What should Amtrak change?

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

Trogdor

BURNiNATOR
Joined
Aug 3, 2004
Messages
5,965
Location
Here
If a train isn’t sold out, which Amtrak should know, then one should be able to switch tickets to travel on it. It’s not rocket science.

That’s not standby, which is what your original post said. That’s a booking change. And it’s really not that different from how airlines handle it. Same-day change to a confirmed seat, depending on the circumstance, can still require paying the fare difference when flying (at least, that’s how United handles it; I’m not familiar with other carriers).

On airlines, standby is free, confirmed requires a fare difference, if applicable (if no difference, then, it could be free depending on one’s status).

On Amtrak, I have changed my booking to an earlier train while en route to the station using the app. As the fare was the same on both trains, it was effectively a free change. So…I’m not sure exactly what you’re suggesting that doesn’t already exist, other than being able to buy a cheaper ticket and ride a more expensive train with it.
 

TheCrescent

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
472
That’s not standby, which is what your original post said. That’s a booking change. And it’s really not that different from how airlines handle it. Same-day change to a confirmed seat, depending on the circumstance, can still require paying the fare difference when flying (at least, that’s how United handles it; I’m not familiar with other carriers).

On airlines, standby is free, confirmed requires a fare difference, if applicable (if no difference, then, it could be free depending on one’s status).

On Amtrak, I have changed my booking to an earlier train while en route to the station using the app. As the fare was the same on both trains, it was effectively a free change. So…I’m not sure exactly what you’re suggesting that doesn’t already exist, other than being able to buy a cheaper ticket and ride a more expensive train with it.
That’s not how American Airlines handles it.

American Airlines allows you to change your ticket, within 24 hours of your ticketed trip, and receive a confirmed seat on a different flight on the same day as your ticketed trip, for no fee if you are a frequent flyer, and without paying a fare difference. If no seats are available on a different flight, then you can be put on the standby list, also at no fee if you are a frequent flyer.

Any of those choices would be fine (and paying a fee would be fine), but Amtrak does not offer them.

Amtrak requires paying a fare difference to change to another train on the same day; American Airlines does not. That’s a big disincentive for taking Amtrak.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
5,021
Location
Baltimore. MD
In Amtraks early years, regional trains were mostly “unreserved”, except for seats in Club cars, and Metroliner’s.
You could board any train, within the time limits of your ticket.
There was some standing at certain peak times.
Ah yes, I remember that well on the NEC trains. The Northeast Regionals were unreserved into the early 2000s. The Capitol Corridor was unreserved when I rode it in 2010. I think the Keystones are still unreserved between Philadelphia and Harrisburg.
 

TheCrescent

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
472
Amtrak needs get Newark Penn Station fixed up. It’s a dump, particularly the platform areas. Someone paying $250 for a first-class Acela ticket or $500+ for a sleeping car ticket wants to wait there? I think not!
 

jis

Chief Dispatcher
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
AU Supporting Member
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
33,514
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
Amtrak needs get Newark Penn Station fixed up. It’s a dump, particularly the platform areas. Someone paying $250 for a first-class Acela ticket or $500+ for a sleeping car ticket wants to wait there? I think not!
It is a NJT property, not Amtrak’s to fix. It is up for a major overhaul anyway.
 

TheCrescent

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
472
It is a NJT property, not Amtrak’s to fix. It is up for a major overhaul anyway.
Good point, thanks. Doesn’t Amtrak have a lease for space there?

Maybe the Acelas should just stop serving Newark (unless they get business from connecting trains there from northern NJ).
 

The Commissioner

Train Attendant
Joined
May 4, 2010
Messages
22
I'm one of those Amtrak LD 'never-again' customers because the value proposition is upside down. My last LD trip was twelve years ago and unless someone else is buying the ticket, I'm not going back. The value proposition is even worse now than what it was in 2010. However, what Amtrak needs to change IMHO is the following:

  1. Move the sleepers to the back of the train on all trains. Hard to believe this requires funding but it if does, so be it. It's beyond comprehension why Amtrak puts their highest priced seats next to a very LOUD locomotive horn. It's hard enough to sleep on a moving train, but that horn is obnoxious.
  2. Modernize the Slumbercoach concept, put them into production, and fill them with passengers. There is a huge gap between coach seat and sleeper seat pricing with nothing in between. I want privacy, ability to lie flat, and reasonable cost. I don't need a meal ticket included in my compartment ticket.
  3. Invest in much better customer service training for on-board employees and pay the going rate for excellent managers. Amtrak cannot continue to be a goverment jobs program and consistently delight their customers. The culture needs to change.
 
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
5,021
Location
Baltimore. MD
Right now in the short term?

Right now they have to get their act together with regard to hiring enough workers to get the mothballed equipment into service and provide the level of service they had before the pandemic without cancelling reservations at the last minute. On the long-distance routes, they really need to make sure that every train has enough OBS staff to ensure that the cafe service can be open when the dining car is also serving passengers. They also need to figure out how to serve both coach and sleeper passengers in the dining cars, or at the very least, sell flex meals to coach passengers in the cafe car.

They also need to hire more mechanical staff and do something about their management to ensure that mechanical problems with Amtrak locomotives and rolling stock is minimized. (I won't mention a recent trip on the Capitol Limited where the engine died right outside of Pittsburgh and we had to wait hours for Norfolk Southern to send a replacement locomotive that couldn't go as fast as the Amtrak ones, and got us into Washington 6 hours late.) We can justifiably complain about freight train interference, but there's no excuse for frequent mechanical breakdowns of Amtrak's own equipment.
 

MisterUptempo

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 1, 2014
Messages
353
Location
Chicago, IL
Amtrak needs get Newark Penn Station fixed up. It’s a dump, particularly the platform areas. Someone paying $250 for a first-class Acela ticket or $500+ for a sleeping car ticket wants to wait there? I think not!
Anybody, whether they buy first class on Acela or coach on a Northeast Regional or a commuter ticket is entitled to a decent station and platform.
 

Stremba

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 27, 2022
Messages
62
Location
Crafton
More electrification of trains like the Acelas.
Unfortunately very little track other than the Northeast Corridor is electrified. Electric locomotives don’t work without electrified track, and almost all of the track (again other than the NE Corridor) is not owned by Amtrak, but by freight railroads. The freight railroads have zero incentive to electricity the track, so more electric locomotives would be useless.
 

MIrailfan

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 2, 2014
Messages
353
Location
Jackson, Michigan
Unfortunately very little track other than the Northeast Corridor is electrified. Electric locomotives don’t work without electrified track, and almost all of the track (again other than the NE Corridor) is not owned by Amtrak, but by freight railroads. The freight railroads have zero incentive to electricity the track, so more electric locomotives would be useless.
How about L:OSSAN corridor and Detroit to Chicago?
 

NES28

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2019
Messages
115
My pet peeve #1 is Amtrak's standard arrangement for coach passengers boarding trains which typically involves standing in line, sometimes for an hour. This is a result of the fact that a coach reservation isn't an actual seat reservation, so everyone who wants to sit together, or face forward, or whatever, has to do their best to board "early". Even Southwest Airlines, which doesn't do seat reservations, in 2007 established "boarding groups" A, B, & C, of 60 each, with assigned sequence numbers within these groups, which eliminated the problem that Amtrak riders still face.

Pet peeve #2 is the fact that many train crews scan tickets at intermediate stops as passengers board (often referred to as "streetcar boarding"), a time-consuming process that is not allowed for in scheduled running time, resulting in trains running late. Train crews are supposed to find these passengers after they are seated (based on seat checks).
 
Joined
Nov 24, 2009
Messages
3,394
Location
Hillsborough, NJ
The biggest problem as I see it is the cancellation of sleeper tickets being reissued as coach seats. The LD service is really not functioning well, OTP is poor and many CHI connections are being missed. The mothballed Superliners need to be refurbished and put back in service ASAP. If there is no capacity at Beechgrove farm the work out to a subcontractor.
 
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
5,021
Location
Baltimore. MD
My pet peeve #1 is Amtrak's standard arrangement for coach passengers boarding trains which typically involves standing in line, sometimes for an hour. This is a result of the fact that a coach reservation isn't an actual seat reservation, so everyone who wants to sit together, or face forward, or whatever, has to do their best to board "early".
This I agree with 100%. Either give out advance seat assignments (which I would prefer) or have totally open seating (well, maybe direct "shorts" and overnight passengers to different cars on overnight trains). But futzing around on the platform at the station stops assigning seats slows down the trains and causes all sorts of stress and hassle that really isn't needed.

Amtrak certainly has the technology, even with their less-than-optimal IT capabilities to do this -- they do it on the Acela and Northeast Regional Business Class every day. Surely they can assign seats for coach passengers on long-distance trains.
 

jebr

Enthusiastic Transit Rider
AU Supporting Member
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2012
Messages
4,829
Location
"The Last Great City of the East," St. Paul, MN
If there is no capacity at Beechgrove farm the work out to a subcontractor.
Need a subcontractor with the requisite skills and training to do that. Probably easier to hire internally than to subcontract it out to a competent company!

Amtrak, like most transportation companies, needs to get their labor situation in order and staffed back to pre-pandemic levels. People might have dealt with the issues this summer because they wanted to do their trips no matter what, but I expect that to soften significantly come fall/winter. Until Amtrak can get its act together, I likely won't be taking too many trains, especially long distance ones or trains based out of Chicago (since apparently Amtrak hasn't figured out how to get the maintenance shop's act together there - a three hour delayed train out of Chicago and still having HVAC issues is not my idea of a pleasant journey!)
 

west point

Engineer
Joined
Jun 9, 2015
Messages
3,663
Location
SW ATL airport
Has anyone noticed that NOL seldom has a departure delay due to mechanicals? Granted they do have extra equipent especially locos the last time there. But as well SAS seems to always have the standby cars ready to roll.
 

JWM

Train Attendant
Joined
Oct 3, 2021
Messages
85
Location
Sarasota, Florida
Be it air or rail, the staffing situation right now seems to be the cause of the upheaval. However, Amtrak has to learn how to manage its resources better once staffing returns to what passes for normal. Equipment has to be brought up to a state of good repair where there are adequate sleeping cars for demand. Meals on overnight trains have to be sit down and, for heaven's sake, the red ink can be reduced with proper management. For example, Amtrak's Superliner Dining Cars seat 72. Pre Amtrak, some long-distance trains did four seatings for dinner. Yes, it takes adequate and well-trained staff, but it can be done. Sleeping Car passengers got first "dibs" on times and coach took what was left,, but had a "coffee shop" or other car that served meals, too. If memory serves me correctly, the Superliner Sleeping Cars, if sold out, have a capacity of 44 passengers each. Properly run, and during peak times, they could certainly sell out six of them on the "Coast Starlight", for example, north of Oakland or Emeryville. Those six should get their own lounge car as well. It's called service.
 

Joe

Train Attendant
Joined
Dec 31, 2003
Messages
46
Location
Pittsburgh, PA.
Is this feasible to extend the Capitol Limited form Wash., DC. to Miami? Just keep the Capitol Limited going South all the way to Miami. Chicago to Miami without changing trains would be a great selling point. OK, so no Superliner maintenance facilities South of DC. Then let's use viewliner cars on the Capitol Limited. Is there a reason as to why this is not being done that I don't know about? Thanks in advance for all your comments.
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
1,840
Is this feasible to extend the Capitol Limited form Wash., DC. to Miami? Just keep the Capitol Limited going South all the way to Miami. Chicago to Miami without changing trains would be a great selling point. OK, so no Superliner maintenance facilities South of DC. Then let's use viewliner cars on the Capitol Limited. Is there a reason as to why this is not being done that I don't know about? Thanks in advance for all your comments.
Interesting idea - but a run through train does add complications...such as when one leg is late it delays the other.
 

joelkfla

Engineer
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
2,435
Location
12 miles from Walt Disney World
Is this feasible to extend the Capitol Limited form Wash., DC. to Miami? Just keep the Capitol Limited going South all the way to Miami. Chicago to Miami without changing trains would be a great selling point. OK, so no Superliner maintenance facilities South of DC. Then let's use viewliner cars on the Capitol Limited. Is there a reason as to why this is not being done that I don't know about? Thanks in advance for all your comments.
It would be a 2-night train, so they'd need 6 trainsets. I don't know whether there are enough extra Viewliners to equip it.

Traveling between FL & CHI is not that bad when the Meteor is running, as it's a fairly safe same-day connection both ways. When they're running just the Star, there's no westbound connection and a tight eastbound one.
 

SanDiegan

Service Attendant
Joined
Aug 1, 2014
Messages
181
Location
Southern California
Has anyone noticed that NOL seldom has a departure delay due to mechanicals? Granted they do have extra equipent especially locos the last time there. But as well SAS seems to always have the standby cars ready to roll.

A private car owner once told me that NOL was the best Amtrak facility to deal with. Chicago has been the biggest problem since day one (crews and maintenance).
 
Top