Ticket Prices vs Day of the Week

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Joined
Jun 28, 2019
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I know Amtrak does "bucket pricing" in that they have x amount of seats/rooms/roomettes at different price tiers and the seats get more expensive as each of the lowest price tiers sell out. What I don't know is this:

Do the "starting prices" vary based on the day of the week or is it just that certain days are more popular than others and hence sell out the cheaper fares faster?
 

dogbert617

OBS Chief
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Aug 19, 2016
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Chicago, IL
I know Amtrak does "bucket pricing" in that they have x amount of seats/rooms/roomettes at different price tiers and the seats get more expensive as each of the lowest price tiers sell out. What I don't know is this:

Do the "starting prices" vary based on the day of the week or is it just that certain days are more popular than others and hence sell out the cheaper fares faster?

The lowest fares/lowest fare bucket(as I've always understood Amtrak's ticket pricing over the years), is always that same low price for each day of the week. This is regardless if you're booking a train to ride it on a Tuesday, or Sunday, or whatever other day of the week. But yes, days where ridership tends to be greater(i.e. Friday, Sunday) often end up with enough people riding to bump a ticket price up to the next highest price bucket quicker, vs. if you ride on an off peak day(i.e. Tuesday, Wednesday as long as a federal holiday doesn't fall on such a day).

Speaking of this, you should check out Amsnag. Where you can compare fares for as long as(if I recall correctly), a 30 day period of looking at fares over each of those consecutive 30 days together. https://biketrain.net/amsnag2.0/amSnag.php
 
Joined
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QB 101
As a general 'rule', not cast in bronze, concrete or anything else, Dogbert617 is 100% correct.

Being retired, I have the benefit to pick just about any day of the week to travel, except, sometimes, for making LD connections or meeting with a friend or a group of riders. So I use Amsnag for all my travels unless there are specific date requirements. I've sometimes found anomalies to the 'day-of-week' rule, such as an Acela being at the lowest bucket for a 30 day period on one specific Monday when I looked in early May. So I booked it for July 8th. I just checked now, and the same train is priced at the highest bucket for July.

The NEC is a separate case, in my opinion, with multiple trains per hour between NYP and WAS. Mondays & Fridays are always the busiest for most trains, and Thursdays have slightly more empty seats, Acela and regional alike. But so is time of day. As the NEC is heavily used for business travel, the 'arrives by 10 or 11AM' and 'departs about 5 or 6PM' trains fill the fastest, making their prices head upward the fastest as well (the old 'supply and demand' rule combined with revenue maximizing algorithms).

I don't ride regional trains outside the NEC with any regularity. But I just checked the Hiawatha for July (I'll be riding that in late July) and, as expected, the early AM as well as 4-6PM departures are slightly higher most weekdays. But then, $25 or $28 seems to be the only buckets, and weekends look like $25 for all trains. Being partly subsidized by the Wisconsin, those prices are likely 'fixed' somewhat. I'd expect other regionals have similar pricing peaks during highest business travel times of day.

The once a day long distance trains are a different case, in my opinion, as most of the riders are 'leisure travel' passengers...vacations, seeing family, etc. (Although I will say that the Crescent between WAS and ATL has a high number of business riders, in my opinion...just 'count the suits' getting on or off at ATL). So, with the exception of the Cardinal and Sunset, I'd expect Fridays to be the biggest originating train days as most vacation travelers want to arrive on Saturday or Sunday and stay a week or two, and then have to be back to work on a Monday. Although I've never paid much attention to it, based on how busy things are in the diner as well as how many seatings there are (I assume that each table 'turns' once per hour), I'd have to say Mondays through Thursdays have fewer in the diner. Fridays through Sundays are the busiest.

To sum it up, if possible, travel mid-week during non-peak travel times to get the best prices. Weekends are generally lower as well due to less demand.
 

SubwayNut

Conductor
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South Bend
The Hiawatha is an unreserved train. That has slightly higher pricing on the trains that commuters use to make round-trips to and from Chciafo.
 

niemi24s

Engineer
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Feb 11, 2015
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The only hard data data available here to support any conclusions along this line is a bit old, but is the result of 7 AmSnag queries conducted during the period 18 Jan through 1 Mar 2015 (weekends in orange):

2105EBFareDatab.jpg

Draw your own conclusions, if you can, or use AmSnag to gather your own date.
 

niemi24s

Engineer
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Feb 11, 2015
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Here's a current chart for SWC Roomettes with just the first, sixth and eleventh months worth of buckets for each day:

SWC Buckets 001.jpg
This one may be easier from which to develop your own theory. Some here contend the lowest fares start to become available five months out. That doesn't seem to be the case for this trains Roomettes. Some also claim the days are gone when low buckets were offered at the eleven month point. Don't look gone to me - at least in this example.

But to get back to the OP's initial question regarding days of the week vs. buckets - anybody spot the pattern yet? Huh?
 
Last edited:

niemi24s

Engineer
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Feb 11, 2015
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Finally, here's one gathered just this morning for Roomettes on an East Coast LD train in both directions:

SM Roomette Buckets.jpg

The pattern of days of the week vs. buckets is a lot easier to see in this one, eh? o_O
 
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