Lower priced Sleeper for single travelers

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TheCrescent

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Amtrak’s sleeping cars aren’t really made for people who travel solo or who need a more basic room:

The smallest room is a roomette, priced and designed for two people; and this expensive and too big for one person.

Not everyone needs lounge access and meals.

Some private operators of sleeping cars have offered super-premium sleeping cars attached to Amtrak trains and have failed. Not enough people want to pay a really high price for a train trip.

What if a private operator had a bunch of sleeping cars with rooms for solo travelers, and budget-friendly, non-first class, rooms for other travelers: budget sleeping accommodations?

Budget sleeping accommodations are a market segment that Amtrak misses, so what would people think about a private operator filling that niche, with its own cara attached to Amtrak trains?
 

joelkfla

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The smallest room is a roomette, priced and designed for two people; and this expensive and too big for one person.
I disagree. It's more suitable for a single rider, and much cheaper than a bedroom, which is more appropriate for 2.

I think the size and design are comparable to the original 1-person Roomette, as still seen on the VIA Canadian. Amtrak just added a 2nd bunk to allow for 2 riders.
 

TheCrescent

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I disagree. It's more suitable for a single rider, and much cheaper than a bedroom, which is more appropriate for 2.

I think the size and design are comparable to the original 1-person Roomette, as still seen on the VIA Canadian. Amtrak just added a 2nd bunk to allow for 2 riders.

OK, it’s a difference of opinion.

When I book a roomette, my commute one-way is about $375. If there were two people in the room, the total would be about $575, or $288.50 per person.

I’d take the train more if I could get a bed for $288.50. If it’s $375, I might as well fly first class, which is less.

I also don’t need the Metropolitan Lounge at NYP since I just walk to the station and board, and I surely don’t need Flexible Dining.

Agrees that the room is already small but I could accept a bit smaller, since all I really need is some kind of private space and a bed.
 
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I think the biggest hurdle to this would be the same one Amtrak itself would have to face, that being the shortage of rolling stock. After that staffing would be an issue (assuming current 'trends').

If Amtrak were to get rolling stock, they would be adding it to their trains and maxing out capacity for HEP, etc. Then somebody else would have to provide it the power, etc, etc. Another issue would be ADA accessibility (obviously this would be addressed with new cars) and the size of the individual compartments has to be a minimum size, even for non-accessible compartments, although I'll freely admit ADA isn't my specialty, especially on trains.

I do agree there is a market for budget sleepers, it's just not as simple as hitching more cars onto the existing trains (imho).
 

jis

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The problem at present though is if one looks at the single level Sleeper fleet, close to 20% of it is sitting in Mothballs. Another 20% or so is for PMO leaving only 60% of the fleet in actual day to day operation. Can't do a lot with the PMO part, but minimally the Mothballed part needs to be brought back on line before one can legitimately worry about lack of equipment. Buying a bunch of equipment and then immediately shunting a significant proportion in numbers of the existing fleet into Mothballs does no one any good as far as service is concerned.
 
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I remember seeing the Slumbercoaches. At that time, I thought they were too small. Particularly when I compared them to the type of Roomette which was the standard kind of that day. (Like the Cabin for one on VIA, today, I think.) If I recall correctly the Slumbercoach rooms appeared smaller than Amtrak's Roomettes are now. I am OK in an Amtrak Roomette; pretty sure I would not like a Slumbercoach room regardless of the fare differential that may exist.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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Amtrak’s sleeping cars aren’t really made for people who travel solo or who need a more basic room.

Not sure I agree, but moving forward.

What if a private operator had a bunch of sleeping cars with rooms for solo travelers, and budget-friendly, non-first class, rooms for other travelers: budget sleeping accommodations?

Budget sleeping accommodations are a market segment that Amtrak misses, so what would people think about a private operator filling that niche, with its own cars attached to Amtrak trains?

Amtrak does not play well with others. The “high end private trains” that have failed seem to have the same story line on why they failed. Something about cost of haulage by Amtrak. The lack of any cooperation, and the ever changing cost of service or additional services charges.
You just can’t price a service if your cost of said service changes on a daily basis.
 

jis

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I loved the Slumbercoach singles and always used them whenever available. At the end it also saved on the exorbitant add ons for meals that were thrown in for Sleepers. They did not apply to Slumbercoach.

I am OK with the Amtrak Roomettes as accommodation for singles as far as the hard product goes, but the fare addon for the soft product which is targeted for two people is a bit much.
 
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Why should a private operator be able to do things more cheaply and efficiently than Amtrak? They would have to buy expensive sleeping cars, staff them, come to an agreement with Amtrak about hauling them on the train, pay taxes, insurance, etc., etc., I can't see how their costs would be any less than those incurred by Amtrak. As people have pointed out, this business is highly overhead-heavy, which means the high costs are incurred even when the passenger revenue is light. In fact, even if they only ran the service during busy periods (thus presumably saving on staff costs and the costs of being hauled by Amtrak), they'd still have the maintenance and depreciation costs for all that expensive rolling stock, and without receiving any revenue. Passenger trains used to be privately operated. That obviously didn't work, which is why we have a subsidized publicly owned system today.
 
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I rode a slumbercoach once, on the Crescent in 1990. The seat in daytime mode was fairly comfortable as I recall, but in night-time mode the mattress was a bit thin. I think there was also an issue with getting access to the toilet in sleep mode. The other thing was that the rooms were really small, and I don't remember how I was able to store my luggage. Some people might find them claustrophobic, in fact. But I did appreciate the fact that it was only $50 above the coach fare. Not sure what the best design for a budget sleeper would be, probably either some kind of lie-flat seat or Euro-style couchette.
 
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Aside from the costs of the rolling stock itself; if an operator other than Amtrak were to attempt this - would they be able to get access to tracks at a reasonable cost and get good service? I'm talking about like a full train rather than just hitching to Amtrak? (and I should probably not post this since I'm having deja vu about a thread like that) Would Amtrak allow NEC access?
 

Just-Thinking-51

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Skyline

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I remember seeing the Slumbercoaches. At that time, I thought they were too small. Particularly when I compared them to the type of Roomette which was the standard kind of that day. (Like the Cabin for one on VIA, today, I think.) If I recall correctly the Slumbercoach rooms appeared smaller than Amtrak's Roomettes are now. I am OK in an Amtrak Roomette; pretty sure I would not like a Slumbercoach room regardless of the fare differential that may exist.

I loved the slumbercoaches. Wish they still existed. Bare bones, affordable, and not considered first class.

There were one-person and two-person configs. They were able to get so many accommodations squeezed into each car by stacking them as shown in this photo. Kind of tight, but perfect for a 20something on a tight budget who wanted private horizontal sleeping accommodations.

In the early years of Amtrak a single slumbercoach cost $15 extra on a one-night train in the East; more for two-nighters in the West. Similar to what the heritage railroads charged pre-1971. Were they able to make a profit on them? Could Amtrak? What would be a fair cost today?
Slumbercoach North Coast Limited.jpg
 

Skyline

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I rode a slumbercoach once, on the Crescent in 1990. The seat in daytime mode was fairly comfortable as I recall, but in night-time mode the mattress was a bit thin. I think there was also an issue with getting access to the toilet in sleep mode. The other thing was that the rooms were really small, and I don't remember how I was able to store my luggage. Some people might find them claustrophobic, in fact. But I did appreciate the fact that it was only $50 above the coach fare. Not sure what the best design for a budget sleeper would be, probably either some kind of lie-flat seat or Euro-style couchette.

My recollection, from the early '70s, was that because the slumbercoach bed -- in sleep mode -- was so narrow that access to the toilet was easier than in a single roomette of the day. But that was 50ish years ago and it's possible I've burned a few brain cells since then.
 

TheCrescent

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Why should a private operator be able to do things more cheaply and efficiently than Amtrak? They would have to buy expensive sleeping cars, staff them, come to an agreement with Amtrak about hauling them on the train, pay taxes, insurance, etc., etc., I can't see how their costs would be any less than those incurred by Amtrak. As people have pointed out, this business is highly overhead-heavy, which means the high costs are incurred even when the passenger revenue is light. In fact, even if they only ran the service during busy periods (thus presumably saving on staff costs and the costs of being hauled by Amtrak), they'd still have the maintenance and depreciation costs for all that expensive rolling stock, and without receiving any revenue. Passenger trains used to be privately operated. That obviously didn't work, which is why we have a subsidized publicly owned system today.

Amtrak isn’t providing budget accommodations so the proposal is for someone else to step in and do it. I would think that someone else would have difficulty doing this more easily than Amtrak could but my issue is not trying to find efficiencies; it’s to find a way to expand the rail passenger market by addressing a market segment that Amtrak is ignoring.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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Amtrak isn’t providing budget accommodations so the proposal is for someone else to step in and do it. I would think that someone else would have difficulty doing this more easily than Amtrak could but my issue is not trying to find efficiencies; it’s to find a way to expand the rail passenger market by addressing a market segment that Amtrak is ignoring.

Expect Amtrak will protect its business with ever dirty trick in the book.
 
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My recollection, from the early '70s, was that because the slumbercoach bed -- in sleep mode -- was so narrow that access to the toilet was easier than in a single roomette of the day

An interesting memory, but you are correct that accessing the toilet in the Roomettes of the day was not difficult to do if one had the strength to do it. But. they were certainly inconvenient. It would be interesting to see a floor plan for a slumbercoach compartment to see where the toilet is located in that space. I thought the bed would cover the toilet.
 

Mailliw

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Nightjet pods are getting ready to be deployed. It will be interesting how well or not they are received by the traveling public.


I think the pod couchettes are a great idea for nighttrains, but they'd be of very limited use in North America since they lake a daytime configuration. At present they'd only be useful on the overnight NER.
I think the best way to bring the cost of sleeping accommodations down is simply to build more sleeping cars.
 

Anthony V

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I loved the slumbercoaches. Wish they still existed. Bare bones, affordable, and not considered first class.

There were one-person and two-person configs. They were able to get so many accommodations squeezed into each car by stacking them as shown in this photo. Kind of tight, but perfect for a 20something on a tight budget who wanted private horizontal sleeping accommodations.

In the early years of Amtrak a single slumbercoach cost $15 extra on a one-night train in the East; more for two-nighters in the West. Similar to what the heritage railroads charged pre-1971. Were they able to make a profit on them? Could Amtrak? What would be a fair cost today?
View attachment 28405
Is the slumbercoach in the photo the Loch Sloy? If it is, I can say that I rode in that particular slumbercoach in 2015 at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, IL. To make it feel as if I were a passenger on the North Coast Limited back in the day, I took a brief catnap during the 45 minute ride on the museum's 5 mile mainline.
 

railiner

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An interesting memory, but you are correct that accessing the toilet in the Roomettes of the day was not difficult to do if one had the strength to do it. But. they were certainly inconvenient. It would be interesting to see a floor plan for a slumbercoach compartment to see where the toilet is located in that space. I thought the bed would cover the toilet.
 
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Willbridge

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I loved the slumbercoaches. Wish they still existed. Bare bones, affordable, and not considered first class.

There were one-person and two-person configs. They were able to get so many accommodations squeezed into each car by stacking them as shown in this photo. Kind of tight, but perfect for a 20something on a tight budget who wanted private horizontal sleeping accommodations.

In the early years of Amtrak a single slumbercoach cost $15 extra on a one-night train in the East; more for two-nighters in the West. Similar to what the heritage railroads charged pre-1971. Were they able to make a profit on them? Could Amtrak? What would be a fair cost today?

I never rode in a Slumbercoach, but everyone who I knew with experiences liked them. Of course, we were all younger then. They were the ideal single car for a no-nonsense plaid flannel shirt sort of train.

1964 06 S-coach room 002.jpg
 
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