Way to cut down losses on long distance trains

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sttom

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And so you somehow came to the conclusion that they will not find Delta 1 abhorrent maybe for the same reason? ;)

Besides, you have not come up with any solution. You have just stated a low effort hope that anyone can articulate. Whether and how it will work is a different matter. It is always easy to favorably compare something that is yet to exist with something that is known to work, since all potential problems are yet to be realized.
Based on this comment then what is the point of having this forum then? If it's not to discuss potential things then there is no reason for it to exist. As for low effort, same can be said about your objections.
 
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Qapla

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Lie flat seats are better than sleeping in a non reclining seats.
Isn't there an option in between? Oh, that's right, Amtrak coach seats already are in between ... they recline but do not "lie flat".

Maybe I am in the minority, but considering I know several people the same as me, a reclining seat is actually better than a "lie flat" since some of us need to be elevated to sleep properly.

Also, it seems to me that more is needed to increase the profitability of LD trains than just the seating and bed situation.

My daughter had a few ideas :
  • having a car with "activities", like arcade machines, movies, etc
  • having a car with room to relax other than the coach seat or the bed
  • offering better food for purchase from the cafe car
  • offering other services on the train ... of course, these would take additional cars that don't have paying seats - but, since you would charge for the service, profit can still be made
While some of these "extras" would require cars that don't contain paying seats other forms of revenue streams would be needed ... but not over-priced lousy food. The thing is, if there were more things to do on long trips besides just sit or sleep - perhaps more people would travel by train and fill the seats that do produce revenue.
 

crescent-zephyr

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The thing is, if there were more things to do on long trips besides just sit or sleep - perhaps more people would travel by train and fill the seats that do produce revenue.
Fill what seats? Amtrak has a shortage of equipment don’t they? People are riding the trains that are running, that’s not really the problem.

Many of your ideas have been done in the past, but have been replaced by iPhones and iPads (and i guess non-Apple devices exist too??). I remember when all SSL cars had TVs and played movies. The parlour car had a movie theatre and a library. I would say that thanks(?) to the Instagram lifestyle, more people want to look out the window and take photos along the way.
 

crescent-zephyr

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It's a far better experience during the daytime than a section, though perhaps equivalent to a slumbercoach. When traveling in a section on the Canadian, I found the seat itself to be less desirable than Amtrak coach, and there's also the issue that you can't sleep whenever you want (it's always in seat mode during the day.) A airline lie-flat seat, on the other hand, would still be an attractive upgrade for day use as well as the lie-flat bed at night. It still would allow the option for a nap whenever desired, semi-private quarters, etc.

Based on what I've read, a slumbercoach would have similar benefits, but if it carries the same capacity it might be easier to market an airline-style seat (out of familiarity) than a train-specific one.
I think that has more to do with via and not as much the sections. The seat in via’s roomette is extremely uncomfortable as well compared to Amtrak roomette. Luckily there is always the dome! :)

It would be a weird sell for daytime travel though, I’ll give you that.
 

west point

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As Crescent=Z states equipment is in short supply. These proposals are not based on present realities. At present it appears that at least 5 years will transpire before any equipment is available for these proposals. As to demand in 5 years I have no idea. Demand could fill all the new equipment coming on line or demand might be flat compared to FY2019
 

MIRAILFAN

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As Crescent=Z states equipment is in short supply. These proposals are not based on present realities. At present it appears that at least 5 years will transpire before any equipment is available for these proposals. As to demand in 5 years I have no idea. Demand could fill all the new equipment coming on line or demand might be flat compared to FY2019
Raise fares. This will increase revenue to help increase supply.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Raise fares. This will increase revenue to help increase supply.
do you mean to help increase profit (or decrease losses as the case may be)? That's what amtrak is doing. They are most certainly raising prices and cutting costs which include labor (ticket agents, dining car staff, etc.).

Despite the captive audience, Amtrak really fails with on-board sales. Coach attendants should be walking through the coaches selling the blankets / amenity kits, there should be happy hours in the lounge car to encourage sales at otherwise slow times. The dining car should be serving food to coach passengers at their seats (like was tried, and then recently cut?). If you encouraged some sleeping car passengers to eat in their rooms, this would put less of a rush on the dining room and you would have more time to push pre and post dinner drinks. As it is, there's no time for a second drink with your dinner, if you are done eating you better leave!

Even with the new contemporary dining there is a huge waste of drink and snack sales. I don't like the contemporary dining setup but why not offer premium snacks and advertise some drink specials? I remember riding the Coast Starlight and hearing one of the famous Parlor Car LSA's (Nanette was her name? or something like that) advertising speciality drinks and announcing how she had no line, so come on down and get a bloody mary!
 
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neroden

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Amtrak didn't get enough Viewliners to replace it's heritage fleet cars. As for not replacing them, add that to the list of short sided decisions Amtrak has made over the years.

As for space:
Amfleet Car with 2+1 Business class ~45 seats.
Amfleet car with Delta 1 rip off ~34
Amfleet car with all roomettes +1 Accessible Room would be 16.
You can't count. 34. 2 people per room, remember?

In most countries, it's possible to sell the two seats / bunks in a sleeper separately, so Amtrak might consider doing that again.

This would be a ticketing option! It could be implemented entirely using software and procedures. "Roomette -- will share with stranger of same sex" for a discount to the regular "roomette for yourself" price. Amtrak hasn't been great with software or procedures, but it is at least a theoretical possibility.
 

neroden

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I'm kind of amused that a lot of the discussion of my comment has focused on the food service. In my mind, this is secondary to the points I was making. Based on ridership and revenue statistics provided by RPA, The vast majority of the passengers on "long distance" trains are making short trips.
On the other hand, "short" includes a lot of "Syracuse to Chicago", which is clearly a sleeper market.

Top city pairs by ridership on the LSL, in order:
Albany-NY
Chicago-NY
Chicago-Buffalo
Chicago-Syracuse
Chicago-Albany
Chicago-Rochester
Chicago-Cleveland
Chicago-Toledo
Chicago-Boston
NY-Rochester

These aren't short. Many are a lot shorter than end to end... but all but two are overnight, and even NY-Rochester is long enough to sell roomettes.

On the other hand, the sleeper passengers making longer trips do generate a heck of a lot of revenue because their trips are longer and the average fares they pay are higher (but not as high was I would have guessed.)

In terms of profitability, what a decision-maker would need to know would be the actual direct costs (without allocations for overhead) of providing sleeper service.
Revenues are higher than direct costs on at least the trains where the sleepers currently run; I did this math a while back. They are likely to be higher on trains such as #66/#67, but I don't have the data necessary to check.

A subtler question is "when you add a sleeper car to a train, what is the incremental profit; when you add a coach car to a train, what is the incremental profit; which is larger". A couple of us dug through Amtrak's numbers a few years back, and concluded that at current prices (a few years back) it was more profitable to add extra coaches to the Silver Meteor, Silver Star, and Crescent, but substantially more profitable to add extra sleepers to the Lake Shore Limited, and probably to the Cardinal. (We only looked at the single-level trains.)

Mr. Anderson and Mr. Gardner have been aggressively attacking the quality of service on the Lake Shore Limite in what I can only describe as an attempt to drive away riders and reduce revenue.

The problem with analyzing what's going on with Amtrak is that the company does not seem to be providing accurate estimates of the actual additional direct costs of the "amenities" that would help public discussion of the issue. Heck, I suspect even top internal management isn't getting accurate estimates of costs, which may explain why Mr. Anderson, in particular, is so down on the national network.
This is absolutely correct. It's part of why Congress mandated that Amtrak report direct costs by route, a law which Amtrak has broken every year for the last 10 years. If Mr. Anderson were looking at real numbers, he could make sensible business decisions; he is being fed fake numbers.
 

MARC Rider

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On the second point, I have also mentioned that business class should be 2+1 system wide. Right now, on some routes, it's just long distance coach with some drinks.
As far as I am aware, there are only 3 long distance trains with business class -- the Cardinal, the Lake Shore Limited, and the Coast Starlight.

The Cardinal and the Lake Shore Limited have 2+1 business class, so only the Coast Starlight's business class can be considered "long-distance coach with some drinks."

The problem with the current 2+1 equipment is that they're club cars, with seating limited to only 18 passengers at a time. The club seating that provides a sort of private lounge for business class passengers is kind of nice, but it would also be good for Amtrak's bottom line to be able to sell more business class upgrades. On my trip on the Cardinal last month, business class looked pretty full most of the trip. If they had more seats, the probably could have sold them.
 

jis

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Technically at least, the Palmetto is also an LD train with Business Class, though it is a day, that is not an overnight, train.
 

Willbridge

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Technically at least, the Palmetto is also an LD train with Business Class, though it is a day, that is not an overnight, train.
In fact, the definition of a LD train seems to have been tailored to spare the Palmetto, but be long enough to screw California. Elsewhere in U.S. planning the dividing line is 500 miles.

The 750-mile route definition still leaves room for hypothetical corridor operations that Amtrak could introduce on their own as a proof of concept (if they believed what they are saying), except that the Class I's would want to prove otherwise. And some of the best opportunities fit like the Palmetto as a daylight train on a route also served by an overnight LD train.
 

Willbridge

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As far as I am aware, there are only 3 long distance trains with business class -- the Cardinal, the Lake Shore Limited, and the Coast Starlight.

The Cardinal and the Lake Shore Limited have 2+1 business class, so only the Coast Starlight's business class can be considered "long-distance coach with some drinks."

The problem with the current 2+1 equipment is that they're club cars, with seating limited to only 18 passengers at a time. The club seating that provides a sort of private lounge for business class passengers is kind of nice, but it would also be good for Amtrak's bottom line to be able to sell more business class upgrades. On my trip on the Cardinal last month, business class looked pretty full most of the trip. If they had more seats, the probably could have sold them.
Having used the CS Business Class several times, I can say that it is rare that the occupancy gets over the equivalent of 2-1 seating.
 

neroden

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Of course, the ultimate solution is to run on time consistently. Documented to double ridership and revenue.

Agreed that Amtrak is wildly incompetent at on board sales. Used to be better but degradation of what's offered is slashing sales.
 

daybeers

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I still say fare increases.
I believe the fare increases implemented already are risking losing key ridership. At a certain price point there will be fewer people willing to shell out more money for a semi-substantial increase over the previous year in which they did the same trip, for example, which equals less revenue overall.

We shall see what FY20 brings.
 
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To increase the profit one need to truly understand what most potential business travelers as well as laid-back passengers are looking for in common and it's not available in both cars travel or air travel. It is the ability to comfort travel overnight without wasting precious day time, and sleeps with privacy and confidence of security (in a lockable private space)

With that in mind, long distance train should be cut into several mid-distance trains, with each route fit into 8~14 hours total riding time. Departs before the night on day 1, arrives next morning, adding more stops on both end, and skipping as much stops as possible in the middle.

In Europe, this is usually called "Hotel Train"
 

MARC Rider

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I believe the fare increases implemented already are risking losing key ridership. At a certain price point there will be fewer people willing to shell out more money for a semi-substantial increase over the previous year in which they did the same trip, for example, which equals less revenue overall.

We shall see what FY20 brings.
What it appears that they're doing is hoping that the higher fares and cut costs will offset the decreased ridership in terms of revenue. This is the problem with the concept of "profitability." You can be profitable by having high prices and fewer customers, or having lower prices and more customers. Those of us who want to expand the role of passenger rail in our transportation mix would prefer the latter. I guess the current management at Amtrak doesn't care, "profitability is profitability." But I would think that Congress, who is funding Amtrak, might have a different idea of "profitability," which would be to run as many trains as possible (in as many of the members' districts or states as possible) without having to provide an operating subsidy. That's a lot different from the perspective of a private-sector CEO.

The long distance trains rely on sales of premium tickets (i.e., sleepers) to boost revenue, so they need to be very careful not to cut into those sales. Sleeper passengers are more sensitive to service quality, so management has to be careful about how they cut the costs of providing the premium service. Obviously, the current management of Amtrak is not doing a very good job of this.
 

jis

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Isn't there an option in between? Oh, that's right, Amtrak coach seats already are in between ... they recline but do not "lie flat".

Maybe I am in the minority, but considering I know several people the same as me, a reclining seat is actually better than a "lie flat" since some of us need to be elevated to sleep properly.
The advantage of a lie flat seat is that you can set the seat to whatever shape suits you the best, somewhat similar to a hospital bed. So, no. Even for the likes of you a lie flat seat is really better since you can set it to the exact level of recline that work for you rather than be constrained by the recline limits of a reclining seat.
 

Qapla

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no. Even for the likes of you a lie flat seat is really better since you can set it to the exact level of recline that work for you rather than be constrained by the recline limits of a reclining seat.
Except that, the current Amtrak reclining seats already recline further back than I need/want to sleep ... so, NO, for me, a lie flat seat is not really better - but then, that is me, not everyone else.
 

jis

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Except that, the current Amtrak reclining seats already recline further back than I need/want to sleep ... so, NO, for me, a lie flat seat is not really better - but then, that is me, not everyone else.
Just curious. Since you give the impression that you don;t fly, have you ever actually used a lie flat seat as found in airline business/first class? Or is your impression purely theoretical in nature?
 

Tom Booth

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To increase the profit one need to truly understand what most potential business travelers as well as laid-back passengers are looking for in common and it's not available in both cars travel or air travel. It is the ability to comfort travel overnight without wasting precious day time, and sleeps with privacy and confidence of security (in a lockable private space)

With that in mind, long distance train should be cut into several mid-distance trains, with each route fit into 8~14 hours total riding time. Departs before the night on day 1, arrives next morning, adding more stops on both end, and skipping as much stops as possible in the middle.

In Europe, this is usually called "Hotel Train"
One on the primary purposes of LD routes is to serve small areas which have little or no access to airports, thus fulfilling its mandate for a national network. Your proposal defeats that purpose but it's right in line with what Anderson wants to do.
 

Qapla

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Just curious. Since you give the impression that you don't fly, have you ever actually used a lie flat seat as found in airline business/first class? Or is your impression purely theoretical in nature?
Trust me ... it's not an "impression" that I don't fly - I have stated several time that I Do NOT Fly ... can't take heights! Don't want to try and see if I can fly. I have gone this long without going up in a plane ... not eager to start now,at my age.

That said, even though I have not actually used a lie flat seat as found in airlines ... I have ridden in Amtrak seats and know, for a fact, I am more comfortable NOT reclining all the way back. With my sleep apnea I have trouble breathing if I lie flat on my back. In addition to that, due to many years of installing carpet, I also have trouble sleeping on either side if I lie flat - kills my knees and right hip.

Therefore, I usually sleep for most of the night in a recliner at home - one of the reasons I can sleep so well in the reclining seat on Amtrak. When I do sleep in the bed, I have my head (and upper portion) propped up on two pillows to relieve the pain and allow me to breath. Even with the CPAP, I cannot "lie flat". Although the CPAP makes breathing a little easier, it does nothing for my hip and knees.

I will say, I would like more padding in the Amtrak seats. The last couple I rode in seemed a bit harder than in the past.
 

Barb Stout

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To increase the profit one need to truly understand what most potential business travelers as well as laid-back passengers are looking for in common and it's not available in both cars travel or air travel. It is the ability to comfort travel overnight without wasting precious day time, and sleeps with privacy and confidence of security (in a lockable private space)

With that in mind, long distance train should be cut into several mid-distance trains, with each route fit into 8~14 hours total riding time. Departs before the night on day 1, arrives next morning, adding more stops on both end, and skipping as much stops as possible in the middle.

In Europe, this is usually called "Hotel Train"
Or just get rid of the long distance trains altogether and have the long distance travelers drive or fly. Just in case anyone things I'm serious, of course I'm not, as I live in flyover country.
 
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