What should Amtrak change?

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joelkfla

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One thing Amtrak should change is its website payment mechanics so that credit card payments go through more often.

I constantly have credit cards declined online by Amtrak, and yesterday two credit cards caused the site and app to stop working; messages appeared stating that there was an Amtrak system error.

I don’t have these issues when booking plane tickets online.
Yeah, my BofA AGR card was declined for the last 2 trips. When I called the AGR number to do the booking, the agent did not sound surprised.
 
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Sep 15, 2017
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The very bad decision was to not tasrt hiring peersonnel starting Oct 1 2021. The new FY 2022 funds were know then and hiring and, recalling every T&E , OBS, + Maintnance would have left this summer's service much better.
They recalled everyone after they got the ARP funds. They got back who they could and have lost people since. They have been in pretty much a constant state of hiring since then.
 
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But it shouldn't be so hard to get hired! Civil Service Jobs are easier to get than Amtrak Jobs!
For those who have never been involved in the Federal civil service hiring process, Jim is just pointing out how hard it seems to be to snag an Amtrak job, as their process seems even more convoluted than that of the Office of Personnel Management.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
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As someone that's in the middle of what should be a very easy hiring action (internally advertised promotion), I'm not sure anything can be more convoluted than dealing with the hellscape that is OPM and DoD/DoN HR systems.
Good luck Ryan! I went through this Meat Grinder a few timesmyself!

Diclaimer: I Retired from Civil Service in 2002! I thought Hi-Tech would have speeded up the Process!( Just kidding, some things never change in DC!😉)
 
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Red Bank NJ
travel systems should go where people want to go,when they want to and must integrate with each other travel system seemlessly for the user — airports are today’s prime destination but no train drops off passengers within walking distance to the plane; so everyone uses car or van resulting in immense infrastructure for drop-off, pick up and parking — we simply do not think of bringing the train as close as the airplane; but what a difference that would make, with trains and planes coordinating their schedules and smoothing the inevitable glitches in each system — add buses and bikes and,,, bus to 200 miles; train to 1000 miles and plane over 1000 = efficiency; with systems overlapping during severe storms or delays.
 

jis

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MODERATOR'S NOTE: A number of posts discussing various railroad and boating terminology have been moved to a new thread for Terminology discussion.


Please continue discussing terminology on this new thread and leave this thread for discussing significant matters that Amtrak should change.

Thank you for you understanding, cooperation and participation.
 

marcoloco

Train Attendant
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Jul 8, 2022
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Houston, TX
I make about 10 round trips a year from Houston to LAX on Sunset Limited and prices can go up or down 10-20% based on season and availability. The big problem is Amtrak won't put on extra car(s) during high peak travel season. The freight railroad, who owns the tracks, charges Amtrak per CAR, so adding an extra car can add $5,000 per round trip to the cost Amtrak pays to run that particular train/ So Amtrak does loose money by putting on too few cars, but they figure if they don't come out making money by adding a car, they just won't do it, even though us taxpayers are paying to subsidize these trains, Amtrak management forgets, these are OUR trains (the taxpaying public),they are not THIER trains. I've been a frequent traveler on Amtrak for 30 years straight and have seen good management and bad, but it changes eventually. Right now, we are going through a time a very bad management. People boarding the Sunset Limited east of San Antonio, have just one sleeper on the train and the crew takes 6 rooms, leaving just a handful of rooms for sale. A sleeping is added in San Antonio (going west) and it's taken off in San Antonio (coming east toward New Orleans).
 

west point

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. The freight railroad, who owns the tracks, charges Amtrak per CAR, so adding an extra car can add $5,000 per round trip to the cost Amtrak pays to run that particular train/ So Amtrak does loose money by putting on too few cars, but they figure if they don't come out making money by adding a car, they just won't do it, even though us taxpayers are paying to subsidize these trains
Have never heard that before. Can you cite source??
 

TheCrescent

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Jun 24, 2020
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In the Northeast Corridor, long distance trains’ trip times are a little longer than Northeast Regionals’ are.

Amtrak should reduce long distance trains’ trip times so that they are the same as Northeast Regionals. That would save 5-10 minutes between NYP and PHL.

I thought that long distance trains were slower because Heritage Fleet cars couldn’t run at 125 mph. But the Heritage Fleet is long gone. Surely a 7-car Crescent isn’t heavier than a 9-car Northeast Regional.
 

jis

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In the Northeast Corridor, long distance trains’ trip times are a little longer than Northeast Regionals’ are.

Amtrak should reduce long distance trains’ trip times so that they are the same as Northeast Regionals. That would save 5-10 minutes between NYP and PHL.

I thought that long distance trains were slower because Heritage Fleet cars couldn’t run at 125 mph. But the Heritage Fleet is long gone. Surely a 7-car Crescent isn’t heavier than a 9-car Northeast Regional.
VL-1s cannot run at 125 either. Also LD trains have additional time for handling baggage etc.
 

railiner

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In the Northeast Corridor, long distance trains’ trip times are a little longer than Northeast Regionals’ are.

Amtrak should reduce long distance trains’ trip times so that they are the same as Northeast Regionals. That would save 5-10 minutes between NYP and PHL.

I thought that long distance trains were slower because Heritage Fleet cars couldn’t run at 125 mph. But the Heritage Fleet is long gone. Surely a 7-car Crescent isn’t heavier than a 9-car Northeast Regional.
Long distance trains on the NEC require longer station dwell times for several reasons...
More occasional than frequent traveler's, that simply need more time to board; probably more passenger's needing assistance with mobility aids, redcaps, visitor's "putting" relatives aboard, more baggage handling, etc...
Not to mention only one vestibule per car instead of two in some cases...
 

Ryan

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In the Northeast Corridor, long distance trains’ trip times are a little longer than Northeast Regionals’ are.

Amtrak should reduce long distance trains’ trip times so that they are the same as Northeast Regionals. That would save 5-10 minutes between NYP and PHL.

I thought that long distance trains were slower because Heritage Fleet cars couldn’t run at 125 mph. But the Heritage Fleet is long gone. Surely a 7-car Crescent isn’t heavier than a 9-car Northeast Regional.
In addition to the technical reasons cited above, what makes you think that a 5-10 minute run time change is going to make any difference to someone looking to book a train? I can't fathom someone saying, "I'd certainly book this ATL-AYP train, but 18h39 minutes is just a little bit too long for me. If only it were an even 18.5 hours, I'd surely jump on it, but I can't afford those extra 9 minutes".
 

TheCrescent

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In addition to the technical reasons cited above, what makes you think that a 5-10 minute run time change is going to make any difference to someone looking to book a train? I can't fathom someone saying, "I'd certainly book this ATL-AYP train, but 18h39 minutes is just a little bit too long for me. If only it were an even 18.5 hours, I'd surely jump on it, but I can't afford those extra 9 minutes".
The Crescent is 28 minutes slower between NY and DC than the fastest Northeast Regional. That’s enough to impact someone’s decision for trips along the Northeast Corridor.

Running trains as fast as practicable ought to be a priority for any passenger railroad. With all of the competitive disadvantages that the Crescent has (high price, Flexible Dining, aging equipment, etc.), every improvement helps.
 

TheCrescent

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In addition, one thing that Amtrak should change is the announcements made on long-distance trains: the long announcements made to coach passengers ought not be heard in sleeping cars.

In my sleeping car room, I don’t need to hear the long announcements made to coach passengers, since those announcements are irrelevant to me.

In addition, on my last long-distance trip, the public address system was turned up to full blast, and so even though I turned down the speaker volume as low as possible, I heard a very loud buzzing noise from the speaker for hours on end, and the announcements (e.g., “please keep vacant seats clear, don’t put trash in the toilets, etc.”) were very loud.
 

Trogdor

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The Crescent is 28 minutes slower between NY and DC than the fastest Northeast Regional. That’s enough to impact someone’s decision for trips along the Northeast Corridor.

Running trains as fast as practicable ought to be a priority for any passenger railroad. With all of the competitive disadvantages that the Crescent has (high price, Flexible Dining, aging equipment, etc.), every improvement helps.

There are plenty of corridor trains between NYP and DC. If Amtrak tried to get all corridor passengers to book the LDs, you’d run out of capacity on the LDs for passengers traveling longer distances. Years ago, Amtrak used to forbid NY-DC local traffic on LDs for that very reason. More recently, some (maybe all?) of those trains opened up for some limited local sales. But still, the point of the Silver Star or the Crescent is not to offer hyper competitive NYP-WAS travel times. It’s to offer service to those going further south. Any extra riders they get on the corridor is just a bonus.

Also, everyone is going to have a different definition of what is “practicable.” When running between stations, the trains definitely run their specific maximum authorized speed, whatever it happens to be for that consist. But the schedule also has to take into account factors of reliability and variability. As noted by others, this can include dwell times at stations which will be longer due to the need to handle baggage and a demographic of passengers that may tend to be a bit slower at boarding/alighting for various reasons (vs. the typical corridor ridership, which are almost like a transit system in terms of passenger use).

The travel times are also impacted by stopping patterns and other rail traffic around. Without looking into all the details, I see 15-20 minute variations just on different NEC Regional trains (a quick sample of today’s trains reveals scheduled SB running times between 3h13 and 3h33. Does that discourage passengers from taking the 3h33 trains? (Incidentally, I was surprised to see even Acelas are clocking in over 3 hours today; 10 years ago, their schedules were 2h45-2h52, but granted, I don’t know the status of any trackwork going on that might impact things).
 
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San Francisco
travel systems should go where people want to go,when they want to and must integrate with each other travel system seemlessly for the user — airports are today’s prime destination but no train drops off passengers within walking distance to the plane; so everyone uses car or van resulting in immense infrastructure for drop-off, pick up and parking — we simply do not think of bringing the train as close as the airplane; but what a difference that would make, with trains and planes coordinating their schedules and smoothing the inevitable glitches in each system — add buses and bikes and,,, bus to 200 miles; train to 1000 miles and plane over 1000 = efficiency; with systems overlapping during severe storms or delays.
I saw this in Amsterdam years ago... they have a giant underground railway station with at least 20 tracks directly under the main terminal baggage claim providing train service to all corners of the Netherlands. That's how you do it. Even if we got Amtrak service to airports here, you know it would require a shuttle bus to a station well away from the airport because the FAA and airport authority would a fit about it being directly under.
 

jis

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travel systems should go where people want to go,when they want to and must integrate with each other travel system seemlessly for the user — airports are today’s prime destination but no train drops off passengers within walking distance to the plane; so everyone uses car or van resulting in immense infrastructure for drop-off, pick up and parking — we simply do not think of bringing the train as close as the airplane; but what a difference that would make, with trains and planes coordinating their schedules and smoothing the inevitable glitches in each system — add buses and bikes and,,, bus to 200 miles; train to 1000 miles and plane over 1000 = efficiency; with systems overlapping during severe storms or delays.
The airports which make a pile of money from parking fees actually actively discourage such development in a great victory for capitalism even when government owned organizations are involved. Witness Newark International Airport as exhibit A. There are proposals to place the central concourse right by the NEC but PANYNJ (a NY and NJ State compact) has resisted such with all their might so far. Currently they charge a fee for what amounts to intra-airport connection from terminals to transit! In the opast they have actively opposed bulding even PATH to the terminal, and they continue to do so. This is typical backwards thinking found in the US more often than not.

In any case airport integration is not something that Amtrak can do. It is all well outside their jurisdiction.
 

joelkfla

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The airports which make a pile of money from parking fees actually actively discourage such development in a great victory for capitalism even when government owned organizations are involved. Witness Newark International Airport as exhibit A. There are proposals to place the central concourse right by the NEC but PANYNJ (a NY and NJ State compact) has resisted such with all their might so far. Currently they charge a fee for what amounts to intra-airport connection from terminals to transit! In the opast they have actively opposed bulding even PATH to the terminal, and they continue to do so. This is typical backwards thinking found in the US more often than not.

In any case airport integration is not something that Amtrak can do. It is all well outside their jurisdiction.
OTOH, Orlando built the multimodal facility on their own, essentially just hoping someone would build a rail line there. Sure, Brightline had it in their plans, but there was no guarantee they would ever make it to Orlando. SunRail service and potential light rail were even less certain.
 

drdumont

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I'm sure this has been discussed already, but from a business standpoint, wouldn't it make sense to significantly lower fares across the board to attract more frequent ridership?

To be frank, most Americans (myself included) are mindful of their spending habits and always try to seek out the least-expensive option. Lots of working class people simply cannot afford a the high cost of an Amtrak fare. Flying is faster and cheaper than train travel, so most people opt for that. In reality, the only people who travel by train outside of the NEC are those who have lots of money to spend, lots of time to kill, or live somewhere without access to an airport.

If Amtrak lowers fares to be less than air travel and markets to the most profitable audience (eco-conscious millennials, Gen Z, Gen X), they could fill more seats, increase repeated ridership, improve public perception, and generate profit.
Problem appears not to be ridership, at least in the sleepers. In spite of the exorbitant fares, it is damn near impossibile to find sleeping space unless you are planning months ahead. Understandably, getting a sleeper from Little Rock to Ft. Worth screws up someone wanting a berth from St. Louis to Marshall, let alone Chicago to San Antonio or Los Angeles. The odds of filling in the blanks are pretty long.

Yet I see plenty of coach seats empty except for back to school and holidays.

I'd like to see them take a couple of Superliners or even Heritage coaches, divide them into 4 seat "spaces" a 'la the Brits. (yes, their doors open out the side, but that's not necessary. An aisle down one side would do. That would allow a modicum of privacy - forget convertible beds, sinks, etc - and work on "couples" or "family" fares.

Cruise ships book rooms based on double occupancy. ISTR you could book a room at a single rate, and you might find a stranger in the room with you. Maybe it was in a kinder gentler age. But you had perhaps a quieter ride, and might be able to design 3 person seats wider than the airlines' seats, with fold up W I D E armerests, and have the possibility of stretching out.
 
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west point

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The present southbound Crescent's schedule appears to be very close to ideal. Today's 19 had arrivals 3 - 4 minutes late every stop except WASH at 11 minutes early. 20 minutes for NYP - NWK's 10 miles. 30 MPH average probaably due to the one north river tunnel weekend operation. If weekend operation with very few commuter trains cannot gain to on time then the schedule is just right IMO. Note 19's stopovers 3 - 4 minutes except PHL 7 minutes which is the scheduled PHL stop over.
 
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Please review what is attached.

The most serious problem Amtrak faces is the failure to reinvest in the national long-distance passenger car fleet.
All of us must communicate with DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg, FRA Administrator Amit Bose and our Congressional Representatives to ask that they insist, in no uncertain terms, that Amtrak immediately initiate a life extension program at Beech Grove for the Superliner fleet and concurrently initiate acquisition of replacement cars using IIJA funds granted to FRA & Amtrak nearly one year ago.
 

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