What should Amtrak change?

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

trimetbusfan

Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 27, 2021
Messages
184
Location
Portland
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.
Yeah, this won't change anytime soon, unfortunately. I believe the way the current announcement system is designed, announcements can only be made to 'the car that they are making the announcement from' or to the entire train. (So one or all basically). Maybe when they get new cars this will change.
 

TransitTyrant

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 13, 2022
Messages
31
Location
Chicago
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.
This report sounds like sour grapes, yes the Acela and Regionals haven’t returned to full ridership yet, that doesn’t mean Amtrak should stop work already in progress to concentrate on Superliners. They started the replacement process before the Pandemic started and because of decades of underfunding they lacked the personal to work on replacing the entire fleet at once. The Amfleets were older so they’re getting replaced first. I’m a little confused about the part where they criticize the Viewliner rollout but then suggest Amtrak go back to CAF for more cars immediately.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
6,597
Location
Washington State
Well, aside from the hysterical tone, there is not any new information there that many of us here do not already know.

I agree with some of it, disagree with some of it, and CAF's rollout of the Viewliner IIs was such a colossal Charlie Foxtrot that chances of Amtrak ever ordering anything from CAF again is slim to none.

Past Amtrak President Boardman reportedly said privately that Amtrak will not order long distance equipment unless directed to by Congress with funding. I think that is that is a fair assessment that still holds. Without a firm and explicit directive from Congress would be going out on limb on the LDs, even with an LD friendly Board and executive management team. Which does not describe the current group.
 
Last edited:

GDRRiley

Train Attendant
Joined
Sep 16, 2022
Messages
53
Location
SF bay/LA
Past Amtrak President Boardman reportedly said privately that Amtrak will not order long distance equipment unless directed to by Congress with funding. I think that is that is a fair assessment that still holds. Without a firm and explicit directive from Congress would be going out on limb on the LDs, even with an LD friendly Board and executive management team. Which does not describe the current group.
There is some talk of the order happening soon with a late 20s or early 30s delivery date. Congress gave them money for new LD rolling stock.
Caltrans and the 3 state JPAs were in talks with amtrak about a new bi level that would fulfill both their needs
I’m a little confused about the part where they criticize the Viewliner rollout but then suggest Amtrak go back to CAF for more cars immediately.
I don't know why anyone would order from CAF at this point. They are late or cracking or both.

The biggest thing that will affect how amtrak orders is if in the next few years congress gives funding for more LD trips (a week for all and maybe some get 2RT (please all 2RT)) and if they start routes previously served or all new ones.
That will change the math how how many cars they need wildly, bringing back old routes will means ~600 cars needed while doing something highly unlikely like 2RT on all routes means ~1200. California could easily get 250-350 cars especially if they commit to a sleeper and coast daylight.
 
Joined
Oct 2, 2018
Messages
61
I believe the Capital Limited is the only train east of Chicago using Superliner equipment. Given the severe shortage of equipment on the western LD routes I'm pondering if the CL could be converted to single-level equipment, thus freeing up Superliners to augment the western consists.

- How many Superliners are being used on the CL? I'm guessing there are only two sets of equipment given that there is a scheduled turnaround time of 5 1/2 hours in Chicago and 7 1/2 hours in DC.

- What is the general consist of the CL?

Answers to these questions can tell us how much of an equipment influx it would be to the western routes, and how many single level cars would have to be scrounged up to re-equip the CL.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
AU Supporting Member
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
24,875
Location
Austin Texas
I believe the Capital Limited is the only train east of Chicago using Superliner equipment. Given the severe shortage of equipment on the western LD routes I'm pondering if the CL could be converted to single-level equipment, thus freeing up Superliners to augment the western consists.

- How many Superliners are being used on the CL? I'm guessing there are only two sets of equipment given that there is a scheduled turnaround time of 5 1/2 hours in Chicago and 7 1/2 hours in DC.

- What is the general consist of the CL?

Answers to these questions can tell us how much of an equipment influx it would be to the western routes, and how many single level cars would have to be scrounged up to re-equip the CL.
The CL has been running an Orphan Consist of 4 Cars (just like the Texas Eaglette), 1 Sleeper, 1 CCC ( Diner/Cafe)and 2 Coaches, so there' would not that many Superliners available if the CL was converted to Single Level Consists.

This is known as Robbing Peter to Pay Paul!
 
Joined
Oct 2, 2018
Messages
61
This is known as Robbing Peter to Pay Paul!
But I know and like Paul better than Peter!

So, if there are only two sets on the Capital Ltd that would only free up 4 coaches and 2 sleepers. Not enough to regularly add equipment to even a single western train.

Might be a modest benefit by increasing the pool of standby equipment to protect the existing shortened consists, but that's about it I guess.

File this idea this under the heading "Not worth it." Under the circumstances I will waive my usual consulting fee. 😉
 
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Messages
6,333
Location
NYC/Queens
I've thrown out the thought before, but a that fair point others have made is that you would need to have single level cars to substitute, and there doesn't seem to be any great excess of those floating around either. (in particular, coaches and food service) Had the fiasco with the Midwest bi levels not occurred, we would be in a different spot in the single level category.
 

GDRRiley

Train Attendant
Joined
Sep 16, 2022
Messages
53
Location
SF bay/LA
I've thrown out the thought before, but a that fair point others have made is that you would need to have single level cars to substitute, and there doesn't seem to be any great excess of those floating around either. (in particular, coaches and food service) Had the fiasco with the Midwest bi levels not occurred, we would be in a different spot in the single level category.
there should be some single level cars freed up by 2024 between the midwest and cascade getting all their cars in service.
that should leave the entire horizon family free of 82 coaches, 6 full diners and 11 dinettes. Right now less than 2/3 are in service but they'll need to get more running to start new routes. If they haven't gotten a rebuild recently moving 2 coaches to dinettes would allow 19 5 car sets
 
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Messages
6,333
Location
NYC/Queens
Yes, but people are looking to solve a problem now. Many of those cars should have been available for potential refresh and repurposing well before now, let alone 2024. If the staff and inclination was there, we could get many of the SL back on the road, if they (staff) aren't available for that, who will refresh/refurb the freed up single level cars?
 
Joined
May 1, 2017
Messages
841
Location
Pittsburgh, Pa.
The CL has been running an Orphan Consist of 4 Cars (just like the Texas Eaglette), 1 Sleeper, 1 CCC ( Diner/Cafe)and 2 Coaches, so there' would not that many Superliners available if the CL was converted to Single Level Consists.

This is known as Robbing Peter to Pay Paul!
I believe the Cap is back to two sleepers now.
 

jis

Chief Dispatcher
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
AU Supporting Member
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
33,476
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
there should be some single level cars freed up by 2024 between the midwest and cascade getting all their cars in service.
that should leave the entire horizon family free of 82 coaches, 6 full diners and 11 dinettes. Right now less than 2/3 are in service but they'll need to get more running to start new routes. If they haven't gotten a rebuild recently moving 2 coaches to dinettes would allow 19 5 car sets
There are no Horizon Diners. There are 48 seater Food Service cars (Cafes). There are 5 of those that remain serviceable.

Also BTW, the Cap requires three consists, not two. There is no same day turn in Washington DC.
 

GDRRiley

Train Attendant
Joined
Sep 16, 2022
Messages
53
Location
SF bay/LA
There are no Horizon Diners. There are 48 seater Food Service cars (Cafes). There are 5 of those that remain serviceable.

Also BTW, the Cap requires three consists, not two. There is no same day turn in Washington DC.
yep misunderstood amtraks naming scheme for theme. Was it so hard amtrak to call it business dinnette...

1663623483143.png
 

railiner

Engineer
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
9,945
Location
X
I believe the Capital Limited is the only train east of Chicago using Superliner equipment. Given the severe shortage of equipment on the western LD routes I'm pondering if the CL could be converted to single-level equipment, thus freeing up Superliners to augment the western consists.
The Auto Train is also Superliner equipped...but that train enjoys a "special status" within Amtrak, so unlikely for that to change, further, because the cars dedicated to that train have been slightly modified mechanically for that service...
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
6,597
Location
Washington State
The Auto Train is also Superliner equipped...but that train enjoys a "special status" within Amtrak, so unlikely for that to change, further, because the cars dedicated to that train have been slightly modified mechanically for that service...
Yes, the Auto Train is set up for direct release braking due to train length with the auto racks while the rest of the fleet uses graduated release.
 

TheCrescent

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
468
Amtrak should also focus on improving passenger sleep quality in Viewliner and Superliner rooms.

The curtains in rooms don’t block all light; Viewliners rattle a lot unless you’re in the top bunk; and the mattresses are kind of thin and hard.

Using window shades in addition to curtains; stopping rattles; and improving the mattress would help. The pillows and comforter are very good.

I wonder how much business switched from sleeping cars to planes in the 1950s and 1960s because people didn’t sleep well on trains, no matter how luxurious.
 

rs9

Service Attendant
Joined
Dec 26, 2021
Messages
163
Location
Chicago
The document posted reads to me like advocacy for certain routes that the author(s) frequent.

The ultimate question, which has not changed, is what exactly the point of Amtrak is. Of note, the document claims that Amtrak is an essential form of transportation for "flyover states." This very well may be true, but essential transportation and a hyper-focus on availability sleeper berths and high quality dining don't really go together in my mind.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
6,597
Location
Washington State
Amtrak should also focus on improving passenger sleep quality in Viewliner and Superliner rooms.

The curtains in rooms don’t block all light; Viewliners rattle a lot unless you’re in the top bunk; and the mattresses are kind of thin and hard.

Using window shades in addition to curtains; stopping rattles; and improving the mattress would help. The pillows and comforter are very good.

I wonder how much business switched from sleeping cars to planes in the 1950s and 1960s because people didn’t sleep well on trains, no matter how luxurious.
1. Back in the 1950s and 1960s trains had pull down blinds that blocked almost all light. VIA still has them in the Canadian. The room will stay very dark with them, even in brightly lit stops like Winnipeg.
2. The original curtains on Superliners were very heavy, blackout curtains that blocked light very well, even if they were not quite as good as the blinds that preceded them. The current thin curtains are a fairly recent development. For a short time after the Superliner Is refurbishment, the thin curtains were only on the refurbs, the Superliner IIs kept their blackout curtains for awhile. Unfortunately, they, too, were eventually replaced with the awful thin ones.
3. Beds on the on the classic equipment were generally wider and had better mattresses. The only beds on Amtrak that compare are lowers in Bedrooms.

Sleeping was and is much easier and significantly more comfortable on the classic equipment with their fully darkened rooms, wider beds and good mattresses than anything Amtrak currently offers. To this day, I find sleeping far easier in a VIA roomette than an Amtrak one

With that said, the primary demographic of Pullman travel had always been business travel. During the 1950s and 60s, business travelers deserted trains en masse because Pullmans involved more nights away from family and more days out of the office than air travel, as well as cost.

The days away were almost certainly much more of a factor than comfort. Pullman prided itself on comfort and much of it's late era advertising made that its main selling point as it was fighting to retain business travel.
 
Last edited:

trimetbusfan

Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 27, 2021
Messages
184
Location
Portland
I believe I read on this site (or somewhere else) that a second sleeper has been added to the Cardinal very recently. Perhaps Amtrak is telling us where they see demand/growth?
Could be wrong, I think all they did was started selling rooms in the crew dorm. This only adds about 5-6 rooms for sale. Better than nothing.

(This car has been running on the Cardinal for a while, but not avalable for passengers).
 

Devil's Advocate

⠀⠀⠀
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
13,525
Location
⠀⠀⠀
The ultimate question, which has not changed, is what exactly the point of Amtrak is. Of note, the document claims that Amtrak is an essential form of transportation for "flyover states." This very well may be true, but essential transportation and a hyper-focus on availability sleeper berths and high quality dining don't really go together in my mind.
Routes with transition dorms and two or three full sleepers are in some cases down to a single sleeper and no dining car, but you're worried that being "hyper-focused" on sleeper availability and "high quality" dining might somehow preclude essential coach service? When has that ever happened? I can count the number of times I've seen my train run out of coach seats on one hand, which is the same hand that can count every time my train did not run out of sleeping compartments. Amtrak has a major problem running out of sleepers. It does not have a problem running out of essential coach seats.
 

rs9

Service Attendant
Joined
Dec 26, 2021
Messages
163
Location
Chicago
Routes with transition dorms and two or three full sleepers are in some cases down to a single sleeper and no dining car, but you're worried that being "hyper-focused" on sleeper availability and "high quality" dining might somehow preclude essential service? I can count the number of times I've seen my trains run out of coach seats on one hand, which is the same hand that can count every time my trains did not run out of sleeping compartments.
No one is disputing the well-documented issues Amtrak is having with equipment repair and staffing that has limited the availability of equipment.

Nevertheless, the document posted states that Amtrak is an essential transportation service for flyover states and specifically notes the cost of other forms of transport as a reason why Amtrak is essential. Passenger data tells us how people are using these trains - they are using long distance trains essentially as regional corridor trains, in lieu of actual regional corridor trains.

From this, one can reasonably infer that if cost is a concern, people living in flyover states are not looking to use sleeper services en masse. In fact, the data spells this out: for each of the four western trains (not including the Texas Eagle, just the Sunset Limited), the segment with the highest revenue is terminus-terminus. This does not suggest that the majority of travelers in Minot, ND are using sleepers to travel to West Glacier, or any other midpoint to midpoint journey you want to put forward. Rather, it suggests there is a segment of the American population that eschews air travel for many reasons readily pointed out on these message boards, wishes to avoid the rigors of coach travel for multiple days, and has disposable income to afford sleeper berths. Of course Amtrak should cater to this market, but we need to be realistic about what that market is vs. coach passengers - the actual majority of Amtrak passengers.

Of course, the data is limited by induced demand. Maybe there are many more people who wish to travel in coach, or sleeper, but there is not more availability/affordability of seats/berths. But we would only be guessing at that point without any hard data.

Empire Builder: most trips in coach are 500 miles or less. Most sleeper trips are 1000+, with the majority share of 2000+.
Most of the top ten segments are 500 miles or less.

California Zephyr: most trips in coach are 300 miles or less. Most sleeper trips are 1000+, majority share 1000-1499.
Most of the top ten segments are 500 miles or less.

Southwest Chief: more variance, but again majority of coach trips are 500 miles or less. Most sleeper trips are 1000+, 2000+ slight edge as the majority.
More variance in segment distance.

Sunset Limited: most trips in coach are 600 miles or less. Most sleeper trips are 1000+, 1500+ slight majority.
Most of the top ten segments are 600 miles or less.

To be honest, what irks me as a non-sleeper passenger (I have used business class on the LSL, in fairness) is using "needs" of coach passengers as justification for more sleeper services. I get that the majority of posters here are sleeper passengers - but as I stated originally: what is the point of Amtrak? Essential service? Luxury service? Somewhere in between?
 
Last edited:

Devil's Advocate

⠀⠀⠀
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
13,525
Location
⠀⠀⠀
From this, one can reasonably infer that if cost is a concern, people living in flyover states are not looking to use sleeper services en masse. In fact, the data spells this out: for each of the four western trains (not including the Texas Eagle, just the Sunset Limited), the segment with the highest revenue is terminus-terminus. This does not suggest that the majority of travelers in Minot, ND are using sleepers to travel to West Glacier, or any other midpoint to midpoint journey you want to put forward.
Amtrak prices sleepers well above first class airfare, inflates short distance sleeper fares, and runs out of compartments regularly. Because the demand far exceeds supply and because sleeper pricing favors longer distances this conclusion sounds presumptive and premature.

Rather, it suggests there is a segment of the American population that eschews air travel for many reasons readily pointed out on these message boards, wishes to avoid the rigors of coach travel for multiple days, and has disposable income to afford sleeper berths. Of course Amtrak should cater to this market, but we need to be realistic about what that market is vs. coach passengers - the actual majority of Amtrak passengers.
How does bringing back sleeper rooms that were lost to crossing impacts and deferred maintenance harm coach travelers?

To be honest, what irks me as a non-sleeper passenger (I have used business class on the LSL, in fairness) is using "needs" of coach passengers as justification for more sleeper services. I get that the majority of posters here are sleeper passengers - but as I stated originally: what is the point of Amtrak? Essential service? Luxury service? Somewhere in between?
There are thousands of sleeper travelers who want the same trains you ride to get longer, faster, and more dependable with increased frequencies and improved amenities for everyone. I don't know a single sleeper passenger who wants to take anything away from coach passengers or make them pay more. Maybe if you stopped thinking in terms "flyover resident" you would see that we're actually on the same team and turning us away hurts your goals as much as ours.
 
Top