Way to cut down losses on long distance trains

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railiner

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It might have been concerns about the track or signals. I know that when they added coal traffic to the KP line (Denver-Salina) they had to do a lot of work to get it up to consistent speed limits and to re-signalize it.
You could be correct about that...I don't know how good the line was between Sterling and Julesburg at that point in time. Of course, once reaching Julesburg, it was high iron the rest of the way. Another choice they had to make was whether to run the test train back onto the BN at Grand Island, or not, in order to serve Lincoln. They chose not. They could also have used the main freight route between Fremont and Missouri Valley via Blair and California Jct. to reach the C&NW, but that would have bypassed Omaha. Mr. Larson came to Amtrak from the North Western, so he felt "at home" on that iron...:cool:
 

Willbridge

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i miss the pioneer, my fav route
Me, too. I'm a big city guy, but I believed that it was our duty to work with the communities all along the route for mutual benefits. Just because someone can fly from coast to coast does not mean that the people in between should be kicked around, as they were.


The pdf from my OreDOT days shows a sample of the kind of stuff that went on. Luckily, we had two daily newspapers in Portland then. The Oregon Journal was glad to expose missteps by the morning paper.
 

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Mailliw

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A single roomette or an open section takes up virtually the same space as a roomette. It makes no sense. The slumbercoach design worked because it jammed more roomettes into the same space with the duplex design. I don't think that type of design could be built today.
The primary advantage of open sections over roomettes is that each berth can be sold seperatly.

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.


Personally If you're going to allow passengers to book an individual berth in a shared compartment (hostel train vs hotel train) then the Russian coupe/ Asian soft sleeper set up is the way to go. There's a comfortable day mode and the same 4 berth compartment can be sold to a group of four, four solo travelers, or even as deluxe accommodations for a couple (by leaving the upper berths folded) at different prices. The last option would be convenient for senior citizens since both beds would be lowers (neither of my parents could ever get into an upper). Eight or nine of these compartments (with shared facilities) can fit in a sleeping car (so 32-36 max passengers). I think one compartment could be made ADA accessible by having one of the couches be removable and being next-door to an ADA restroom.
 

Willbridge

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The primary advantage of open sections over roomettes is that each berth can be sold seperatly.





Personally If you're going to allow passengers to book an individual berth in a shared compartment (hostel train vs hotel train) then the Russian coupe/ Asian soft sleeper set up is the way to go. There's a comfortable day mode and the same 4 berth compartment can be sold to a group of four, four solo travelers, or even as deluxe accommodations for a couple (by leaving the upper berths folded) at different prices. The last option would be convenient for senior citizens since both beds would be lowers (neither of my parents could ever get into an upper). Eight or nine of these compartments (with shared facilities) can fit in a sleeping car (so 32-36 max passengers). I think one compartment could be made ADA accessible by having one of the couches be removable and being next-door to an ADA restroom.
The other advantage of the Russian coupe (4-berth room) is that there is less chance of a forced acquaintance with one other passenger. In five nights on a round-trip Moscow-Tomsk I only had a drunk fellow traveler on one night, and there were other passengers to share the nuisance of dealing with him. If we had been in the 2-berth soft compartment my school days Russian would not have been a good fit when he was talkative.
 

Ziv

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I have traveled on Train #3 from Beijing to Moscow twice and both times Western travelers were assigned to compartments with other Westerners for the Russian part and with a mix of people from all over on the Chinese part. I traveled 2/4 class, second class couchette with 4 beds and we did have the drunk Mongolian "trader" on one trip, but he was pretty cool. I traveled with the manager of an orphanage in Ulaan Bataar on another trip. That was interesting. I got "mugged" by a babushka, I thought she had stolen a box of oranges I was supposed to protect for the orphanage owner. It turned out it was really her box of oranges that she had set down near the ones I was watching over for the orphanage, so I was the one trying to "take" her oranges. The conductor laughed himself silly when I counted the boxes of fruit left in my charge and realized that they were all still there after the babushka took off with her box of oranges. This happened during the changing of the bogies, which was cool as well.
2/4 class is cool but I want to travel in first class next time. Your own compartment and a bathroom you share with just one other compartment sounds really good.
Just as an FYI, I booked with Moonsky Star/Monkey Business travel, and they were outstanding!
The other advantage of the Russian coupe (4-berth room) is that there is less chance of a forced acquaintance with one other passenger. In five nights on a round-trip Moscow-Tomsk I only had a drunk fellow traveler on one night, and there were other passengers to share the nuisance of dealing with him. If we had been in the 2-berth soft compartment my school days Russian would not have been a good fit when he was talkative.
 

jiml

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I don't think we'll ever see the European "couchette" concept in litigious North America. All it would take is one complaint and the liability lawyers would bring the whole thing to a screaming halt.
 

sttom

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Via Rail still runs open sections on the Canadian, there isn't a huge capacity difference between a 4 bunk couchette car and an all section car. I also haven't heard of any major lawsuits against Via Rail over "activities" that happen in the Open Sections. And by "activities" I mean things that people would instantly sue over, but no one has seemed to and gotten this accommodation pulled. What would people sue over in a section or lie flat seat that they wouldn't already be able to sue over now on a train? Theft? You're belongings can be stolen now while you're asleep, in the can, or getting food now. Someone on the train being annoying? Again, that can happen now and as far as I'm aware lawsuits over people being jerks to each other on Amtrak isn't ruining them financially. So other than some weird crash safety rule that would probably get the roomettes pulled as well, what could someone sue over if the roomette had a curtain and you paid for a semi public sleeping space that they couldn't sue over now?
 

AmtrakFlyer

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In light of Amtrak’s latest bailout request with only 10-12 percent of the 1.4 billion going to the long distance network the real question might be, “how can we cut back loses on the NEC and corridors?”

Just saying I think the cat is finally out of the bag...
 

Bob Dylan

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According to a Post on trainorders:

Starting October 1, ALL LD Trains will Operate 3 Days a week,with the Exception of the Autotrain which will run Daily, and the Silver Meteor which will run 4 times per week with the Star on the other 3 days.

Supposedly service will be upgraded as Ridership improves, but nothing is mentioned about the Diners or the Menus.

This probably means the current Food and Beverages policies will continue.

The NEC will have a 33% Reduction in Service ( Acela is not mentioned)and Amtrak Crewed and Operated State Supported Services will be reduced 24%!!!
 
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Amtrakfflyer

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RPA‘s response will be interesting. Lap dog, a dog that barks but has no teeth or an all out pittbull attack to explain how tri weekly was a distaster last time around. Fixed costs don’t go away and that’s where the costs are.

Unfortunately I see RPA barking or being a complete lap dog but not much else.
 

Mailliw

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I don't think we'll ever see the European "couchette" concept in litigious North America. All it would take is one complaint and the liability lawyers would bring the whole thing to a screaming halt.
How would this be more of a liability issue than hostels? Or overnight coaches, busses, or ted eyes for that matter? Amtrak needs to attract Milennials and post-Millennials; most of us are budget travelers familiar with hostels. This model yields one product which can be sold in different configurations at will to accommodate solo budget travelers, groups, families, and seniors or travelers who can't manage bunk beds but don't need a ADA compartment.
 

Qapla

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Let's see if I understand this correctly ... people who don't want communal dining with people they don't know would be fine with communal sleeping bunks with people they don't know
 

jiml

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How would this be more of a liability issue than hostels? Or overnight coaches, busses, or ted eyes for that matter? Amtrak needs to attract Milennials and post-Millennials; most of us are budget travelers familiar with hostels. This model yields one product which can be sold in different configurations at will to accommodate solo budget travelers, groups, families, and seniors or travelers who can't manage bunk beds but don't need a ADA compartment.
I wasn't arguing against the concept; just explaining why it won't happen. A complaint of unwanted contact or robbery behind closed doors is not going to end well. As well, the hostel concept is a niche market - one which Amtrak/VIA are not going to spend money to address. As for all your other examples, the railroads already have open coaches where people sleep or attempt to sleep. The key word is "open", as in clear sight of others. This greatly reduces the risk, although incidents still happen:
 

Mailliw

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Fair point and I did qualify this concept only makes sense if travelers could book individual berths. Otherwise the best option would be open sections and 2-person compartments that can be joined together for groups. Amtrak needs to go after new markets to stay viable. Via Rail manages to operate a budget sleeping option on a train longer than any US train. I still think allowing shared compartments could be a viable option though.
 

me_little_me

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Fair point and I did qualify this concept only makes sense if travelers could book individual berths. Otherwise the best option would be open sections and 2-person compartments that can be joined together for groups. Amtrak needs to go after new markets to stay viable. Via Rail manages to operate a budget sleeping option on a train longer than any US train. I still think allowing shared compartments could be a viable option though.
"a train" says it all. Amtrak could replace the Sunset Limited, Southwest Chief, California Zephyr and Empire Builder with one train that has those features. Only works with a country that has a single set of cities from Toronto to Vancouver that can all be hit by one train.

Similarly, the Crescent, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, Lake Shore Limited can be replaced by a single train that runs from NYC to Chicago. Then one would have the equivalent of the Ocean.

Right!
 

jiml

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"a train" says it all. Amtrak could replace the Sunset Limited, Southwest Chief, California Zephyr and Empire Builder with one train that has those features. Only works with a country that has a single set of cities from Toronto to Vancouver that can all be hit by one train.

Similarly, the Crescent, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, Lake Shore Limited can be replaced by a single train that runs from NYC to Chicago. Then one would have the equivalent of the Ocean.

Right!
You have to remember that VIA used to have multiple trains across the country. Many cities that used to be served are no longer. It's been "death by a thousand cuts". The single long distance routes take the path of least resistance rather than actually serving some major markets (Calgary AB, Regina SK, Saint John NB and the list goes on).
 

Willbridge

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You have to remember that VIA used to have multiple trains across the country. Many cities that used to be served are no longer. It's been "death by a thousand cuts". The single long distance routes take the path of least resistance rather than actually serving some major markets (Calgary AB, Regina SK, Saint John NB and the list goes on).
Actually both trans-Canada lines are about the same regarding major rail markets. Edmonton and Saskatoon have university traffic and Jasper is far enough from major airports to make for a rail trip in itself. The selection of one line appears to have had more to do with relations with the respective railways. VIA was mainly staffed from CN.

Relating to the theme of this string, both Canadian companies prior to VIA took a different approach than their American peers. CN used day coaches on transcontinental runs (72? seats). CP charged higher fares and had 60? seats. VIA Rail introduced the Day-Niter coach with more leg room (52? seats). A market remained for open section sleeping. By comparison, the U.S. lines offered roomier coaches. In 1961 UP took delivery on 44-seat coaches. That ate into the demand for open sections. In the January 1969 Guide I found only a few stray sleepers in the West with open sections.

In 1974 I was told by CN that they would no longer have standard sleeping cars (heavyweights) available for my Japanese tour groups. Our Japanese customers loved the straight open-section format which made for a sociable environment and better viewing in the mountains. Tour leaders could deal with a standard sleeper with one drawing room, but disliked refereeing multiple diverse rooms/sections. Their retail sales were not set up for a catalog of diverse charges.

So, if Amtrak were to get rid of leg-rest coaches it should offer open sections and/or shared roomettes. If VIA were to get rid of open sections, it has to have Day-Niters or their equivalents. That's where the market swings from one side vs. the other.
 

jiml

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Actually both trans-Canada lines are about the same regarding major rail markets. Edmonton and Saskatoon have university traffic and Jasper is far enough from major airports to make for a rail trip in itself. The selection of one line appears to have had more to do with relations with the respective railways. VIA was mainly staffed from CN.
My reason for the post was to correct the assumption "Only works with a country that has a single set of cities from Toronto to Vancouver that can all be hit by one train." While certainly not as dense as the US city-wise, we did have at least two sets of multiple cities that were served before cuts, and this includes the Eastern routing.

In addition to your likely correct assertion regarding the choice of CN, it's also important to remember that at the time CN and VIA served the same master - the federal government, which had no leverage over CP - a private company. IIRC CN was not privatized until 1995 or later, by which time the current state of affairs was in effect.
 

railiner

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As has been mentioned before, VIA Rail, started life as a marketing endeavor of CN's passenger department. It later evolved into a separate Crown company, and its administration was comprised mostly of former CN staff.
 

20th Century Rider

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Me, too. I'm a big city guy, but I believed that it was our duty to work with the communities all along the route for mutual benefits. Just because someone can fly from coast to coast does not mean that the people in between should be kicked around, as they were.


The pdf from my OreDOT days shows a sample of the kind of stuff that went on. Luckily, we had two daily newspapers in Portland then. The Oregon Journal was glad to expose missteps by the morning paper.
NICE NICE NICE video! Right on and so well presented! Long ago I took the Amtrak Pioneer westbound south through Las Vegas and LA... took coastal service to PDX, then back... remembering vividly snaking along the south side of the Columbia River as the sun set. Wouldn't it be nice if they brought it back? One can only dream!
 

Willbridge

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As has been mentioned before, VIA Rail, started life as a marketing endeavor of CN's passenger department. It later evolved into a separate Crown company, and its administration was comprised mostly of former CN staff.
We brought this out in the Canadian Transport Commission hearings in Red Deer for the VIA/CP Edmonton-Calgary train-off application. The VIA West vice-president, Harold Murray, was a career CN employee whose job history showed that he tagged along with the career of the VIA Rail president. They had worked together for CN in the Maritimes. He worked from their "western" headquarters in Winnipeg. He didn't know much about the Edmonton - Calgary corridor. When we resumed cross-examination after lunch, he had been replaced by VIA's top marketing guy, who did better.

It raises a bigger issue. We could assemble a book of examples where one organization takes over another or another's functions and neglects them. When Greyhound took over Continental Trailways, the same phenomenon occurred.
 

dogbert617

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(3) There are a few "ridership holes" on certain LD routes that are hard to fill seats on (RNO-SLC is a major one) and on other routes, you've got ridership bottlenecks (e.g. CVS-WAS on the Cardinal), so some of those seats aren't fillable.

Edit:
(4) There's also such a thing as a "pain point" when you end up running off pax. There are plenty of cases where if you drive off a passenger from a preferred one-way travel day/time, you lose their entire trip. So trying to shake an extra $100 from a passenger on a super-peak day might lose you their whole $1000 round trip, which might include a $300 return leg that would otherwise go empty. This is a messy dilemma (there's no good way to handle it).

TBH the big thing that's needed to cut those losses is more frequency on many routes (so each train isn't an absolute go/no-go for pax) and more capacity, particularly on the sleeper side.
Wouldn't be surprised if train trips between Reno and Salt Lake City weren't high, due to the CZ times in Salt Lake City being late at night(11pmish going westbound, and something ridiculous like 3:30am going east). Fargo, ND also has this problem too(EB train times being something like 2 to 3am at night), and I bet that reduces how many are willing to use Amtrak to travel between Fargo and Saint Paul. And of course, there are other towns and cities with late night train time issues, that limit ridership out of these cities(i.e. Redding, CA, Columbia, SC, Cleveland, Cincinnati, etc). Never mind Cincy unfortunately has reduced ridership, due to the flaw of Cardinal sadly only running 3 days a week.
 

sttom

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Wouldn't be surprised if train trips between Reno and Salt Lake City weren't high, due to the CZ times in Salt Lake City being late at night(11pmish going westbound, and something ridiculous like 3:30am going east). Fargo, ND also has this problem too(EB train times being something like 2 to 3am at night), and I bet that reduces how many are willing to use Amtrak to travel between Fargo and Saint Paul. And of course, there are other towns and cities with late night train time issues, that limit ridership out of these cities(i.e. Redding, CA, Columbia, SC, Cleveland, Cincinnati, etc). Never mind Cincy unfortunately has reduced ridership, due to the flaw of Cardinal sadly only running 3 days a week.
Getting the long distance trains to twice a day should be a goal along with getting funding for state and interstate corridor services. OTP is pretty much a given. Pretty much any route with a 24+ hour run time is going to spend half it's run while it's dark. And it's not like every where that currently has service at dark o'clock is a small town. As was pointed out, Salt Lake City suffers from poor timing, so does the Bay Area with the Starlight, Charlotte NC would also have a half way decent overnight connection to New York if it's Silver had a second run 12 hours later.
 

dogbert617

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Getting the long distance trains to twice a day should be a goal along with getting funding for state and interstate corridor services. OTP is pretty much a given. Pretty much any route with a 24+ hour run time is going to spend half it's run while it's dark. And it's not like every where that currently has service at dark o'clock is a small town. As was pointed out, Salt Lake City suffers from poor timing, so does the Bay Area with the Starlight, Charlotte NC would also have a half way decent overnight connection to New York if it's Silver had a second run 12 hours later.
I'd love to see 2 scheduled trains on each Amtrak route, but to me not holding my breath that'll occur as soon as it should IMO. It should occur, if you ask me. Ditto with regional Amtrak routes with only 1 scheduled train in each direction(and 2 overall) a day. I.e. Pere Marquette to Grand Rapids, Blue Water to Port Huron, MI, Heartland Flyer between OKC-Fort Worth, and of course any lines through New Hampshire and Vermont that only have one scheduled train in each direction(2 overall) a day.

Of course at the same time, I'd like to see eliminated Amtrak long distance routes have service once again. I.e. Pioneer through places like Boise, Desert Wind through Las Vegas and etc(not sure why at the bare minimum there isn't a Vegas-LA corridor train already), have some sort of train run once again through southern Wyoming(whether that's a new Pioneer train covering southern Wyoming along I-80, or another train), a restored North Coast Hiawatha(through Missoula, Bozeman, Billings, Bismarck, etc), a restored Floridan(through Louisville, Nashville, Birmingham, Dothan, Jacksonville, etc), a restored National Limited(through KC, StL, Indy, Dayton, Columbus, Wheeling, Pittsburgh, and east to NYC like the original one), to name examples. I do wonder if the tracks remain for each of those former long distance routes for such train service to resume, along with of course that negotiations would have to occur with freight railroads for service to begin again.

You're right about the Bay Area and Sacramento with having late at night times(at least going northbound, and Sacramento's southbound time is kinda early at 6:35am too, don't get me started on the places north of there like Chico, Redding, etc), with Coast Starlight. I weirdly forgot to mention the Coast Starlight late times, but correct about those!
 
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