don't care about privacy, don't care about meals. Laying flat to sleep overnight is the only upgrade that really moves the needle for me to pay more. Amtrak has gotta come up with a mid-cost solution. Could be airline-like lay-flat seats, could be roomettes without meals included, could be some other solution.
 

PaTrainFan

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I have never been on an overnight European train so my limited knowledge comes from YouTube videos. From what I have seen many of the rooms are designed for strictly one night, bed permanaently down, with poor placement of beds and seats vis-a-vis windows. The assuption seems to be given the short overnight legs most don't need, or care, to sit next to the window to watch the countryside go by. I hope Amtrak doesn't take their cues from this. If Amtrak goes with single level trains and de-emphasizes lounges, people will want to take advantage of ameneties in their rooms.
 

Anderson

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- Have we given up on coach passengers being able to buy a meal in the diner? What a shame. They're not just cattle. I don't want to eat in the diner every meal... but once on the LD train as a treat would be nice.
So, this is why I attacked Business Class this way. With that being said, Amtrak totally flubbed the introduction of "proper" meals in the cafe a few years back. There's no good reason a decent meal (i.e. better than a microwaved hamburger) shouldn't be available from the cafe car.

The problem is that on a full-ish train, if a lot of coach pax want to eat in the diner, there simply isn't the capacity on a long train. India abandoned diners on their trains for a reason - the loads were just too massive to accommodate. Bear in mind that a twin unit diner is 170 feet of train (and probably $8m in capital expense) that's not providing revenue seating, etc. With 72 seats and three full turns of the space at dinner, that would be 216 pax seated - but that train above has close to 400 seats. If you ran a "takeaway window" at the other end of the diner, how many folks could the kitchen serve successfully using cafe space?

Basically, open coach access to a 48-seat diner is not compatible with increasing seating capacity on the train without some innovation. Even with a full twin unit diner, it's a dodgy proposition in terms of seating capacity if you want the trains to get longer/add seats, and that's before we get into questions of shrinkage/food waste.

[You could probably cut back on sleeper demand for the diner if sleeper pax had to pay for their meals, but that would involve altering the price point for the sleepers.]
 

Kramerica

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So, this is why I attacked Business Class this way. With that being said, Amtrak totally flubbed the introduction of "proper" meals in the cafe a few years back. There's no good reason a decent meal (i.e. better than a microwaved hamburger) shouldn't be available from the cafe car.

The problem is that on a full-ish train, if a lot of coach pax want to eat in the diner, there simply isn't the capacity on a long train. India abandoned diners on their trains for a reason - the loads were just too massive to accommodate. Bear in mind that a twin unit diner is 170 feet of train (and probably $8m in capital expense) that's not providing revenue seating, etc. With 72 seats and three full turns of the space at dinner, that would be 216 pax seated - but that train above has close to 400 seats. If you ran a "takeaway window" at the other end of the diner, how many folks could the kitchen serve successfully using cafe space?

Basically, open coach access to a 48-seat diner is not compatible with increasing seating capacity on the train without some innovation. Even with a full twin unit diner, it's a dodgy proposition in terms of seating capacity if you want the trains to get longer/add seats, and that's before we get into questions of shrinkage/food waste.

[You could probably cut back on sleeper demand for the diner if sleeper pax had to pay for their meals, but that would involve altering the price point for the sleepers.]

So if the diners cannot handle the capacity... doesn't that mean the diners are desirable and we should add more? Cutting them because they are too popular doesn't make any sense to me.

Yes, I'd love it if they disconnected meals from the sleepers and adjusted the pricing. That would reserve diner space for people that actually value it and will pay directly for it. It would also give a better price for sleepers for people like me that just want a flat bed. Perhaps they could have sleepers at both ends of the train... at the rear by the diner are the sleepers that include meals. At the front of the train are the sleepers that don't include meals. Or something like that.

I really like your idea about a takeout window in the diner. I think lots of people would enjoy that option.
 

jis

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One clarification I would add to @Anderson 's statements about Dining Service in India is that when they figured out that they do not want adequate number of non-revenue cars (aka Diners) to serve 16-24 cars worth of passengers 60 per car, they replaced the Diner by a Pantry/Food storage and distribution car, and arranged to deliver food to each passenger at their seat/accommodation at meal times. This is a relatively labor intensive activity which probably would not fly at Amtrak. I don't know whether IR's contention that the added revenue from the cars that replace the non-rev cars more than covers the extra labor cost.

Originally they had two Pantry cars and 2 Luggage/Brake Van/Generator Cars in a 16-20 car consist. Since then they have gotten rid of one of Pantries and replaced it with a revenue car and and have talked about replacing one of the Luggage/Brake/Generator cars by a revenue car, with the locomotive delivering hotel power to the train, and one higher capacity Generator providing standby power if the loco fails or is detached. So the revenue vs. cost balancing act may be more complicated than meets the eye. But IR's mix in their environment produces a winning formula for these trains to be cash cows for the fares they charge. Food is included in the fare in the premium trains.

In any case Amtrak will have to decide what it will do with food service on LD trains before they can finalize the order for replacement fleet.
 
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