What should Amtrak change?

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Several comments skeptical that freight railroads would make improvements for Amtrak (whether capacity, speed, or otherwise)… I would only say “money talks,” and Amtrak never really had any money before. If they would reach out to the host RR local Engineering managers offering to pay for improvements, I bet they would receive lists of opportunities.

Another “Amtrak should change”: where a large city pair only has one round trip long distance train serving, add a complementary round trip short distance “regional” train. For example, Chi - KC has a w/b SWC in PM and an e/b SWC in AM, so add a w/b “regional” in AM and an e/b “regional” in PM.
 

zephyr17

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Several comments skeptical that freight railroads would make improvements for Amtrak (whether capacity, speed, or otherwise)… I would only say “money talks,” and Amtrak never really had any money before. If they would reach out to the host RR local Engineering managers offering to pay for improvements, I bet they would receive lists of opportunities.
BNSF, at least, is happy to take money to make capacity and speed related improvements. Washington paid for a third main at Kalama so Cascades trains would not get held up by long trains going into and out of the grain port there. They also paid for a second track along the shoreline north of Seattle to expedite Sounder and Cascades service, as well as a siding at Colebrook. BC (note it was not just out of the state, but out of the country) which BNSF demanded as a condition of allowing a second Vancouver Cascades. BNSF does a good job of keeping the Cascades on schedule, generally.

UP demanded that Oregon pay for a new siding at Oregon City for Cacasdes service to Eugene. They got it and immediately stuffed it with stored cars.
 

TheCrescent

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Amtrak’s funding should be changed so that Amtrak, and all of its staff, are incentivized to improve.

Pay for performance.

Maybe have tax dollars fund infrastructure and equipment and 10% of operating losses and leave Amtrak to cover the rest, and let Amtrak employees be paid more based on “profits” from operations.

I’m in favor of the recent bill that gave $66 billion to passenger rail but that money was given to Amtrak without Amtrak having to earn it.

Unless Amtrak has an incentive to improve the quality of its onboard staff, Flexible Dining, etc., it won’t.
 
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This forum complains a lot about Amtrak. Though I think we all share a love of what we have been given (no matter how much it may test our love), we will all admit that the company has its shortcomings.

I think most on this forum would agree however, that many of Amtrak’s issues do actually stem from being starved of cash. Moreover, Amtrak is forced to do what most other transportation modes are incapable of doing. Run a company, and pay for most of its infrastructure. Now however, Amtrak is flush with cash, and poised to make some monumental changes.

Therefore, what are three major things you would change, or actions that you would take, post 66 billion to improve Amtrak on the whole? Let’s try to avoid too much talk of dining (we have 100 pages of that already).
1. Lay as much Amtrak exclusive track as possible, specifically targeting those areas subjected to the most frieght interference, to avoid issues with freight trains. The freight companies have gone back on their promise to the government to move aside for passenger trains.
Western U.S. long distance rolling stock.
 
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Amtrak’s funding should be changed so that Amtrak, and all of its staff, are incentivized to improve.

Pay for performance.

Maybe have tax dollars fund infrastructure and equipment and 10% of operating losses and leave Amtrak to cover the rest, and let Amtrak employees be paid more based on “profits” from operations.

I’m in favor of the recent bill that gave $66 billion to passenger rail but that money was given to Amtrak without Amtrak having to earn it.

Unless Amtrak has an incentive to improve the quality of its onboard staff, Flexible Dining, etc., it won’t.
Why would anyone agree to work for a percentage of profits in a business that has never been profitable, and is not likely to be at any time in the near future?
 

TheCrescent

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Why would anyone agree to work for a percentage of profits in a business that has never been profitable, and is not likely to be at any time in the near future?
Bonuses and pay increases would come out of “profits”.

Since tax dollars would pay for infrastructure and equipment and part of operations, “profits” would be counted as the increase in operating revenues above a baseline.

Any self-starter would like that.
 

33Nicolas

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There are no easy answers to that one. Lobby Congress, since that's how everything works in our country and most countries. Lobby for electrification, new rolling stock, have Amtrak by tracks or co-ownership of tracks and implement passenger first when and if possible. I know, practically impossible but wishful thinking.

Oh, and repair that bridge from New Orleans to Florida. I would have loved to have taken the LAX to SAV where I live.
 

jis

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Oh, and repair that bridge from New Orleans to Florida. I would have loved to have taken the LAX to SAV where I live.

There is no problem with any bridge between New Orleans and Florida to repair. However, there is no funding to restore any service between the two, and the likelihood of the Sunset running to Florida again is next to nil, but there have been multiple threads discussing that so we need not have that subject hijack this thread.
 

33Nicolas

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There is no problem with any bridge between New Orleans and Florida to repair. However, there is no funding to restore any service between the two, and the likelihood of the Sunset running to Florida again is next to nil, but there have been multiple threads discussing that so we need not have that subject hijack this thread.
I didn't know it had been repaired. Good to know. I'm assuming the new Amtrak administration is sticking to its gun to focus on shorter routes and neglecting the transcontinental ones?
 

jis

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I didn't know it had been repaired. Good to know. I'm assuming the new Amtrak administration is sticking to its gun to focus on shorter routes and neglecting the transcontinental ones?
The tracks were repaired within a few weeks after Katrina recovery began. The then Amtrak management decided they did not wish to reinstate the suspended segment of the three times a week Sunset.

At present there is no equipment or funding for restoring service on the segment between Mobile and JAX. The ball currently is ion the court of the Southern Rail Commission which owns the project for starting a service. According to PRIIA Section 209 it has to be locally funded since the distance is less than 750 miles. That is where things stand. This has little to do with current Amtrak management, since nothing has changed over many different managements.

Turns out that even the local folks do not wish to reinstate the on time performance uncertainty of a three days in a week service that Sunset restoration would give them, so that is not going to get funded. They prefer a local service with reliable on time performance that runs daily.
 

TheCrescent

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Similar to how Amtrak had lower-fare sleeping car rooms on the Silver Star when it lacked a dining car, Amtrak should try offering lower-fare sleeping car rooms without a sleeping car attendant and without meals included.

I can board, make my bed, wake myself up and get off the train. I don’t need a sleeping car attendant. And I certainly don’t need Flexible Dining.
 
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Similar to how Amtrak had lower-fare sleeping car rooms on the Silver Star when it lacked a dining car, Amtrak should try offering lower-fare sleeping car rooms without a sleeping car attendant and without meals included.

I can board, make my bed, wake myself up and get off the train. I don’t need a sleeping car attendant. And I certainly don’t need Flexible Dining.

I agree with this---I might like a bed for an overnight trip, because sleeping in a chair can be uncomfortable.
But that doesn't mean I need a spa treatment, like, if it is an overnight trip, I can live on a box of wheat thins!
Another related option is to have a car with fully reclining seats, one on each side of the aisle, and with curtains. Most of the privacy and comfort of a room, but much more compact.

cama4_IMG_9638.jpg
 
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Similar to how Amtrak had lower-fare sleeping car rooms on the Silver Star when it lacked a dining car, Amtrak should try offering lower-fare sleeping car rooms without a sleeping car attendant and without meals included.

I can board, make my bed, wake myself up and get off the train. I don’t need a sleeping car attendant. And I certainly don’t need Flexible Dining.
I genuinely think you are in the overwhelming minority on this one. I would wager 95% of passengers really need that attendant for any number of reasons.
I am decently knowledgeable about sleeper cars and how they work, but appreciate the attendant nonetheless to change the bed/etc... Most people have no idea how to work the roomette change, and very much appreciate having an attendant to help with other little things.
 

TheCrescent

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I genuinely think you are in the overwhelming minority on this one. I would wager 95% of passengers really need that attendant for any number of reasons.
I am decently knowledgeable about sleeper cars and how they work, but appreciate the attendant nonetheless to change the bed/etc... Most people have no idea how to work the roomette change, and very much appreciate having an attendant to help with other little things.
Sure, you may well be right. But that’s 1 in 20 who don’t need an attendant. And probably more than 1 in 20 who don’t need Flexible Dining.

Companies increase sales by differentiation in their products and pricing, and even if Amtrak offered a small number of rooms without an attendant and/or without meals included, that could be a few more rooms sold per train, and thus somewhat higher revenues.

If people can’t figure out how to pull down a bed, maybe it’s time to change the design to make it more user-friendly. European train passengers seem to be able to manage without a team of attendants to help them so I think that Americans could.
 

MccfamschoolMom

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I agree with this---I might like a bed for an overnight trip, because sleeping in a chair can be uncomfortable.
But that doesn't mean I need a spa treatment, like, if it is an overnight trip, I can live on a box of wheat thins!
Another related option is to have a car with fully reclining seats, one on each side of the aisle, and with curtains. Most of the privacy and comfort of a room, but much more compact.

cama4_IMG_9638.jpg
My mom sleeps in a recliner when she's convalescing (and I take naps that way, too), so I can see how that would work as a lower-priced alternative to a sleeping car, especially if it's just for 1 night. I know I would have loved a comfy recliner in coach when I was a college student riding the Empire Builder to get to & from home on breaks!
 
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Similar to how Amtrak had lower-fare sleeping car rooms on the Silver Star when it lacked a dining car, Amtrak should try offering lower-fare sleeping car rooms without a sleeping car attendant and without meals included.

I can board, make my bed, wake myself up and get off the train. I don’t need a sleeping car attendant. And I certainly don’t need Flexible Dining.
I agree. Three square and a bed I’m good. Just clean the restroom and call me for dinner.
 
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This forum complains a lot about Amtrak. Though I think we all share a love of what we have been given (no matter how much it may test our love), we will all admit that the company has its shortcomings.

I think most on this forum would agree however, that many of Amtrak’s issues do actually stem from being starved of cash. Moreover, Amtrak is forced to do what most other transportation modes are incapable of doing. Run a company, and pay for most of its infrastructure. Now however, Amtrak is flush with cash, and poised to make some monumental changes.

Therefore, what are three major things you would change, or actions that you would take, post 66 billion to improve Amtrak on the whole? Let’s try to avoid too much talk of dining (we have 100 pages of that already).
1. Reserved seats on ALL trains (I use Acela frequently and this curbs the WAS and NYP stations stampe.) I think most passengers would even consider paying a surcharge to reserve a seat.

2. Putting urinals in the restrooms. This would keep them 50% cleaner and keep men from peeing on the toilet seats.

3. My ultimate pet peeve - conductors need to be firm with seat hogs and tell them to get their feet and bags off the available seats. Conductors seem loath do this and intimidated passengers don't like telling the seat hogs to move. This could be more easily enforced with item #1. It would also be great if an occupied light was turned on above the seats when tickets are scanned so new boarding passengers know which seats are open. The "restroom" trick is frequently played on the NE corridor trains. When a train is pulling into a station a seat hog will get up, move her/his stuff on both seats, and "go to the restroom." New passengers boarding will see junk spread out on both seats and assume the seats are occupied. A few minutes after the train pulls out of the station the seat hog suddenly reappears and again occupies both seats.
 

TheCrescent

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Three things that I’d change about Amtrak:

1. Get rid of the boarding nonsense. Let people just get on the train.

2. Allow people with tickets for trains on routes with more than one train a day to go standby on other trains.

3. Allow upgrades from coach to sleeping car rooms, in advance, either through cash or points.
 
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Congratulations on your 1st post!
1. Reserved seats on ALL trains (I use Acela frequently and this curbs the WAS and NYP stations stampe.) I think most passengers would even consider paying a surcharge to reserve a seat.
I assume you mean pre-assigned and/or pre-selected seats. I think everyone agrees on that.
2. Putting urinals in the restrooms. This would keep them 50% cleaner and keep men from peeing on the toilet seats.
Not likely, but I think the problem is that the seats often don't stay up when lifted, and most men have only 2 hands.;) If Amtrak could come up with a simple device to latch the seat in the up position, I think that would help a lot.
3. My ultimate pet peeve - conductors need to be firm with seat hogs and tell them to get their feet and bags off the available seats.
Of course, if #1 were implemented, it wouldn't be a problem.
 
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My ultimate pet peeve - conductors need to be firm with seat hogs and tell them to get their feet and bags off the available seats. Conductors seem loath do this and intimidated passengers don't like telling the seat hogs to move. This could be more easily enforced with item #1. It would also be great if an occupied light was turned on above the seats when tickets are scanned so new boarding passengers know which seats are open.
Of course reserved seating only works if the reservation can be indicated somehow such as by a light, and other passengers and crew actually respect/enforce the reserved seat system. What happens when someone reserves from say PVD to PHL and someone getting on in Boston to ride to NYP sees the empty seat, ignores the light or whatever, does the crew enforce this, if they won't even deal with seat hogs?
 

MARC Rider

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Of course reserved seating only works if the reservation can be indicated somehow such as by a light, and other passengers and crew actually respect/enforce the reserved seat system. What happens when someone reserves from say PVD to PHL and someone getting on in Boston to ride to NYP sees the empty seat, ignores the light or whatever, does the crew enforce this, if they won't even deal with seat hogs?
I had a problem with someone sitting in my reserved business class seat once, it was a couple who wanted to sit together. They weren't going to yield, so I just sat in the seat reserved for one of the couple. When the conductor came around, I explained why I wasn't sitting in my assigned seat, and he went and had a word with the couple. Next thing I knew, the couple were heading forward into coach, where there were empty pairs of seats, and I had two seats to myself for the rest of the trip.
 
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