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New dining options (flex dining) effective October 1, 2019

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tricia

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I'm almost tempted to try to do an Atlanta trip on Crescent before September 30, as I'd never ridden that route before. And also, due to the fact it'd allow me to have a dining meal (s) while on the Crescent at least once.

My question is if I'm traveling south on #19(this question is for those MORE familiar with regular train operations on Crescent, and have ridden it a LOT), is the first serving time for breakfast early enough so that one could get a meal in, before arriving in Atlanta? Due to my work schedule IF I go through with this trip, I would ride the Cardinal to Crescent (transfer in Charlottesville, VA), then fly back one way from Atlanta's airport to Chicago. Yay for the fact one way flights from Atlanta back to Chicago, look pretty affordable ($80ish).
Certainly time for breakfast southbound before Atlanta. I've several times boarded the Crescent southbound at Toccoa (two hours from Atlanta), and even if the train's on time can generally go get breakfast shortly after settling in on the train. Do allow plenty of time between scheduled arrival in Atlanta and your flight. The Crescent has typically been more likely to be late, and generally much later northbound at Atlanta than southbound, but delays of an hour or more southbound are not uncommon.
 
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NativeSon5859

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This has been confirmed by a friend at the NOL crew base. As of October 1, no more full service dining cars east of the Mississippi.
 

JoeBas

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Dec 30, 2011
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When it comes to boycotting the train over Contemporary Dining, the priority is food and not the train ride itself.
This is so myopic a view that I think my optometrist sensed a disturbance in the force... :eek:

The contemporary dining is the end of a long train of abuses (if you'll pardon the pun) that have been heaped on the riding public, with no corresponding change in fares, resulting in a consistently declining value proposition with no end in sight. Straw, meet camel's back.

But you go on ahead with your Spinmaster Speak, trying to define who is and isn't a "real fan", to an audience that can see right through you. At least it keeps you from spending your time doing more damage somewhere else. :cool:
 

dlagrua

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The only thing that can reverse this is if ridership drastically drops but wait, then Anderson can say see no one rides these LD trains, I told you so! The deal that Boardman made with congress two years ago now supports Anderson's plan. We need to save the dining cars not just for the passengers but for the many hard working people who staff them. These are people of modest means who are just trying to support their families. Does anyone care about them?
 
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Shaw AFB
I agree with crescent-zephyr. Amtrak is not a jobs program, if anything I would support any way they could try to circumvent union rules to hire lower cost labor in the dinners.
This coming from a guy who'd love to go to work for Amtrak after I finish my current career.
 

flitcraft

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Jan 10, 2018
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I have to say that, for me, invoking Anderson's Delta tenure doesn't make me feel better about the future of Amtrak as a rider. I used to be a frequent flyer of Delta, but the endless cutbacks made me finally give that up--now I just burn the miles I've accumulated. The so-called mileage plan is now just a dollars plan, the seat pitch has shrunk markedly, and it's been hard to burn miles, even at the deflated value of my miles--or SkyPesos, as flyertalk denizens have dubbed them. Free baggage checking-- ha, ha, ha, and lose another opportunity to gouge the passenger? What improvements have there been in recent years for me as a traveler? None whatever. I've transferred most of my air travel to Alaska and its partners--though Alaska is not perfect, merely the best of a bad lot as I see it. The consolidated airline industry is an example of what happens when real competition in an industry vanishes--and it's never good for the consumer.

So color me skeptical that an airline executive's background in making an airline profitable is good news for the future of Amtrak. The structure of the US airline industry today guarantees profits. Even the idiots at United--with all of their public relations disasters--are hugely profitable.
 

jebr

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if anything I would support any way they could try to circumvent union rules to hire lower cost labor in the dinners.
This is exactly the wrong way to go about cost-cutting. A "race to the bottom" on wages and benefits is not a way Amtrak (or any agency, frankly) to cut costs. On-board staffing is a full-time job, with overnights spent away from home and often little ability to balance a second job to make ends meet even if their hours were limited. There's also very little ability, especially with timekeeping issues, to have truly day-staff employees staffing trains effectively.

I'm not opposed to finding ways to reduce staffing overall and ensuring that any staff that need to be cut are able to transition into another job with a similar quality of life. Perhaps Amtrak pays for further education for staff members no longer needed so that they can get skills Amtrak or other industries need. But this idea that we should save money by simply cutting wages is, frankly, terrible.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Oct 21, 2015
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For a short time, Amtrak had a recipe for loyal passengers. A great guest rewards program where they actually rewarded passengers with free trips. Not this so many dollars equals so many points that converts back to so many dollars.

Wine tastings on the starlight , builder, and lake shore. The parlor cars. The enhanced dining on some trains. That was really a great era of rail travel in the USA.

Now that era came after the simplified dining service, which wasn’t much better than contemporary dining. So there is still hope.....
 

crescent-zephyr

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Perhaps Amtrak pays for further education for staff members no longer needed so that they can get skills Amtrak or other industries need.
Ummm..... wow. Don’t Amtrak chefs have to be graduates of culinary schools?
 

chakk

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May 26, 2011
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Now that's a neat looking container/cooker! My only concern for use on the train is the voltage draw; could it trip the car's breakers?
The FAQ on the website says the device draws 45 watts (0.5 amps). So this will not trip the circuit breakers in an Amtrak car -- perhaps unless every passenger in the car is using one simultaneously.
 

Devil's Advocate

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I would support any way they could try to circumvent union rules to hire lower cost labor in the dinners.
&
This is exactly the wrong way to go about cost-cutting.
Not to mention that it's illegal to actively undermine state and federal labor laws. It's rather disappointing but not terribly surprising to see working class folks promoting attacks on other workers out of misplaced loyalty and spite.
 

Cho Cho Charlie

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Near an Amtrak station
The contemporary dining is the end of a long train of abuses (if you'll pardon the pun) that have been heaped on the riding public, with no corresponding change in fares, resulting in a consistently declining value proposition with no end in sight. Straw, meet camel's back.
At least to me, its nothing but a hidden perk. I think back on the few Amtrak ads I have seen. They all focus on the western scenery that might be outside your train car window. I have never seen an Amtrak ad that focused on the "first class" experience of Sleeper class on the LD routes. Nothing about waiting in a ClubAcela lounge while waiting and being sent directly down to the your platform at the appropriate time (contrasting standing in a long, slow moving line at an airport).

With this, nothing about the on-board dining service. So, all Amtrak is taking away, is something that few, if any, "first timers" would even expect. IMHO, more people know about the snack peanuts one use to get on a flight, than know about Amtrak dining experiences, and yet people still fly.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Used to get? You haven’t been on Southwest lately!!! Ha.

All the major airlines still give out snacks.
 

seat38a

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Orange County California
A big chunk of members on here complain about the cost of the train tickets, yet advocate for employee wages that are high and with good benefits. I'm reading a lot of Amtrak pays for this and that yet cost of the train ticket is the biggest gripe on this forum.

How about we cut the inclusive dining with the sleeper ticket, increase the price of the sleeper, get rid of the senior discount (All discounts), increase the cost of the coach ticket and use the savings and increase in ticket prices (With a guarantee written into law) to pay rest of the train crew higher wages and better benefits?

It's not a problem specific to this forum, happens in the aviation forums as well. Everyone wants cheap tickets and also think flight attendants should all get fat pay and benefit packages.

Before talking about the race to the bottom, I think we need to reflect on our own actions and attitudes that contribute to the race (Not just Amtrak).
 

crescent-zephyr

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To be fair, Amtrak employees and flight attendants are not getting rich. They are paid an actual living wage and are provided with benefits. Something that all 40 hour per week employees should be able to say.
 

Ringfinder

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Apr 4, 2013
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Lima Ohio
My thoughts about the Cardboard lunches, they suck! My wife and I rode the Capital Limited from Toledo to Washington in February of this year in a Roomette. We could not believe we were getting a Box Lunch for our main meal I asked if we were going to get a refund for the meals we usually get while traveling 1st class, they just sort of laughed. Our rear attendant did his best to accommodate all of his passengers, but it was Amtrak who made this decision. After a 9 hr. Layover in Washington waiting on our train to Florida, we boarded the train. The Roomette was a lot better than the trains going out west, but the meals couldn’t hold a candle to the Empire Builder, the Southwest Chief, The California Zephyr. My wife and I will miss traveling out West! We so enjoy seeing our Beautiful west from Chicago to Seattle, Emeryville/San Francisco, LA, Albuquerque and all the States in between! It’s hard to believe that all the riders who ride coach will no longer be able to ride the rails! We can only hope that a new administration in Washington will see the value of Better Train Service in America.

Permit me to play Devil's advocate here.

We know that Anderson used the Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited as tests for Contemporary Dining. It has now been several months. We also know (or at least strongly believe) that Anderson has decided to expand Contemporary Dining to all overnight trains east of the Mississippi. It is reasonable to infer from this that, despite all of the protestations on this forum, Contemporary Dining has not had an appreciable impact on overall ridership. If this is indeed the case, it's hard to fault Anderson for its expansion to similar trains.

It is perfectly understandable to be upset over this change. But if you are no longer going to ride a one-night train because of this change, let’s be honest. You were likely never a railfan in the first place. If you think that flying is going to now magically be preferable you are setting yourself up for disappointment. My suspicion is that for all of those people who say that they aren't going to ride the train, the overwhelming majority are going to ride the train. No doubt Anderson has seen this in the airline world. Think about how many people complained vociforously over baggage fees, removal of meals, etc. And yet they still traveled by air. But Amtrak is all about the experience, no? Well... maybe it is. But Anderson now has data to show that the "experience" of Contemporary Dining for one night has not negatively impacted ridership on one-night trains. Or at least that the negative impact on ridership is justified by the savings in the dining car.

I suppose that this could really just be some part of a big conspiracy to remove long distance trains from the schedule. But if that was the case Anderson would have launched Contemporary Dining system-wide. This has all of the hallmarks of a controlled test and a broader roll out based on the results of that test.

Am I happy with the decision? No. Will I still travel by train? Yes. No doubt Anderson knows that most people think like me.
 

Qapla

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Gator Country Florida
I like riding the train - even in coach. I have not clocked near the number of miles as many here. I also do not know all the ins-and-outs of the train business.

That said, there are some things I do not understand. I did some rough calculations based on the Silver Meteor. Figuring that the train is not full when it leaves either terminus, after all, there needs to be seats for the stops along the way, I used Florence, SC as the mid-point and based some calculations from that.

It seems that if the train consist had 4 sleeper cars and 4 coach cars and carried a "near capacity" load, the train could bring in revenue of around $40,000 per trip. If they are losing money, how much does it cost to operate that train?!?

If they are losing money because they are not full, then I do not see how cutting service will gain passengers ... adding services might be a better idea -
 

dogbert617

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Aug 19, 2016
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Chicago, IL
I like riding the train - even in coach. I have not clocked near the number of miles as many here. I also do not know all the ins-and-outs of the train business.

That said, there are some things I do not understand. I did some rough calculations based on the Silver Meteor. Figuring that the train is not full when it leaves either terminus, after all, there needs to be seats for the stops along the way, I used Florence, SC as the mid-point and based some calculations from that.

It seems that if the train consist had 4 sleeper cars and 4 coach cars and carried a "near capacity" load, the train could bring in revenue of around $40,000 per trip. If they are losing money, how much does it cost to operate that train?!?

If they are losing money because they are not full, then I do not see how cutting service will gain passengers ... adding services might be a better idea -
Yep, these cuts are totally stupid. I also don't understand cutting the quality, of amenities that passengers highly value. On a slightly different note, I also know it annoyed a lot of passengers(though this cut was easier to swallow I'll admit, since most people are open to reading schedules via a downloadable pdf file), when during the Boardman era of running Amtrak that they decided to stop printing the national timetable, and later on having printing individual schedules available at stations for route(s) serving that station. :(

Stopping printing of the national timetable and individual train schedules is one thing, but I think it's a bigger offense IMO(and probably to other passengers too) to downgrade dining car service on trains. If the quality of contemporary dining meals was much better and closer to the level of traditional dining car trains(i.e. Empire Builder, California Zephyr, etc), then maybe those changes to dining car service would be fine to passengers.

Certainly time for breakfast southbound before Atlanta. I've several times boarded the Crescent southbound at Toccoa (two hours from Atlanta), and even if the train's on time can generally go get breakfast shortly after settling in on the train. Do allow plenty of time between scheduled arrival in Atlanta and your flight. The Crescent has typically been more likely to be late, and generally much later northbound at Atlanta than southbound, but delays of an hour or more southbound are not uncommon.
Thanks, was thinking that looking at #19's schedule, that it'd definitely be possible to get a breakfast meal in before arrival in Atlanta. And I guess my other question is looking at #19's schedule, that one would likely have to transfer in DC from the Capitol Limited to Crescent to have a shot at getting dinner on that train? I'd assume with 8:52pm departure in Charlottesville, that one would narrowly miss the last call for dinner at that time on #19 going south. Also, thanks for mentioning that one hour delays aren't uncommon on the Crescent. Somehow I had a feeling that northbound delays could often be a little worse vs. southbound Crescent delays into Atlanta, but wasn't totally sure on that.
 

tonys96

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Texas
IMHO, cutting meal service sucks. Period.

And, yes, it will keep me, the casual, occasional passenger from using the eastern trains.

I will spend my $$$$ on what I want from my train experience. Part of that is a warm meal in the dining car, with a menu to choose from. Not a boxed meal consisting of who knows what. With a menu, I can choose my entire plate of food, in a prefab box, I get what someone else chose for me. Not the way I will spend my hard earned $$$.

If the boxed meals go system wide, no more overnight trips for me.

If that makes me "not a railfan" in the eyes of someone else, so be it.

C'est le vie.
 

tricia

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Aug 23, 2011
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Spring Creek, NC
Thanks, was thinking that looking at #19's schedule, that it'd definitely be possible to get a breakfast meal in before arrival in Atlanta. And I guess my other question is looking at #19's schedule, that one would likely have to transfer in DC from the Capitol Limited to Crescent to have a shot at getting dinner on that train? I'd assume with 8:52pm departure in Charlottesville, that one would narrowly miss the last call for dinner at that time on #19 going south. Also, thanks for mentioning that one hour delays aren't uncommon on the Crescent. Somehow I had a feeling that northbound delays could often be a little worse vs. southbound Crescent delays into Atlanta, but wasn't totally sure on that.
The Capitol Ltd doesn't stop in Charlottesville--only transfer option to the Crescent is in Washington.

You can transfer to the southbound Crescent in Charlottesville from the Cardinal, and although you'd be boarding too late for dinner, there are good dinner options near the train station there, along with a long-enough layover time to explore Charlottesville on foot. I once spent a happy few hours there, between Cardinal and Crescent, visiting bookstores, walking and gawking along the pedestrian-only shopping district near the train, and having dinner in a brew pub near the station.

Both Cardinal-to-Crescent and Cap Ltd-to-Crescent are good choices--depends on what you'd rather do that day.
 
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