NY Times: Anderson out, William Flynn in

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crescent-zephyr

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Something “selling” doesn’t mean it’s covering its costs or satisfying a mandate. The problem is that the mandate effectively required eliminating losses on food service, not just reducing them. Food service on Amtrak starts with a relatively high cost base (staff, equipment, catering logistics), and has a limited overall revenue potential (limited by the the more restrictive of the amount of storage space on board, the number of passengers on the train, and the price those passengers are willing to pay; essentially a supply-and-demand problem). So even if a certain practice was overall financially positive vs. the previously existing model, it may not have been enough to eliminate all of the losses for food service. It’s possible the best they could hope for under that model still only gets them part way towards their goal.
The at your seat coach meal was eliminated on trains that still have dining cars. It didn’t require any extra staffing, and it was selling (some on this board have said it was successful, as far as I know there is no data). So it had to be lowering the losses of F&B on those routes. Same with the big sky dinners.
 

Devil's Advocate

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You know, I thought the people saying Anderson was anti-LD meant he had no enthusiasm for LD trains and was mismanaging LD service because he didn't care. Not-so-benign neglect, in short. But it seems the theory/belief is that he actively hated the LD trains, that he knew the right noises to make to Congress -- carrying the charade to the extent of asking Congress for more money for the national network than the NEC -- but then after getting that funding actively sabotaged the LD trains.
There is a large middle ground between indifference and hatred. Anderson is on record as saying he was okay with some long distance trains. The problem for supporters is that we're already saddled with a skeletal network that barely handles many N/S trips and Anderson never explained which trains he was willing to protect and which trains were threatened (beyond the SWC). That being the case, the prudent reaction was to assume any route could be next, because it could. Anderson was already attacking the SWC back in H1 2018, but when I plugged your numbers into google I get a budget request for 2021, which could just as easily be interpreted as a reluctant agreement to continue funding trains he originally intended to replace with low cost bus contracts and state sponsored corridor service.

Amtrak is not a factor, and no air executive views it as a threat
Amtrak's NEC service turned out to be a genuine threat. Amtrak's LD service is not much of a factor, but whenever someone in power has promoted a major passenger rail project airlines have traditionally attacked the proposal through closed door political lobbying and funding of opposition groups.
 

JRR

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Maybe that is why they discontinued allowing coach passengers on the Silvers from eating in the dining car - it made it too easy to set a price on each meal. If they wanted to declare a higher or lower portion of the sleepers for food - that is hard to do when menu prices show what is being charged.

Eliminate meals for coach - you eliminate published prices for the meals.
Actually, the “published” price for a meal paid for by Coach passengers is irrelevant.

When you buy a sleeper ticket you pay for the most expensive meal for however many meals on board. Whether or not you eat a meal or not you have paid for it and should be credited to revenue.

I doubt that they are properly accounting for revenue.
 

Thirdrail7

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Well considering that he does not become the CEO until April 15, and the he has a bit of a learning curve to traverse, it would be unfair to expect any "peep"s from him, specially ones that are substantially based on knowledge of the business and facts.
I'm not sure it would be unfair. I'd really like to know what his interest is and why he'd accept the job and that is something that can be answered without experience or knowledge.
 

Willbridge

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It might well be mere stupidity rather than malice, but either way the Anderson record is just dismal. All of the overnight trains in the east have been so degraded that even an inveterate train rider like me would rather stay home or find some alternative to riding them. Ridership on these trains is falling, even as it rises on the system overall, and this situation will get worse as more people in the trains' large pool of occasional riders discover how truly awful the service has become. Read Mail4MrTed's review of the Crescent above. Every day more riders are having their "never again" Amtrak experience. The Lake Shore now has the shortest consist of any in the nearly 45 years of its operation by Amtrak.

Yes, there was a congressional mandate on food-service costs, but under Anderson there seems to have been little if any effort to figure out how to navigate or comply with this in a way that might be palatable to the company's most loyal and high-revenue customers. And in their public comments, Anderson and his team repeatedly spread the false narrative that long-distance trains were somehow standing in the way of developing and expanding corridor operations, when in fact the existence of the national network has been crucial to the development of short-haul corridors in the Midwest, California and the Northwest over the past four decades.

And then there was the crazy bus-bridge proposal for the Southwest Chief. To conceive of such a farce, and to actually implement "contemporary" non-dining in the way that Amtrak has, reflects an utter cluelessness on Anderson's part about the organization he was leading, its mission and its customers. I fear it will take a long time to undo the damage of his tenure, if it is even possible to do so.
There's an added destructive factor in the Eastern LD service cutbacks, a phenomenon that westerners have experienced before. Media coverage concentrates on what happens in the East, but makes sweeping generalizations that apply to the whole country. When the Northern Lines and UP were still trying to do a good job for passengers, national media referred to broken down LIRR commuter trains as if that was typical. It was frustrating. Ironically, when Amtrak moved Western rolling stock east, they were celebrated in national media for making the trains worth traveling again.
 

fdaley

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There's an added destructive factor in the Eastern LD service cutbacks, a phenomenon that westerners have experienced before. Media coverage concentrates on what happens in the East, but makes sweeping generalizations that apply to the whole country.
Lots of people read news stories last fall about Amtrak killing dining car service in the East, and I'm sure some of them managed to skim over the paragraph explaining that traditional dining was still offered west of Chicago and New Orleans. To the extent that they now wrongly believe this feature of rail travel is just gone, they may be steering clear of the western trains as well.

The western trains may also suffer loss of business from people in the East who are unwilling to put up with flexible/contemporary faux dining on the trains that would connect them to the West. In the case of my family, we swore off the Lake Shore Limited after one horrible trip soon after the "contemporary dining" debut in 2018. Last year, when it came time for our annual winter trip from upstate New York to California, we avoided the LSL by taking the Canadian westbound and returning on the Sunset and Crescent. This year, with the Crescent having been turned into an abomination too (30-plus hours without a decent meal!), we looked into alternatives for getting from our home to Chicago (fly; drive to Detroit; take Via Rail and Windsor-Detroit limousine), but they all seemed like a huge hassle, so we decided to just stay home. So we not only didn't book bedrooms on the Lake Shore or any of the other eastern trains, we also didn't book them on the Southwest Chief, Coast Starlight or Zephyr.
 
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Lots of people read news stories last fall about Amtrak killing dining car service in the East, and I'm sure some of them managed to skim over the paragraph explaining that traditional dining was still offered west of Chicago and New Orleans. To the extent that they now wrongly believe this feature of rail travel is just gone, they may be steering clear of the western trains as well.

The western trains may also suffer loss of business from people in the East who are unwilling to put up with flexible/contemporary faux dining on the trains that would connect them to the West. In the case of my family, we swore off the Lake Shore Limited after one horrible trip soon after the "contemporary dining" debut in 2018. Last year, when it came time for our annual winter trip from upstate New York to California, we avoided the LSL by taking the Canadian westbound and returning on the Sunset and Crescent. This year, with the Crescent having been turned into an abomination too (30-plus hours without a decent meal!), we looked into alternatives for getting from our home to Chicago (fly; drive to Detroit; take Via Rail and Windsor-Detroit limousine), but they all seemed like a huge hassle, so we decided to just stay home. So we not only didn't book bedrooms on the Lake Shore or any of the other eastern trains, we also didn't book them on the Southwest Chief, Coast Starlight or Zephyr.
And there you have the problem for many. The length of the Crescent trip (if it is on time which it rarely is, usually 2 to 3 hours late) is 29 hours from the Anderson "end points." On a recent trip from New York to New Orleans that meant that we were on the train for 32 hours and TWO dinner bowls. The food itself had some taste but was over cooked and the "self service" in what passes for "First Class," is pathetic. We paid a whopping $2,700.00 for two round trip tickets and bedrooms and we get "self service" food bowls. That might be OK on The City of New Orleans which would provide one evening meal, but it is not OK with a longer trip and two evening meals. ALSO, that first glass of wine free thing only applies to the FIRST of the two dinners! We had to pay for the wine at the second meal. That is not clear. Over all, it is discouraging. Amtrak can to far better.
 

JRR

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Properly accounting for the revenue, and doing it the way you think they should are two different things.

Meals consumed are accounted for.
Yes, meals consumed are accounted for - that is the amount of food consumed, but as I pointed out,, the revenue is what the passenger paid to AMTRAK. The portion properly attributed to f&b of that ticket price had nothing to do with the amount consumed.
 

JRR

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Once more for possible penetration:



The passenger paid for a room, and transportation from one point to another. The breakdown past that is artificial.
I'd be glad to continue this via PM . I'll just say this further, everyone says it is the congressional mandate that is the problem. I disagree and say it is improper accounting. I disagree with your statement. If your statement is correct, then all meals are free and no matter how cheap one makes them, the F&B will show a loss.
 

Ryan

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There is literally nothing more to discuss further. You have an opinion. That opinion is not shared by anyone that makes the rules. You can incessantly yammer about it all you want with no point and nothing will change other than crapping up every thread you bring it up in. Or, you can accept that reality isn't the way you wish it to be. Welcome to life.
 
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Hopefully you communicated to Amtrak your opinion of service and value for price paid. Thanks for sharing with us.
I have reported the trip and experience with the National Association of Railroad Passengers which has a site for such reports and is the lobbying group for Amtrak in DC. I would encourage all to join!
 

west point

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Anderson must feel that the whole of Amtrak is falling on him. He may have felt good on how he was leaving until this corona mess surfaced. In like Flynn must feel like he is entering a hornet's nest.
 

IndyLions

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Anderson must feel that the whole of Amtrak is falling on him. He may have felt good on how he was leaving until this corona mess surfaced. In like Flynn must feel like he is entering a hornet's nest.

There are two ways to look at it.

One, is that he has a built-in excuse why he didn’t make the break even point that was obviously (to me at least) his primary goal all the time.

The second is true disappointment that he was “this close!” (in his mind at least) and was denied.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Flynn and the board can do whatever they want. There will be every excuse they want to either cancel services, or ramp up services. Just depends on how they want to spin it politically. Since I know 100% how Anderson would spin it at least we have a slight chance with a new guy coming in.
 

frequentflyer

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Big post over on trainorders, supervised no one here mentioned it here.


MODERATOR NOTE: this new thread was merged into the existing thread on the same topic
 
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Amtrakfflyer

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Cautiously optimistic. I’m glad someone else besides Anderson is in charge during this historic downturn. I think the point of the post was today is day one of the new regime. Thankfully it’s time to move on from talking about Anderson.
 
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Skyline

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Cautiously optimistic. I’m glad someone else besides Anderson is in charge during this historic downturn. I think the point of the post was today is day one of the new regime. Thankfully it’s time to move on from talking about Anderson.
Agree. Let's see if Flynn continues the anti-LD agenda Anderson did, and if so, talk about Flynn.
 

Devil's Advocate

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I'm most excited about moving past the discussion of the made up "anti-LD agenda".
Some of us consider cold breakfasts, flimsy tray casserole, and threats of bus bridges to be a problem. Especially when combined with the highest fares we've ever been asked to pay. Toying with a once-a-day (or less) long distance service is different from making adjustments to a regional commuter frequency. Maybe if you lived along the SWC instead of the NEC you'd have a clearer understanding of our concerns.
 

IndyLions

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I'm most excited about moving past the discussion of the made up "anti-LD agenda".
If you consider a strategy of moving resources from LD to regional/corridor services as anti-LD, then I wouldn’t call that made up. That was one of Anderson’s strategies - and he was very public about it. However, for all we know that remains a strategy of the board and/or Flynn, so I wouldn’t say we’ll be getting past it any time soon either.

I don’t see anything happening other than the CURRENT LD status quo until there is some sort of indication as to what an infrastructure bill will look like.
 

Ryan

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Some of us consider cold breakfasts, flimsy tray casserole, and threats of bus bridges to be a problem. Especially when combined with the highest fares we've ever been asked to pay. Toying with a once-a-day (or less) long distance service is different from making adjustments to a regional commuter frequency. Maybe if you lived along the SWC instead of the NEC you'd have a clearer understanding of our concerns.
I understand the concerns perfectly and agree with them. They're not proof of an anti-LD agenda. The food comes from Congress. The bus bridge never happened, and instead strengthened the viability of the SWC by getting funds committed to the maintenance of the route.


If you consider a strategy of moving resources from LD to regional/corridor services as anti-LD, then I wouldn’t call that made up.
What resources were moved from LD to regional/corridor services? Speaking out in favor of expansion into corridor service doesn't mean that it has to come at the expense of the LD service. The FY 21 budget request (prepared under Anderson) included funding requests for LD locomotive and Superliner Replacements.
 

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