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Viewliner II - Part 1 - Initial Production and Delivery

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ayezee

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Won't interchangeability with Silvers prevent the New York section of the LS from having the bagdorm though? Especially in the winter when the set heads south to thaw out.
 

rrdude

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I sure as Hell would hate to see it, but if Amtrak is on this "maximize revenue, cut anything that doesn't generate revenue" trajectory, (and it appears they are...) then they can-and-should start charging $25 per checked bag, with, as JIS and Davey pointed out, strict enforcement of the carry-on limit.

Sure, some pax will be pissed off, and some pax will defect or not travel. But if you take a peek at the fees that are earned.....it will be hard for Amtrak to ignore this.

Full article here. (just one of dozens on the topic) http://www.ibtimes.com/us-airlines-bag-35b-luggage-fees-revenue-model-shifts-1259635

EXCERPT: " .........In baggage fees alone, Delta Air Lines earned $866 million dollars last year, followed by United Airlines ($706 million), American Airlines ($557 million) and US Airways ($516 million).

Based on percentage of total revenue, budget carrier Spirit Airlines led the pack, thanks to sky-high checked luggage prices that rose last year to $100 for select passengers. The “low-cost” carrier ranked No. 5 in baggage fees, despite not being among the top 10 carriers in the U.S. by passenger numbers.

Most airlines charge travelers a fee of around $25 for the first checked bag and $35 or more for the second. Exceptions to the trend include JetBlue, which doesn’t charge for the first bag, and Southwest, which allows two free checked bags..........."

Who wudda thunk I'd be advocating for checked baggage fees?... maybe I've already turned pseudo-Republican. (in disguise)
 
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neroden

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On my recent WAS-CHI trip on the LSL, we ran real late and got bussed at Toledo. This is a single data point for a less than full LSL so it has limited relevance, but from what I observed at Toledo, the crew loaded all the checked baggage on 1 baggage cart which they then moved to the buses. Now the baggage cart was full, with the bags carefully stacked up in a roughly 8' long by 6' wide base by 5' to 6' high pile. While an impressive pile, all the bags would have fit into a one corner of the baggage car. You and Nerodon may be right on the need for a full baggage car for some of the eastern LD trains over the course of the year, but I rather see some numbers that support that notion.
Syracuse fairly often fills three baggage carts. When the train isn't full.

There's no real way to tell how much luggage goes NYP-CHI because luggage handling at both stations is largely out of customer view. But it's the largest city-pair market on the train, and it's full of people connecting west.... *maybe* the baggage would fit in a bag-dorm. Maybe not, especially if more seats and rooms are being added. (I'd guess it would fit most of the time but not at peak times.)

Demand is much lower on the Boston end.

...at the moment I'm leaning towards the theory that Amtrak decided bag-dorms were a bad idea, but CAF has already made 10 shells.
 
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neroden

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As for charging for checked baggage, Amtrak is already doing so.

Leaving an allowance for a certain number of "free" checked bags per passenger is something which Amtrak MUST do. There's no real benefit in ticking off your customers; it's not like the airlines, which have strict weight limits to get the planes in the air.

If there were zero free checked bags, well, anecdote here: a bunch of the stuff we carry qualifies as required medical equipment and Amtrak has to allow it onboard for free on top of the carry-on allowance. Because of this pile of junk, we often don't use the full carry-on allowance and instead check some of the other bags. If Amtrak charged for bags, however...

Amtrak is currently encouraging people to check more of their bags rather than carrying them on, by expanding the stations where checked baggage is possible. You don't encourage that by charging for it.
 
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MattW

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They might earn $25 here and there from some people, but would that even offset the number of people that switch (back?) to driving or flying? My gut instinct is to say that it wouldn't.
 
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jis

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I don't think it is a good idea to charge for checked baggage. OTOH I also don't think that there will be a huge modal shift this way or that if a charge were instituted provided it is not enormous. As I said earlier, unless cabin baggage is more carefully regulated instituting a charge for checked baggage would be a disaster.
 

PRR 60

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I don't think it is a good idea to charge for checked baggage. OTOH I also don't think that there will be a huge modal shift this way or that if a charge were instituted provided it is not enormous. As I said earlier, unless cabin baggage is more carefully regulated instituting a charge for checked baggage would be a disaster.
There is little evidence that Southwest Airlines "Bags Fly Free" policy has caused any significant shift in passengers from other carriers to Southwest.
 

rrdude

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But if the revenue were in the Millions, and I don't have the time to guesstimate the numbers. (Total checked bags now, % less if charged, etc., etc. X fee)

I too HATE the idea, but if Amtrak is looking for money, charging for Checked Bags is low-hanging-fruit.
 

crescent2

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Maybe this is sounding like a broken record (for those who remember or have been introduced to "records" :) ), but I'm afraid all the nickel and diming is going to be counter-productive for Amtrak.

As for charging for checked baggage, what airlines can do and what Amtrak can do are two different things. From a practical standpoint, many people must fly. I don't know whether very many people must take a long distance train. I think it takes much less to cause passengers to abandon long distance train travel than it takes to cause them to abandon air travel. I have no facts, figures, or citations; this is just off the top of my head.

It seems to me that it would be more profitable for Amtrak to hang onto the perks that it offers over other means of transportation instead of getting rid of them.
 
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NE933

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So, is the railroad doomed, for good? Or, is it probable that this signifies an oncoming option for more sleepers to offset the loss of the dorm baggage? C'mon, Massachusetts Ave., do something!
 

MikefromCrete

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So what's up with the Viewliner II's released from the factory? Last I heard the baggage car was sent back to Elmira, while the baggage-dorm, sleeper and diner were sitting in a Philadelphia yard. These cars should have been in service months ago. What's the holdup? Amtrak needs to be more forthcoming about this project. Nobody seems in a hurry to actually make some revenue from cars, baggage fees or not.
 

Thirdrail7

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So what's up with the Viewliner II's released from the factory? Last I heard the baggage car was sent back to Elmira, while the baggage-dorm, sleeper and diner were sitting in a Philadelphia yard. These cars should have been in service months ago. What's the holdup? Amtrak needs to be more forthcoming about this project. Nobody seems in a hurry to actually make some revenue from cars, baggage fees or not.
The reason they were sitting in Penn Coach Yard is they were being fitted with the necessary wheel instrumentation for the commencement of the 125 mph tests. Perhaps a video will appear tomorrow.
 

Ryan

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Yep. Video all over Facebook this morning.

Also, it's not Amtrak's job to keep foamers informed of their rest plans and status. You can't just pick up an brand new car from the factory and throw it into revenue service without any testing, so chill out. They'll be in service when they're ready.
 

jis

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Yep. Video all over Facebook this morning.

Also, it's not Amtrak's job to keep foamers informed of their rest plans and status. You can't just pick up an brand new car from the factory and throw it into revenue service without any testing, so chill out. They'll be in service when they're ready.
OTOH, if one has drunk the Koolaid from the Railpace editorial tantrum last month :p
 

rrdude

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I'm not so sure about this, "I Think it takes much less to cause passengers to abandon long distance train travel than it takes to cause them to abandon air travel....."

Think of how "poor" Amtrak's service is, or can be, in several categories, especially OTP, and yet they are seeing record numbers.

I'm not slamming the Amtrak staff, they do what they can, with duct-tape and baling-wire to keep old equipment moving. And making OBS crews do same-day turns, and work 3 and 4 meal seatings is obscene.

I think passenger rail service in the USA could sustain a number of unpopular twists, and still grow, or at least not lose patronage.

Remember, I'm not advocating less service, no-new equipment, or charging for checked baggage, I'm just stating that Amtrak IS losing out on a very large potential revenue source. It's not without cost or backlash, but I believe the "model" has been set by the airlines, and the traveling public would hardly wince at all.
 

ronkstevens

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I believe the "model" has been set by the airlines, and the traveling public would hardly wince at all.
They notice. Just because patrons adapt doesn't mean that they like the situation. Getting rid of amenities, or charging for others just because "the other guy does it" is no reason, either. You have a marketable thing that can show that you are better than your competition. If the return is greater than the investment (and that's what it is: an investment, not an expense) then it is worthwhile. Why not just put the seat pitch the same as airlines, then? People would grumble, but would still take the train because they have to. But they certainly would not be happy about the cost (especially if they are paying in the higher buckets) and would possibly look for other options.
 

afigg

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I think passenger rail service in the USA could sustain a number of unpopular twists, and still grow, or at least not lose patronage.

Remember, I'm not advocating less service, no-new equipment, or charging for checked baggage, I'm just stating that Amtrak IS losing out on a very large potential revenue source. It's not without cost or backlash, but I believe the "model" has been set by the airlines, and the traveling public would hardly wince at all.
Amtrak already tightened up the checked baggage policy several years ago. They changed it from 3 free checked bags to 2 free plus $20 each for two additional checked bags per passenger. So Amtrak is getting some revenue from checked bags, but it is likely small.

As noted by others, Amtrak does not control carry-on bags like the airlines do, nor can they because there is a not boarding or screening checkpoint before getting on the train (at most stations). So if Amtrak started charging $20 for every checked bag, most people will respond by taking all their baggage with them on the train. The amount of revenue that Amtrak would get from charging for all checked bags would be modest at best, IMO. And offset by the complaints of luggage and bags overflowing the storage areas on the trains. On the other hand, I would not rule out the checked baggage policy eventually being revised to 1 free checked bag per passenger and $20 for the 2nd to 4th checked bag. How many passengers check 2 bags each and would be affected by this, don't know.
 

afigg

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Yep. Video all over Facebook this morning.

Also, it's not Amtrak's job to keep foamers informed of their rest plans and status. You can't just pick up an brand new car from the factory and throw it into revenue service without any testing, so chill out. They'll be in service when they're ready.
A video of the test runs has been posted to Youtube: Amtrak Viewliner II High Speed Testing @ Princeton Jct (Cab Car LEADS HHP-8). Multiple passes through Princeton Jct with the 3 Viewliners II positioned between a cab car and a HHP-8.

So, yes, the cars are indeed undergoing testing!
 

MikefromCrete

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Glad my post got Amtrak moving on the testing! Seriously, despite being a foamer, I'm also a taxpayer and I'm interested in how Amtrak is spending its funds. The Viewliner II program is seriously behind schedule and Amtrak has been very quiet on the whole situation. I read the Railpace editorial, and despite the fact that part of it was gripping that Railpace was not considered a big enough publication for an Amtrak spokesman to get off his duff and do his job, it does have a legitimate point. The project has fallen farther and farther behind schedule with no explanations. If this was a BNSF project, then it would be none of my business, but Amtrak is a public entity - although it sometimes poses as a private entity when circumstances require - and should be forthcoming on its use of taxpayer money.
 

jis

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They could legitimately claim that this project is not using taxpayer money, but revenue money like any other company. :p No taxpayer money has been authorized or appropriated for this acquisition to my knowledge.
 

Amtrak172

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Does anyone know when anymore Viewliner II's will be leaving the CAF plant?

Amtrak172
 

NE933

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Also, it's not Amtrak's job to keep foamers informed of their rest plans and status. You can't just pick up an brand new car from the factory and throw it into revenue service without any testing, so chill out. They'll be in service when they're ready.
True, but Ryan: it's over accommodating to allow them "to be in service when they're ready". They should have been ready long ago, and in the current absence of that, a measurable display of urgency should be occurring, like, right now. I expect Amtrak and CAF management to be loosing some sleep to fix whatever is holding up the process. Because Amtrak is on display to Congress and to the audience of the American public. Sleeper capacity in the East has been inappropriately low for a long time, and Joe B. rolled out a special press conference that tied this new fleet to the re-energizing of Long Distance travel's 'Amtrak America'. It would indeed, be very helpful to show some transparency of where we are in the process. Otherwise, all of the efforts of rail advocates will be hemorraging. I want my work to result in something, in this case, the promise of a new fleet. The new fleet will never come if Congress and the public keeps asking where the new Viewliner II's are, and we keep saying 'they'll come when they're ready'.
 

afigg

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True, but Ryan: it's over accommodating to allow them "to be in service when they're ready". They should have been ready long ago, and in the current absence of that, a measurable display of urgency should be occurring, like, right now. I expect Amtrak and CAF management to be loosing some sleep to fix whatever is holding up the process. Because Amtrak is on display to Congress and to the audience of the American public. Sleeper capacity in the East has been inappropriately low for a long time, and Joe B. rolled out a special press conference that tied this new fleet to the re-energizing of Long Distance travel's 'Amtrak America'. It would indeed, be very helpful to show some transparency of where we are in the process. Otherwise, all of the efforts of rail advocates will be hemorraging. I want my work to result in something, in this case, the promise of a new fleet. The new fleet will never come if Congress and the public keeps asking where the new Viewliner II's are, and we keep saying 'they'll come when they're ready'.
Since Congress never appropriated funds specifically for the Viewliner II order, I don't know Congress is paying that much attention to the Viewliner II contract and delays. Amtrak is effectively paying for the cars from surplus operating subsidies and the annual capital grants. As for the delay, yes, it is a little embarrassing, but the Viewliner II delays are trivial compared to any number of other government contracts to build things from fighter aircraft to ships.
As for the testing, how do you know that Amtrak employees and the contractor engineers are not putting in a lot of hours to test and make fixes for the first set of test cars. These are entirely new pieces of equipment, there are many items to check, test, figure out what is wrong and then how best to fix it. As a software engineer who has participated in getting specialized pieces of electronic and avionic gear and devices working from scratch, I appreciate that new devices or software applications or in this case, new passenger train cars, do not usually work the first time you turn it on or test the system. We will know that progress is being made when the next set of test cars ships from Elmira.
 
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