What Does Amtrak Think of Us?

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lordsigma

Conductor
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Sep 15, 2017
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I think railfan opinions about the LD trains largely depend on whether one uses or not uses them and their political persuasions on the subject. IE those with a more fiscal conservative viewpoint are more likely to be against Amtrak or at least long distance service. I personally think that's fine - we live in a country with diverse viewpoints and I think it's good to be challenged by people with diverse viewpoints. I think the best solutions to problems come when everyone has a seat at the table because everyone has a unique perspective.
 

Amtrakfflyer

OBS Chief
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Messages
633
“I think the best solutions to problems come when everyone has a seat at the table because everyone has a unique perspective.”

Agreed as long as everyone’s perspective at the table is LEGAL (I do believe Anderson and Gardner have knowingly lied to Congress) and not so far right or left that it puts people in danger or could be construed as a nuisance to the general public as a whole. We are living in strange times….
 

Willbridge

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
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Denver
As I've mentioned elsewhere, it was rumored that Graham Claytor and possible other Amtrak presidents read Rail Travel News to find out what was really going on out there.

Many of the early Amtrak management people who I dealt with were survivors of the last good Golden Age railway passenger organizations. They were often fans themselves.
 

jis

Engineer
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Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
I know Boardman and people close to him read groups like AU, Trainorders and various relevant FB groups. Indeed one of his right hand men was a frequent, though mostly silent, visitor at AU. There were several in Amtrak management who even participated occasionally in discussions, though few here knew who they were and what their relationship was to Amtrak.
 

neroden

Engineer
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
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Ithaca, NY
I know Boardman and people close to him read groups like AU, Trainorders and various relevant FB groups. Indeed one of his right hand men was a frequent, though mostly silent, visitor at AU. There were several in Amtrak management who even participated occasionally in discussions, though few here knew who they were and what their relationship was to Amtrak.
I will always wonder why the PIPs, *praised* in railfan groups, were mostly dumpstered without explanation near the end of Boardman's term. They're still good ideas.
 

Nick Farr

Lead Service Attendant
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Dec 25, 2019
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492
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Michigan
The bottom line problem is that Amtrak is not a normal company. It is entirely political creature and the executives know it, and primarily pander to the relevant politicians, everyone else be damned.
This is the best insight so far.

The average company of Amtrak's size generally tries to manage through metrics that are as neutral as possible, giving management a way to assess staff performance in a way that is as insulated from favorites-playing as possible. However, between the unions and unchecked management, it's almost all a favorites-playing game for Amtrak-managed employees. There's been some improvement in the call centers and some crew bases, but by in large it's rule-by-office-politics.

While I'm sure there's been some issues at times between the two, on the whole I'd be shocked if Amtrak would want to have RPA (and any similar organization) gone, particularly given how reliant they are on year-to-year appropriations from Congress.
RPA is like a really supportive mentor who doesn't like it when you don't do things they way they want you to do them. When RPA and Amtrak management are in alignment, they're a great team. When they differ, it's like a Family Feud.
 

Nick Farr

Lead Service Attendant
AU Supporter
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Dec 25, 2019
Messages
492
Location
Michigan
Is AU the community that packs the biggest punch? I was listening to a YouTube “podcast” by American Rail Club and that guy who runs it (who’s name escapes me) and it seems some commenters had less than favorable things to say about AU.
In a way, you answered your own question...any forum notable enough to be trashed by fans of a YouTuber with a 20k subscriber base is likely the most notable community out there.

Collectively, the Amtrak Facebook groups have a broader reach and impact in the aggregate. Second to that would be the Passenger Rail YouTubers. Third would be AU, as it has the best SEO of related forums and it seems like it has the best churn and the broadest appeal base.

Whether or not AU "packs a punch" depends on who's the target.

The one downside of AU is that the Long Distance network (and its food issues) always take priority to the NEC. There's literally been more discussion of the Amtrak Steak than on the development of regional rail corridors like California HSR and Texas Central.

Amtrak's marketing teams definitely still present slides with the general sentiment of forums like AU, occasionally quoting them. You'll see them in congressional info packets every now and then.
 
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Nick Farr

Lead Service Attendant
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I will always wonder why the PIPs, *praised* in railfan groups, were mostly dumpstered without explanation near the end of Boardman's term. They're still good ideas.
The problem is the PIPs were based on the performance of each rail line. Anderson was more concerned about restructuring Amtrak as a whole and making it less of a series of vaguely interconnected pork silos. Anderson's peak success was unifying Northwest and Delta airlines who had two somewhat distinct cultures. It looked like he was trying to do the same with Amtrak, along with imposing standardization of policies and planning.

The unique problem of Amtrak management, aside from the agency problem, is the need to respect the unique culture of railroading while trying to introduce innovation.

I'm not sure what exactly in law made them go by the wayside and I can't get a clear answer on that.
 

neroden

Engineer
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
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Ithaca, NY
The problem is the PIPs were based on the performance of each rail line. Anderson was more concerned about restructuring Amtrak as a whole and making it less of a series of vaguely interconnected pork silos. Anderson's peak success was unifying Northwest and Delta airlines who had two somewhat distinct cultures. It looked like he was trying to do the same with Amtrak, along with imposing standardization of policies and planning.
That's an interesting theory; the PIP advice, however, was largely about standardization and coordination of services! Each route had a different way in which it was substandard, and the advice was mainly to bring whatever was defective about that route up to par.

- inconsistency of customer service quality from crew to crew on the California Zephyr
- substandard stations on the Silver Meteor and Silver Star
- substandard scheduling on the Lake Shore Limited
- substandard connection experience at Pittsburgh on the Capitol Limited

The PIP advice was mostly about bringing everything up to a more standardized quality standard. So I don't think your theory makes any sense.

The unique problem of Amtrak management, aside from the agency problem, is the need to respect the unique culture of railroading while trying to introduce innovation.

I'm not sure what exactly in law made them go by the wayside and I can't get a clear answer on that.
Nothing. They were never legally required to be implemented -- Congress only required that the studies be done. Congress just *recommended* that they be implemented. It was just a matter of displeasing Congress (and being complete idiots) to not implement them.

Amtrak is ignoring several other still-operative legal provisions of PRIIA, such as the one requiring them to report avoidable costs, and engaging in this lawlessness mainly because they can get away with it (nobody is in a position to crack down). They're also violating the ADA, as everyone knows, by being 11 years overdue on making their stations accessible.
 

Dakota 400

Engineer
Joined
Mar 5, 2014
Messages
3,161
Anderson's peak success was unifying Northwest and Delta airlines who had two somewhat distinct cultures. It looked like he was trying to do the same with Amtrak, along with imposing standardization of policies and planning.
Are you opposed to consistency of the guest experience from one train to another?
 

Nick Farr

Lead Service Attendant
AU Supporter
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
492
Location
Michigan
Are you opposed to consistency of the guest experience from one train to another?
Absolutely not, I complain a lot about the lack of it, even on the same line! Hell, I would love it if Amtrak embraced the term "guest experience", since it seems like a lot of the OBS treats us like two-legged cattle.

Anderson's failure, in brief, was trying to do too much too fast and not realizing that serving the customer isn't really that important to whether or not Amtrak thrives as an organization.

That's an interesting theory; the PIP advice, however, was largely about standardization and coordination of services! Each route had a different way in which it was substandard, and the advice was mainly to bring whatever was defective about that route up to par.
And therein lies the problem and my point: Airline management is used to thinking of their airline as a unified system with occasional differences due to equipment and servicing logistics. As you said...Amtrak can't even standardize one of its routes.

The PIP advice was line by line and dealt with the stakeholders of each of those given lines. They were not thinking of Amtrak as an entire system, or trying to impose the same standards regionally. It took them a decade of arguing in court for the FRA to finally be allowed to adopt one standard metric for managing on-time performance.

What Anderson was going for was trying to unify Amtrak as a system. In some ways, this really isn't possible. A pilot rated to fly 737s domestically can fly one anywhere in the country. Can you imagine a BNSF crew on the UP Overland Route?

Nothing. They were never legally required to be implemented
49 U.S. Code § 24710(c), actually does legally mandate implementation.

Amtrak is ignoring several other still-operative legal provisions of PRIIA, such as the one requiring them to report avoidable costs, and engaging in this lawlessness mainly because they can get away with it (nobody is in a position to crack down).
Technically, the FRA has the enforcement power here, but they don't even have an enforcement office as best as I can tell.
 
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