What should Amtrak change?

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Joined
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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 have been paying extra to ride Acela because of the assigned seating. After almost a year of assigned seating many passengers still do not get it. I have, however, never had a problem when I tell someone that he/she is sitting in my seat and point to the assigned seat on his/her ticket. Conductors will usually help with this.
 

Bonser

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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.
Amtrak does not have the rolling stock to provide for the 5-25% of riders who might prefer a no attendant sleeper car.
 

TheCrescent

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Amtrak does not have the rolling stock to provide for the 5-25% of riders who might prefer a no attendant sleeper car.
It has plenty of Viewliner sleeping cars either sitting around or planned to be refurbished. Those can be used. Or let a private company attach its own cars to an Amtrak train.
 
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I wonder if there would be any benefit to reverting Northeast Regional coach to being unreserved and fixed fares (sort of like the Keystones in Pennsylvania.) The only problem is that there might be standing room only for certain busy trains. (Oh, yes, I remember the days). But they could charge higher fares on obvious heavy traffic days, like Thanksgiving weekend and such.
 
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One thing that Amtrak should change are ticket prices. We are in a period of high energy costs and where many people are trying to save energy and reduce air pollution. There are major traffic jams around almost every major city and there needs to be a larger incentive to leave the car home and take the train. When commuters or travelers make a decision on their transportation the bottom line becomes cost. Even with the high price of gasoline; in many cases driving is still far less expensive. For Amtrak to grow it must be more cost competitive than driving. On some routes it is, while on others it is not. From what I can see driving is about 1/2 the cost of train travel or less depending on the number of passengers.
 
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From what I can see driving is about 1/2 the cost of train travel or less depending on the number of passengers.
At $0.62 per mile (what the IRS claims is the average operating cost of driving), I think that for one passenger, even tickets on the NEC at current prices are cheaper than driving (not to mention that most of the highways serving the NEC are toll roads.) Once you add a passenger, the calculus changes (also the per-passenger mile emissions and fuel economy get a lot better, too). One thing that mitigated that to some degree that they used to have was "Family fares." Dad paid full price, Mom paid half price, and the kids went at quarter price. Such a thing could take up a lot of seats that could be sold at full price, but it might be a way to fill empty trains.

But I'm not sure that lower fares would make enough of a difference increasing ridership to a point that it has any effect on emissions. I think you'll need both carrots and sticks if you want to be serious about doing that.
 
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Like an airline does it. You’d be put on a standby list and when the train is about to arrive, you’d be notified (in the app) if you can board it or or.
I think the simplest option would be to put the work on the passenger, by just allowing a ticket to be changed to a train departing within, say, 30 or 60 minutes at the original fare paid for all ticket classes. That would free up seats on the originally booked train without having to deal with the call-and-response of standby.
 

jis

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Indian Railways has been able to manage waiting lists (another name for stand by) for thousands of trains for hundreds of thousands of passengers. You get an SMS when your waiting list position clears, with information about what car and seat you got. You don't get to negotiate car and seat from the waiting list. You get what you get, take it or leave it. Almost everyone takes it.
 

west point

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I suspect that Amtrak''s not having tandby is its antique reservation system. Granted it would need more programing due to most trains making multi stops as compared to airlines hub and spoke system Having a passenger take an earlier train may at times free up a sold out train.

Until a new reservation system is installed this is just one of many problems that the reservation system cannot cope, The transistion problem of moving old reservations to the new system will equire many temporary personnel to hand traansfer reservations to new system.
 

jis

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Then again Indian Railways managed waiting lists for its hundreds of reserved trains even before there were computers, let alone computerized reservation systems.

I am not sure to what extent the current reservation system is incapable of supporting such a functionality. Yes it will require the creation of a module to handle it that will sit outside the core system. But most more advanced functionality is built upon legacy systems that way.

As with every change the usual first step is deciding that you want to consider it. I don't think that step has taken place, and until that happens one would never know other than WAGs based on nothing.

Until a new reservation system is installed this is just one of many problems that the reservation system cannot cope, The transistion problem of moving old reservations to the new system will equire many temporary personnel to hand traansfer reservations to new system.
That is not how reservation system data is transferred from one database to another. ;) I have seen it done from an old legacy system to a new one at a large airline. Basically once the scripts are set up, it is fairly automatic, both the transfer and post transfer data validation. With the tagged data tools available today for transformation and migration, one does not even have to write one off tools. Just need to set up the data descriptions for the tool to handle most of it.
 

rs9

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One thing that Amtrak should change are ticket prices. We are in a period of high energy costs and where many people are trying to save energy and reduce air pollution. There are major traffic jams around almost every major city and there needs to be a larger incentive to leave the car home and take the train. When commuters or travelers make a decision on their transportation the bottom line becomes cost. Even with the high price of gasoline; in many cases driving is still far less expensive. For Amtrak to grow it must be more cost competitive than driving. On some routes it is, while on others it is not. From what I can see driving is about 1/2 the cost of train travel or less depending on the number of passengers.
Driving from Point A to Point B might cost 1/2 that of a train ticket in terms of gas expenditures, but driving has a lot of other built-in costs: tolls, parking and maintenance. For anyone taking a regional train to Chicago, for example, the cost of parking alone would make a train ticket automatically cheaper.

My opinion is there are two problems holding back Amtrak here, particularly in Chicago. One, regional routes go some places but not all places. You can take a train to Detroit, but you can't reasonably take a train to Indianapolis, Cleveland or Cincinnati. I don't think people will have a mindset of taking the train if basically only bespoke routes are available.

Second, the duration of regional Amtrak travel is not always competitive with the time of driving. If you can avoid rush hour traffic, the drive from Chicago to St. Louis is about equivalent to the train. Now you can cite all the reasons why train travel is more comfortable, a better use of your time, whatever, but my anecdotal experience is that people in my age group (mid-30s) cite the lack of a time advantage for train travel as why they will choose to drive.
 

zephyr17

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The transistion problem of moving old reservations to the new system will equire many temporary personnel to hand traansfer reservations to new system.
That is not how conversions between old and new systems are done in any industry. Scripts and data transformation utilities are used if conversions must be done. Another technique is "sell-over" where you continue to use the old system while any new business is done on the new and you just run the old system out. Both approaches have pros and cons. But manually re-entering an entire system's worth of data is seldom, if ever, done.
 
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My opinion is there are two problems holding back Amtrak here, particularly in Chicago. One, regional routes go some places but not all places. You can take a train to Detroit, but you can't reasonably take a train to Indianapolis, Cleveland or Cincinnati. I don't think people will have a mindset of taking the train if basically only bespoke routes are available.
One weakness of how Amtrak is currently structured is that regional service outside the NEC is dependent on state support. Indiana and Ohio have tended to be anti rail whereas Michigan is supportive, Therefore we have good service to Detroit and poor service to Indianapolis and Cleveland.
 

zephyr17

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One weakness of how Amtrak is currently structured is that regional service outside the NEC is dependent on state support. Indiana and Ohio have tended to be anti rail whereas Michigan is supportive, Therefore we have good service to Detroit and poor service to Indianapolis and Cleveland.
I am really of two minds about the 750 mile rule introduced by the PRIIA Act of 2008. On one hand, it allows states and local entities opportunities to provide services which the public demands and gives those entities a reasonable amount of clout, more than they had under the old 403(b) rules. It has some "put up or shut up" aspects I like. As a Washington resident, I'd rather have WSDOT have the controlling say in our service rather than Amtrak's vastly competent management.

On the other hand, it prevents areas that want service in anti-rail states from getting service that people in those areas want. Having family in Indiana, I know Indianapolis and Lafayette want vastly improved rail service, but cannot get past INDOT and the state legislature.

Seattle gets the service it wants, and Indianapolis doesn't. Ultimately Washington and Indiana voters decided those disparate fates. From my own selfish perspective, I am glad that the greater Puget Sound region wields the electoral clout in my state and the region east of the Cascade Curtain does not. The opposite applies to the Indiana equivalents.

However, one thing I am not of two minds about is what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If everyone else has to pony up for service under 750 miles, so should the Northeast. Eliminate the NEC carve out, including capital infrastructure costs. Or drop the 750 mile rule.
 
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33Nicolas

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I still think that Amtrak is seen as a second-rate/second-priority mode of transportation in the US and doesn't get the attention it rightfully deserves. It's interesting that in the midst of finger-pointing polluting modes of transportation, not much journalism challenges the maritime world, the biggest cause of transportation emissions. It kinda does with the automotive industry but goes to town on aviation's relatively small footprint. OK, its small footprint has a fairly big effect. But instead of penalizing these industries, which only passes the buck down to us travelers, how about focusing on the one transportation industry that is the most efficient and pollutes the least, rail?

I need to go from Savannah to Hampton, VA. The train route would have been miserable. I enjoy traveling by train even if it takes four times as long, but the long connections made no sense to me. And yes, I understand the challenges in long-distance train coordination. I decided to fly, even if it means going through the dreaded Atlanta airport and raising my carbon footprint by flying 50 minutes in most likely a B757 from Savannah to Atlanta, not the most efficient plane for this.

Again, it boils down to each and every one of us to write our so-called elected representatives and remind them of what rail transportation means to us and our society. Maybe then they'll remember that we're the important ones to focus on, not the vested interest lobbies banging on their doors.

Grumble, grumble, grumble...
 

zetharion

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Amtrak's management is what makes it seem second rate. They have done very little to anything lately to inspire confidence in their ability to improve their service. They were given a $66 billion gift that I am sure they will manage to squander without actually expanding service into usable routes and timetables.
 

zephyr17

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Amtrak's management is what makes it seem second rate. They have done very little to anything lately to inspire confidence in their ability to improve their service. They were given a $66 billion gift that I am sure they will manage to squander without actually expanding service into usable routes and timetables.
Expanding service? Heck, they took the money and could not even keep the existing fleet inspected.

Or produce timetables.
 
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Has all (or any) of the money from the Infrastructure Bill actually found its way into Amtrak's bank accounts?
Nope. Many people like to cite this in complaints when it comes to the current operating circumstances of Amtrak LD routes but the truth is none of the money has anything remotely to do with operations. The money is for major capital projects, stations, new equipment, major infrastructure, and service expansion - not anything which will show up overnight - stations probably being the first you might see some action on. Day to day ops, equipment servicing, and routine capital projects such as periodic equipment overhauls come out of the normal year to year appropriation.
 
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