Silver Sleepers Sold out

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me_little_me

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For those who are commenting that the talk is just rumor, it exists only because Amtrak has chosen not to be more open. While it may be justified, lack of info makes for worried and unhappy customers.
 

Ryan

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The majority of customers already booked don't hang out on foamer boards and have no clue that anything may be amiss.
 
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> The majority of customers already booked don't hang out on foamer boards and have no clue anything may be amiss.

I can only speak for *this* customer. While I don't hang out on foamer boards, I do travel on Amtrak a fair amount. (I usually have about 14,000 guest reward points each year). I've learned that, whether it's a hotel booking or a rail fare, when booked ahead by a significant amount, it pays to monitor the room rate/rail fare, because it sometimes goes down. I got quite a refund last year when the room I'd booked on the Sunset Limited dropped by almost $400.

And so, I'd been monitoring the fare for our trip in August. That's how I happened to stumble on the 'missing sleepers': I couldn't find a fare to compare to my original one. And that's how I also happened to stumble on this discussion of why the sleepers may have gone missing.

The most logical explanation of all I've heard, so far, is that the Star is dropping to one sleeper, dropping the diner, and will have the food costs divorced from the rail fare. However, I find it hard to believe that Amtrak will have just one train, in the entire network, where the sleeper fare does not include meals. That would become a branding nightmare. So I'm still puzzled as to what's going on. It could just be a test to see how the absence of sleepers on the Star affects bookings on the Meteor.

Phil
 

Anderson

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> The majority of customers already booked don't hang out on foamer boards and have no clue anything may be amiss.

I can only speak for *this* customer. While I don't hang out on foamer boards, I do travel on Amtrak a fair amount. (I usually have about 14,000 guest reward points each year). I've learned that, whether it's a hotel booking or a rail fare, when booked ahead by a significant amount, it pays to monitor the room rate/rail fare, because it sometimes goes down. I got quite a refund last year when the room I'd booked on the Sunset Limited dropped by almost $400.

And so, I'd been monitoring the fare for our trip in August. That's how I happened to stumble on the 'missing sleepers': I couldn't find a fare to compare to my original one. And that's how I also happened to stumble on this discussion of why the sleepers may have gone missing.

The most logical explanation of all I've heard, so far, is that the Star is dropping to one sleeper, dropping the diner, and will have the food costs divorced from the rail fare. However, I find it hard to believe that Amtrak will have just one train, in the entire network, where the sleeper fare does not include meals. That would become a branding nightmare. So I'm still puzzled as to what's going on. It could just be a test to see how the absence of sleepers on the Star affects bookings on the Meteor.

Phil
I'm going to concur that, by definition, you're not average. The "average" customer doesn't spend what I believe on the basis of your stated AGR earnings would be $7000/yr on train travel. With that said, a large number of us are multiple standard deviations off of the "norm".

Realistically, though, even if this "sticks" for a bit there are two other trains likely to wind up in a somewhat similar position: 66/67, should it end up with a sleeper being added back; and the Pennsylvanian, if it gets the through cars. Ideally the Star would have its diner back (with meal costs included back again).
 

jis

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I tend to agree. If a new class of overnight trains with limited Sleeper service and some enhanced Cafe/ Lounge service (perhaps even provided using the Diner hard product) is going to be created then the prime candidates beyond the Star would be the Cardinal and of course 65/66/67 when it get its Sleeper. These need not be limited to a single Sleeper either.
 

chakk

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My mixed train about a decade ago was on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad roundtrip between alamosa and antonito. The train provided connecting service to/from the Cumbres & Toltec steam train that runs between antonito and chama, new mexico. Our train had about six freight cars in front of a full-length dome and a single-level coach. Two dome attendants served snacks and beverages on the morning run to antonito. NO crew aboard the return trip -- we opened our own door and put down the step box at Alamosa, up hearing the engineer blow one short whistle after coming to a complete stop. That is the standard signal to indicate that the brakes are set. The engine crew worked sidings around Antonito with the freight cars while the steam train was out on the Chama run, and departed for Chama 15 minutes after the steam train returned to Antonito and the engine crew saw us board the coach. Too hot to ride inside the dome on the return run unfortunately.
 

jis

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My mixed train about a decade ago was on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad roundtrip between alamosa and antonito. The train provided connecting service to/from the Cumbres & Toltec steam train that runs between antonito and chama, new mexico. Our train had about six freight cars in front of a full-length dome and a single-level coach. Two dome attendants served snacks and beverages on the morning run to antonito. NO crew aboard the return trip -- we opened our own door and put down the step box at Alamosa, up hearing the engineer blow one short whistle after coming to a complete stop. That is the standard signal to indicate that the brakes are set. The engine crew worked sidings around Antonito with the freight cars while the steam train was out on the Chama run, and departed for Chama 15 minutes after the steam train returned to Antonito and the engine crew saw us board the coach. Too hot to ride inside the dome on the return run unfortunately.
Interesting information. Just curious. What does this have to do with whether Sleepers are sold out on the Silvers or not? Or even the usage of Diners or not n Amtrak overnight trains for that matter. Just a bit puzzled. Are you suggesting that Amtrak should operate such trains?
 

Devil's Advocate

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I have mixed feelings about the prospect of no meal sleepers. On the one hand I could easily give up eating any more reheated frozen AmChow in exchange for a substantially lower fare. Most of the meals I previously selected have either been removed or modified in a manner which makes them even less appealing now. In addition most of my annoyances these days revolve around the routine barking, perpetual lethargy, and abrasive indifference of the dining car staff.

On the other hand most people on the forum seem to enjoy Amtrak dining so it would probably be a big loss for them. Scaling back dining options has also been a successful tactic for private railroads who wanted to scale back passenger operations of long distance services in the past. That is not something I desire to see. Not to mention that whatever discount is given is likely to be minimal and/or eroded over time until the cost for a no-meal sleeper is hardly any different from what we're paying for a sleeper with meals today.

Then there's the whole issue of redemption options. Although it's possible AGR might create a new lower redemption level for sleepers without meals it seems equally likely that redeeming for a sleeper without meals won't save you any points. Indeed the current redemption levels may end up having their meals removed with a new higher level bracket to add meals again. I'm also wondering if this development comes to pass will it end up changing any opinions about Boardman's tenure.
 
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P

Pessimist

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On the one hand I could easily give up eating any more reheated frozen AmChow in exchange for a substantially lower fare.
Although it's possible AGR might create a new lower redemption level for sleepers without meals it seems equally likely that redeeming for a sleeper without meals won't save you any points.
Being a card carrying pessimist, IMHO, sleepers w/o meals will not see any lowering of their fares, and equally, sleepers w/o meals will not see any lowering of AGR redemption points.

I base this on my feelings that part of the problem is that Amtrak isn't apportioning true meal costs against current sleeper fares. So, if meals are eliminated, there is no meal cost accounting (bookkeeping) line to subtract from sleeper fares (nor from sleeper redemption points). With nothing to subtract, there is no net change possible.

Yes, I do know that there is an actual cost of serving food in the diners to sleeper passengers, but their current meal cost accounting practice (or the lack thereof) is why the diners appear to be loosing money.
 

Big Iron

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If Amtrak were to offer a mixed train with freight cars and a single coach, I'd make a special point to ride it. Last time I got to ride a mixed train was about 10 years ago between Alamosa and Antonito, Colorado,
Amtrak ran a mixed train, The Fast Mail.

 

Anderson

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I'm beginning to see a bigger issue, in some respects, from the fact that Amtrak has blocked out the sleepers on the Star for over a week (I think we're closing in on two weeks) now. Regardless of what Amtrak intends to do here, they need to do it and get off the pot over this one before they start losing business to the lack of listed sleeping car space on those trains. At a bare minimum, they need to "service alert" the space somehow so people at least know what's up (lest people start assuming the train has no sleeper).
 

Palmetto

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I agree with Anderson on this one. Nothing "official" by way of simple information leads to all sorts of erroneous speculation. Is there some military secret about all of this? :)
 

VentureForth

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The more upfront Amtrak is about this, and the quicker they resolve the issue, the less likely to lose market share to the Hound or airlines.
 

keelhauled

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Anyone looking to book a sleeper is not thinking about a bus. And compared to airlines there isn't any measurable market share to loose in the few thousand sleeper passengers, the vast majority of which can just as easily travel on the Meteor, which I expect is where they are in fact ending up.
 

TVRM610

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I think Amtrak is still trying to decide. If they operate the Cafe car as a Diner Lite, they can still offer full service dining to sleeper passengers. If they drop all food service they must create an entire new "sleeper only" class. That's a pretty big decision to make...
 

Anderson

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There's no serious plan to ditch the cafe as well. Eliminating all food service would be so stunningly stupid as to defy words, but that also hasn't been considered. If nothing else, Amtrak could look at doing something like they do on the Cardinal.
 

jebr

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Yeah, coach is still available, so any business lost to bus companies would be so negligible as to not be worth measuring.

Airlines would be a real threat, especially if the Meteor schedule doesn't work for them or they aren't along the Meteor route. Amtrak needs to fix it for that purpose (and just to make sure that customers aren't left in the dark.)
 

TVRM610

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There's no serious plan to ditch the cafe as well. Eliminating all food service would be so stunningly stupid as to defy words, but that also hasn't been considered. If nothing else, Amtrak could look at doing something like they do on the Cardinal.
Anderson... i should have worded that better, when I said "drop all food service" I meant drop all food service included in sleeper fares.
 

Anderson

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Yeah, coach is still available, so any business lost to bus companies would be so negligible as to not be worth measuring.

Airlines would be a real threat, especially if the Meteor schedule doesn't work for them or they aren't along the Meteor route. Amtrak needs to fix it for that purpose (and just to make sure that customers aren't left in the dark.)
Well, and let's not forget that there are two reasonably major cities (Raleigh and Tampa) not directly served by the Meteor. Tampa-Miami and Raleigh-New York are both long enough (especially the latter) that you will get sleeper passengers on both legs. I've run into Raleigh-bound sleeper passengers when traveling south from Richmond...from New York, the proposition of two included meals and the ability to lay down for a nap (NYP-RGH really is a long enough haul for folks to justify this...it's over 9:30 SB and 10:00 NB [the latter due to some padding, granted...]; MIA-TPA would be more of an "if the price is right" situation given the shorter distance, but that market is actually bigger on the Star than is NYP-RGH).
 

keelhauled

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I don't agree that losing sleeper service on the Star would be a significant detriment. And I have also seen no credible rumors (if such a thing exists) that the star will even be loosing sleeper service entirely; my understanding is that the diner is being removed and a single sleeper shifted to the Meteor.

If we look at the NARP fact sheet (http://www.narprail.org/uploads/3/0/4/0/30401991/trains.pdf), the Star essentially serves three major markets: Northeast-Florida, Northeast-NC/VA, and intra-Florida. And by ridership the top by far is intra-Florida.

The only pair which I would argue even needs a sleeper at all is Northeast-Tampa. Everything else to Florida can be served by the Meteor. Intra-Florida in no way requires sleeper service. And if people are even using the sleepers for that purpose than Amtrak in my opinion is hugely botching their pricing by allowing sleeper fares to drop low enough that people will take short haul trips within Florida, blocking off rooms for more lucrative passengers going further north. And the Palmetto and Carolinian have shown that sleepers are not required for successful mid distance day trips even further than Raleigh.
 

Anderson

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I don't agree that losing sleeper service on the Star would be a significant detriment. And I have also seen no credible rumors (if such a thing exists) that the star will even be loosing sleeper service entirely; my understanding is that the diner is being removed and a single sleeper shifted to the Meteor.

If we look at the NARP fact sheet (http://www.narprail.org/uploads/3/0/4/0/30401991/trains.pdf), the Star essentially serves three major markets: Northeast-Florida, Northeast-NC/VA, and intra-Florida. And by ridership the top by far is intra-Florida.

The only pair which I would argue even needs a sleeper at all is Northeast-Tampa. Everything else to Florida can be served by the Meteor. Intra-Florida in no way requires sleeper service. And if people are even using the sleepers for that purpose than Amtrak in my opinion is hugely botching their pricing by allowing sleeper fares to drop low enough that people will take short haul trips within Florida, blocking off rooms for more lucrative passengers going further north. And the Palmetto and Carolinian have shown that sleepers are not required for successful mid distance day trips even further than Raleigh.
I disagree flatly with a lot of what you're saying. Northeast-Florida requires sleeper service, yes. However, most of your NEC-South Florida traffic winds up on the Meteor. If Amtrak can resell rooms on the Star between Orlando/Tampa and Miami then that is going to be an extra couple hundred bucks in revenue (the room charge for a roomette which I generally find is about $120 TPA-MIA, though I don't know whether that is high bucket or low). If Amtrak can sell two such spaces per train, net of meals that is probably about $200/train...or about $150k/yr in added revenue for a space that was being vacated. Likewise, if Jacksonville is a net-discharge station for the sleepers on the Silvers southbound and a net boarding station northbound (which I believe is the case) then Amtrak would do well to try and re-sell a few spaces south of there. The same thing applies north of Raleigh/Richmond: If a space is being vacated you want to sell it a second (or third) time.

"Needs a sleeper" is not the same as "a sleeper would be beneficial/net incremental for". True, you don't want to flood the sleeper with Tampa-Miami traffic and block out someone going Raleigh-Miami...but you also don't want to turn away an additional sale if doing so would improve your overall load factors and generate more revenue.
 

jis

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I do agree with Anderson on this one.

Interestingly, from a revenue perspective it is probably best to be able to turn a room over a few times en route rather than carrying passengers end to end. Doing a discount sale on all the accommodation freed up southbound at Orlando may not be that bad a thing. Such space could be released late at lower rate after it is clear that not too many through passengers are being displaced. Or alternatively a quota system could be used like Indian Railways does quite effectively in such situations.
 

chakk

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My mixed train about a decade ago was on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad roundtrip between alamosa and antonito. The train provided connecting service to/from the Cumbres & Toltec steam train that runs between antonito and chama, new mexico. Our train had about six freight cars in front of a full-length dome and a single-level coach. Two dome attendants served snacks and beverages on the morning run to antonito. NO crew aboard the return trip -- we opened our own door and put down the step box at Alamosa, up hearing the engineer blow one short whistle after coming to a complete stop. That is the standard signal to indicate that the brakes are set. The engine crew worked sidings around Antonito with the freight cars while the steam train was out on the Chama run, and departed for Chama 15 minutes after the steam train returned to Antonito and the engine crew saw us board the coach. Too hot to ride inside the dome on the return run unfortunately.
Interesting information. Just curious. What does this have to do with whether Sleepers are sold out on the Silvers or not? Or even the usage of Diners or not n Amtrak overnight trains for that matter. Just a bit puzzled. Are you suggesting that Amtrak should operate such trains?
I was just responding to the comment about mixed trains on Amtrak, and how I would be willing to ride such a train to capture the "rare mileage" if one were offered. I seriously doubt that Amtrak will ever resort again to "mixed" trains -- I consider those years when some Amtrak trains carried many MHCs as "mixed" trains.
 
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