What should Amtrak change?

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Devil's Advocate

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Amtrak's scheduling, booking, and notification process has become such a mess I would strongly support the purchase of a replacement system. One that handles most agent-initiated tasks through browsers and apps to cut down on call volume and speed up solution speed. I'd also replace helpless Julie by integrating with more useful services such as Siri, Alexa, & Google Assistant. I realize there are other failures that require attention but if not now then when?
 

west point

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The concept of route managers worked in the past. As of now there is too much centralized management. If I was a route manager for the period from last summer to now I would have been demanding more capacity to meet the demand that us posters have seene. That would have increased revenue faster than costs. Maybe the lack of personnel would not have happened.
 
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Northwestern

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Exactly. The Napaway would, I believe, not be as workable as the twin bunks for two people in a Roomette even though it might be nearly as good for those traveling alone. But half or more of the Roomette passengers are singles so if you assign some of the singles to smaller, cheaper Napaways it might be a win-win. But going to the expense of adding an extra room type to the sleeper fleet is a remote possibility.
It comes back to the question, "How could Amtrak add a sleeper type that is cheaper than a Roomette?" that we see so often. Maybe it isn't the sleeper type that is the most likely answer for Amtrak and us LD travelers who want a sleeper but don't like the currently high prices. Maybe Amtrak just needs to add a new sleeper car (with the current mix of room types) to every LD train that comes close to selling out fairly frequently. Add supply, and if demand remains similar, the price will drop eventually. Low bucket Roomettes are a decent deal, there just aren't as many low bucket sleeper deals of late.
Lower prices would eventually lead to more demand so Amtrak would be "forced" to acquire more sleepers and therefore to make the likely profit from their additional investment.
The horror!
LOL!

It comes back to the probability that some of Amtrak's woes could be solved by increasing the number of sleeping cars, but that is happening at a glacial pa

They pretty much take up the same amount of space as a roomette and only sleeps one person. Since the amount of space required is directly proportional to capacity, which directly corresponds with price, this is no improvement on a roomette and, in fact, cuts capacity.

An all roomette car would be far more economically efficient than this.

It is not an answer.
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I wonder if Amtrak could have all roomette cars. I would think a a cost to revenue analysis would show a net revenue gain per train passenger. Of course, one would need to have full or nearly full all roomette cars. Upgrade the roomette and add a toilet in each roomette. Make each roomette for one person with the option of adjacent roomettes for couples. Have a sliding, lockable door between the two. Why not go whole hog. Have a TV above the roomette as now the fold-down bed has been removed.. Show DVR movies and have running updates on train position and ETA. However, cost slashing, not revenue gain, seems to be the only song that Amtrak can sing.
 
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west point

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It is time for each LD route to get a route manager. That way disruptions can be handled better. As well a managr can follow reservations and both add cars or subtract them. complaints, dining, bad crew can be delt with. As well riding the route and discussing with crew ways to improve can also help.
 

Ryan

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It is time for each LD route to get a route manager. That way disruptions can be handled better. As well a managr can follow reservations and both add cars or subtract them. complaints, dining, bad crew can be delt with. As well riding the route and discussing with crew ways to improve can also help.
You know for a fact that they don't exist now?
 
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I know I will be upsetting the apple cart by saying this, but the more I learn about Amtrak's operations (admittedly I'm a newer rider), I think one of the problems is the framing of the national network as a veritable national network as opposed to a national network of regional routes. For example, I would guess that 80% or more of people on the Lake Shore Limited are taking the train point-to-point. Someone from Buffalo has traveled to Chicago on the LSL and now is returning home. Yet their travel is impacted by a three hour delay because a smattering of passengers traveling from Los Angeles to New York via Amtrak are arriving on a super-late train. It's one thing for the Eagle or Southwest Chief to endure huge delays, and it is rough on its passengers. But to then compound that and create new poor customer experiences to me seems just foolhardy. And yes, I recognize some people can't fly and this might be the only way for them to get across the country - I just think Amtrak might benefit from rethinking how it goes about doing so. That's my larger point - it doesn't seem like there's ever been a ton of thought put into what the rail system is, it just basically is.
I think the reason for this is the skeletal nature of much of Amtrak where much of the routes are covered by a single train per day (or less in some cases). If there was a local Chicago - Cleveland - Buffalo train then that would not get delayed for connecting LD trains. It would also allow adding more local stops on the shorter distance train and making the LD train more of an "express".
 

Barb Stout

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I know I will be upsetting the apple cart by saying this, but the more I learn about Amtrak's operations (admittedly I'm a newer rider), I think one of the problems is the framing of the national network as a veritable national network as opposed to a national network of regional routes. For example, I would guess that 80% or more of people on the Lake Shore Limited are taking the train point-to-point. Someone from Buffalo has traveled to Chicago on the LSL and now is returning home. Yet their travel is impacted by a three hour delay because a smattering of passengers traveling from Los Angeles to New York via Amtrak are arriving on a super-late train. It's one thing for the Eagle or Southwest Chief to endure huge delays, and it is rough on its passengers. But to then compound that and create new poor customer experiences to me seems just foolhardy. And yes, I recognize some people can't fly and this might be the only way for them to get across the country - I just think Amtrak might benefit from rethinking how it goes about doing so. That's my larger point - it doesn't seem like there's ever been a ton of thought put into what the rail system is, it just basically is.
How would you know that 80% of the people on the LSL are going strictly to or from Chicago? Chicago and New Orleans are the only (I think) 2 connections between western and eastern trains and since you would pretty much have to spend the night in NOL, that leaves just Chicago. I do agree that it would be highly desirable to add a "local" or regional train that parallels the LSL that wouldn't have to wait for late western connecting trains. But given the huge crowds I have seen coming from the trains to the metropolitan lounge in Chicago, it appears to me that there are a heck of a lot of people making connections there rather than just using it as a starting or ending point. I travel from NM to Ohio via Amtrak, so am interested in connections that work so that I don't have to stay overnight in Chicago as Chicago is not my goal.
 

jebr

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I know I will be upsetting the apple cart by saying this, but the more I learn about Amtrak's operations (admittedly I'm a newer rider), I think one of the problems is the framing of the national network as a veritable national network as opposed to a national network of regional routes. For example, I would guess that 80% or more of people on the Lake Shore Limited are taking the train point-to-point. Someone from Buffalo has traveled to Chicago on the LSL and now is returning home. Yet their travel is impacted by a three hour delay because a smattering of passengers traveling from Los Angeles to New York via Amtrak are arriving on a super-late train. It's one thing for the Eagle or Southwest Chief to endure huge delays, and it is rough on its passengers. But to then compound that and create new poor customer experiences to me seems just foolhardy. And yes, I recognize some people can't fly and this might be the only way for them to get across the country - I just think Amtrak might benefit from rethinking how it goes about doing so. That's my larger point - it doesn't seem like there's ever been a ton of thought put into what the rail system is, it just basically is.

I think the biggest thing that Amtrak needs is more Amtrak. If there's only one train a day, there's a lot more sacrifices that have to be made, either by delaying trains to make connections or by having connecting passengers risk a full day's delay if there's a misconnect. However, if there were multiple daily trains, passengers could simply be moved to the train a few hours later - in a system where we prioritized rail having 5-6 trains/day from NYC - Chicago via upstate NY would be reasonable, and so there could be a late-night train with a midnight departure from Chicago, and ideally an early-ish morning train (somewhere between 6 and 8 AM) also departing Chicago so even if a train gets in at 2 AM someone's only looking at a few hours of delay instead of stuck until 9:30 PM for the next train.
 

Stremba

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I think the biggest thing that Amtrak needs is more Amtrak. If there's only one train a day, there's a lot more sacrifices that have to be made, either by delaying trains to make connections or by having connecting passengers risk a full day's delay if there's a misconnect. However, if there were multiple daily trains, passengers could simply be moved to the train a few hours later - in a system where we prioritized rail having 5-6 trains/day from NYC - Chicago via upstate NY would be reasonable, and so there could be a late-night train with a midnight departure from Chicago, and ideally an early-ish morning train (somewhere between 6 and 8 AM) also departing Chicago so even if a train gets in at 2 AM someone's only looking at a few hours of delay instead of stuck until 9:30 PM for the next train.
That makes sense too for pax who are not riding the train endpoint to endpoint. Intermediate stops are often very poorly served by once daily LD trains. Cleveland OH is a good example of this on your NYP-CHI route. Current trains only serve. Cleveland in the middle of the night. Having more frequent trains would allow more convenient travel times for passengers going to and from such cities. I would imagine there might be many people who otherwise might ride Amtrak but avoid doing so because they don’t want to deal with 2AM arrivals or departures.
 

rs9

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How would you know that 80% of the people on the LSL are going strictly to or from Chicago? Chicago and New Orleans are the only (I think) 2 connections between western and eastern trains and since you would pretty much have to spend the night in NOL, that leaves just Chicago. I do agree that it would be highly desirable to add a "local" or regional train that parallels the LSL that wouldn't have to wait for late western connecting trains. But given the huge crowds I have seen coming from the trains to the metropolitan lounge in Chicago, it appears to me that there are a heck of a lot of people making connections there rather than just using it as a starting or ending point. I travel from NM to Ohio via Amtrak, so am interested in connections that work so that I don't have to stay overnight in Chicago as Chicago is not my goal.
I meant a Buffalo-Chicago traveler as an example. Pre-pandemic data on the west coast trains, as an example, shows coach passengers are generally using long distance trains for segment travel, while sleeper passengers are using these trains for longer distances, including end-to-end. Coach passengers by definition make up the majority of travelers on Amtrak. Thus, it's reasonable to deduce that while some people do of course transfer, that is not the main reason why passengers are using long distance trains on the western routes, in terms of connecting in Chicago.

 

jis

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I meant a Buffalo-Chicago traveler as an example. Pre-pandemic data on the west coast trains, as an example, shows coach passengers are generally using long distance trains for segment travel, while sleeper passengers are using these trains for longer distances, including end-to-end. Coach passengers by definition make up the majority of travelers on Amtrak. Thus, it's reasonable to deduce that while some people do of course transfer, that is not the main reason why passengers are using long distance trains on the western routes, in terms of connecting in Chicago.

True indeed.

But one also needs to remember that the reality is that the longer distance traveling people are richer and more vocal, specially those that travel by Sleeper. So they are more prone to get their way.

Witness the carping that has been going on regarding the selection of the Star schedule for the single train from Florida to New York for the pandemic period. Using your principle that is the correct choice, however, there has been no end of bellyaching about connections or lack there of from it at the New York end. So when there is a single train to operate there is almost no possibility of satisfying all potential users.
 

Cal

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If I was a route manager for the period from last summer to now I would have been demanding more capacity to meet the demand that us posters have seene.
I would think that in that case most route managers (assuming they are competent) would do the same and we wouldn't be far from where we are now. Wouldn't there still need to be maintenance personnel to handle cars and send them out first? Not sure how route managers would exactly help that, unless the pressure they'd put on Amtrak would cause them to try to scramble out more cars.
 

JWM

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Ok, here goes and I have not been involved with Amtrak for decades. First, severe penalties must be imposed on contracting railroads that continue to sidetrack Amtrak trains for freight thereby making the on-time percentage for so many a sick joke. Second, cut the bi-weekly nonsense for the Sunset and Cardinal and go to daily including through Texas Eagle cars on the former. Next, put traditional dining back in place on all overnight trains. Sleeping Car passengers should have their own lounge facilities (a pox on the morons who killed that on the C.S.". Next, expand the dining menu and have separate choices for different routes. New equipment is needed for the Superliner routes. Lastly, when someone at Amtrak knows railroads, trains and the fact that they don't fly, promote them. Enough of incompetent executives. Ok, maybe I'm not so nice, but the present fiasco is a sick joke.
 

vinceg723

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Next, expand the dining menu and have separate choices for different routes.
Agreed on all points but wanted to zero in on this, as it has been on my mind. Considering that the larger timing and scheduling issues require major policy changes, here is something more practical in the short term: Make the menus feel local, not just in the dining car but in the cafe car too. How difficult would it be at longer stops to on-board some local beers, even, say, frozen burritos from a local purveyor in Albuquerque, or frozen BBQ sandwiches from a local purveyor in Kansas City to sell in the cafe car?

Many of us on Amtrak are not there just to get from Point A to Point B. We're there for the experience of seeing the land and having interesting conversations, and some local food and drink would enhance that experience. It wouldn't take another infrastructure bill or a lawsuit with the freight companies, just some imagination on the part of Amtrak.
 
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