What Will Amtrak Look Like in 2020?

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Anderson

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Here's the thing: Ed has been 100% frank that he wants a corridor option. The only difference is that he's convinced that on a proper-length train trip, he can (1) win ridership with better seating (since let's face it, if someone wants super-cheap they're probably going with Megabus anyway) and (2) make a serious dent with good food service being operated at what I strongly suspect is far less thn Amtrak would charge. The issue, as I see it, is that there is a market for seating and service which is substantially better than baseline Amtrak coach and which Amtrak could probably extract a non-trivial surcharge (Amtrak's unwillingness/inability to run anything on most trains which attracts a surcharge beyond the old Parlor Car Seat charge, which is really about what the BC charge comes out to for the most part, is a serious lost opportunity).

Edit: Ok, to elaborate on Ed's model a bit his idea is that you have Coach akin to what Amtrak has now (he has nicer seats at the moment but I'm taking that as being as much an effort to sell people on taking what has heretofore been a crap train and ensuring that "his" coach isn't worse than Cardinal-day coach since there are some branding issues to be had). However, he wants to also have a "first class" on his trains which sell premium seats with an upcharge of between 50-200% (albeit accompanied with service to induce people to pay that). When you consider that the net cost of doing that (with probably three OBS) versus "basic" cafe service with one attendant I think it works (remember, he's not "wasting" two cars on food service...there's only one such car per train). Put another way, instead of doing a cafe Ed is using his dome as the diner-club model Amtrak suggested they might look at.

I don't think that Ed's model is flawed, and I could see a model working with three classes of service. Lord knows there are people in long-haul Regional territory who would pay for a seat with good padding, substantial legroom, and the ability to get a meal that isn't just microwaved.
 
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jis

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I am actually curious to see Ed's operations finances at least at the same level of detail that we get to scrutinize Amtrak's. Just out of curiosity mind you.That is the only way we will ever know whether the model really works or not.

Also he really needs to deal with the issue of having enough protect equipment at hand, either his own, or at a pinch leased from somewhere so that he does not have to cancel runs almost every other week.
 

A Voice

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So jis, in effect you are saying that the millenials and today's sheeple, having grown up in today's shrinking service environment, will accept Less for More never having known what real Service is like!

And that we more Senior citizens will be the ones complaining about future cuts, and nickel and diming as AmtraK follows the Airline model of "Round 'em up and move 'em out???
As a millennial, for something like a train ride, "premium" service doesn't matter at all. All that's needed is a comfortable seat (or bed for overnights), and some sort of food service available for purchase. Dedicated sleeper/coach attendants, sit-down dining, all that's just extra, and in my view, signs of waste that exists purely because past practices are incredibly hard to change, compounded by Amtrak marketing them, and the "current" demographic demanding them. The demographic will change over the course of a few decades, marketing managers will come and go.
So jis, in effect you are saying that the millenials and today's sheeple, having grown up in today's shrinking service environment, will accept Less for More never having known what real Service is like!
I'm not sure Millenials (myself included) want less for more. In general, at least when I'm on transportation, I'm perfectly fine with less for less. I'll often fly Spirit on a day trip because if I work the system and buy my tickets at the airport (yes, it's cheaper to buy at the airport than online!) I can often get a round-trip fare from MSP to ORD for $32.22. Even on more expensive days it's usually around $50 round-trip. When even Greyhound charges $20+ for a one-way ticket, Amtrak charges $60+ one-way, and Southwest charges $41 on the off-peak days (if you're lucky) and $60+ on other days, I'm going to put up with the lack of amenities and a tight seat pitch for a couple hours while I fly to save that money if the schedules work out. I can spend that extra money for a good meal in Chicago, or to go to a museum, or simply save it up to take a second trip somewhere else.
The generation of Millennials often aren't the primary market for premium and luxury-level transportation and travel services. Those willing to pay for a greater level of service are perhaps motivated to do so; They are generally a few years older and have higher disposable income, and often more appreciate better accomodations. A cramped bus (or airline) seat for an all-day journey which is suitable enough (for the right price) when you're 30 might be completely uncomfortable (even painful) by age 45. You might take a road trip as a young man, sleeping in the car at a rest area, but give it a few years and that won't be acceptable anymore; You want Hampton Inn (and not Motel6 either, which is an interesting analogy).

There are many exceptions, of course, and everyone likes less expensive options, but if everyone was happy with "less for less" Cadillac and Lexus would go out of business. There is a very real market for premium-class rail transportation alongside a more basic ("bare-bones economy") coach service; We see that in Acela first-class and regional business-class accomodations. Similarly, people will be willing to pay a reasonable premium for better quality food service (the "real" dining car, with chef) and other amenities.
 
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Philly Amtrak Fan

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I am actually curious to see Ed's operations finances at least at the same level of detail that we get to scrutinize Amtrak's. Just out of curiosity mind you.That is the only way we will ever know whether the model really works or not.

Also he really needs to deal with the issue of having enough protect equipment at hand, either his own, or at a pinch leased from somewhere so that he does not have to cancel runs almost every other week.
Dumb question: Who's Ed?
 

Devil's Advocate

Conductor
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Messages
11,464
So jis, in effect you are saying that the millenials and today's sheeple, having grown up in today's shrinking service environment, will accept Less for More never having known what real Service is like!

And that we more Senior citizens will be the ones complaining about future cuts, and nickel and diming as AmtraK follows the Airline model of "Round 'em up and move 'em out???
As a millennial, for something like a train ride, "premium" service doesn't matter at all. All that's needed is a comfortable seat (or bed for overnights), and some sort of food service available for purchase. Dedicated sleeper/coach attendants, sit-down dining, all that's just extra, and in my view, signs of waste that exists purely because past practices are incredibly hard to change, compounded by Amtrak marketing them, and the "current" demographic demanding them. The demographic will change over the course of a few decades, marketing managers will come and go.
I'm not sure if you're aware of this but many if not most of us started out with cheap coach tickets because "premium service didn't matter" just like you. We didn't need it and we couldn't have afforded it anyway. We didn't start out with bedrooms and steak simply because it was traditional for our generation. But lo and behold we eventually got older slightly wealthier and chose to spend some of our extra money on nicer accommodations. I wonder if any of these silly premiums will remain in service when you reach our age and find you have different goals and a different perspective than when you were young and indifferent.
 

jis

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I am actually curious to see Ed's operations finances at least at the same level of detail that we get to scrutinize Amtrak's. Just out of curiosity mind you.That is the only way we will ever know whether the model really works or not.

Also he really needs to deal with the issue of having enough protect equipment at hand, either his own, or at a pinch leased from somewhere so that he does not have to cancel runs almost every other week.
Dumb question: Who's Ed?
The boss of Iowa Pacific which provides the rolling stock and runs the OBS on the Hoosier State these days. His name is Ed Ellis and he is a wonderful guy. I really enjoy having email and forum chats with him.
 

cirdan

Conductor
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I'm not sure if you're aware of this but many if not most of us started out with cheap coach tickets because "premium service didn't matter" just like you. We didn't need it and we couldn't have afforded it anyway. We didn't start out with bedrooms and steak simply because it was traditional for our generation. But lo and behold we eventually got older slightly wealthier and chose to spend some of our extra money on nicer accommodations. I wonder if any of these silly premiums will remain in service when you reach our age and find you have different goals and a different perspective than when you were young and indifferent.
This, absolutely. Agree 100%.

I clearly remember a time that I thought any extras were a waste of money and went for the less for less option whenever I could. I think if I could talk to my younger self now, my younger self wouldn't believe what would become of me.
 

neroden

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As a millennial, for something like a train ride, "premium" service doesn't matter at all. All that's needed is a comfortable seat (or bed for overnights), and some sort of food service available for purchase.
As a late Gen-X-er... Edible food. Food quality does matter. Doesn't have to be fancy, but variety and ability to meet dietary restrictions is important. And on a long trip? Bathrooms.
The reason for sit-down food service is actually that, if done right, it can be more safe and efficient than a giant line of passengers cramming the cafe. Amtrak is of course *not* doing it right, and generating lines at the door to the dining car (oy!).

Perhaps even better would be at-seat (or if you prefer, at-lounge) ordering and service. This would be a lot more work for attendants, but it would really eliminate the lining up.

Dedicated sleeper/coach attendants, sit-down dining, all that's just extra
Well, they DO clean the bathrooms, and frankly someone needs to do that.

since even a cafe car loses money on an overnight route,
Solely because they don't stock them properly. When you run out of food to sell less than halfway through the trip, it's easy to lose money. (Running out of stock has been documented repeatedly on the Capitol Limited, among other trains.) They make money when they're stocked -- the long-distance cafe on the LSL does business hand over fist, constantly.
 
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Lonestar648

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I spent years (1970's until recently) traveling all over this country and Canada. My team as well as the 10 other project teams, logged over 100 airline segments, many years over 150. Those airline seats wore you out plus it was difficult to get much work completed. We were thrilled to be upgraded for the more comfortable seat, but especially so we could get our reports started and not have to work until 2Am or 3 Am. When I got sick and was grounded due to my ears, I used Amtrak (Chicago was my home base) as much as possible. I many times cut out a hotel night by departing later afternoon or evening and being on site before lunch. My team joined me, soon rail was our preferred method of travel. We could get decent meals in the DC, have privacy to complete our reports and proposals, and even hold a meeting in the DC or SSL. The general consensus was we were more rested traveling by Amtrak in the SLC. I discussed with several Amtrak managers how the CL could offer the over night business package CHI - WAS with a couple premium extras plus what was at that time already being offered. I used as an example our teams and the regular business folks we met in the SLC or in the DC. On the CL and the LSL I found usually 6 or more overnight business travelers. Our company would pay more to get increased productivity. A happy rested employee is a lot more productive than one who is worn out and making mistakes.
 

PerRock

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Talgo owns them. They were not allowed to do anything with them pending settlement with WI which happened recently (in August 2015). Now they can either sell or lease them as agreed upon with WI which does continue to have certain residual financial stake in them, arising out of WI's contribution to providing real estate/factory space or some such.

You can see the settlement news here.

Specifically....

Wisconsin taxpayers will end up paying $9.7 million more for two state of the art train sets — for a total of roughly $50 million — but leave the trains with their Spanish manufacturer, under the settlement of a nearly 3-year-old lawsuit.

If the manufacturer is able to sell the trains, it will return 30% of the net proceeds of the sale, up to a limit of $9.7 million, to Wisconsin.
Shortly after the ruling I asked MDOT about the Talgos, according to them, there is no timeline to acquire them at that time. The procurement is currently "under review." A while back MDOT got into hot water with the legislature over spending on the MiTrain Gallery cars; I believe the Talgo purchase is also somewhat wrapped into it as well. I highly doubt anything has changed since then.

https://twitter.com/PFreeman008/status/654781012430360578

peter
 

Philly Amtrak Fan

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Happy New Year!

Thought I'd bump this thread since it is now 2020 and see how accurate the predictions are.

Amtrak is now in Roanoke but not Bristol VA. They did add another frequency to the Piedmont. Amtrak's Miami Airport Station isn't still open. The through cars between the Pennsylvanian and the Capitol Limited still aren't running :( No LD train was discontinued permanently (for now). Viewliner II's? Mixed results. Food service? Well I don't really care but I'm guessing most on AU aren't happy. We did see the start of Brightline service.
 

Bob Dylan

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May 31, 2009
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20,060
Happy New Year!

Thought I'd bump this thread since it is now 2020 and see how accurate the predictions are.

Amtrak is now in Roanoke but not Bristol VA. They did add another frequency to the Piedmont. Amtrak's Miami Airport Station isn't still open. The through cars between the Pennsylvanian and the Capitol Limited still aren't running :( No LD train was discontinued permanently (for now). Viewliner II's? Mixed results. Food service? Well I don't really care but I'm guessing most on AU aren't happy. We did see the start of Brightline service.
Other Negative Developments from the Guys in the Flight Suits: More Cuts to OBS, More Unstaffed Stations,Declining OTPs on the LD Routes and Big Jumps in Rail and Accommodation Fare Buckets
 

JRR

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Other Negative Developments from the Guys in the Flight Suits: More Cuts to OBS, More Unstaffed Stations,Declining OTPs on the LD Routes and Big Jumps in Rail and Accommodation Fare Buckets
Can I add, more and more stations w/o baggage service??
 

Qapla

Conductor
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And there are still many trains that have not recently been washed ... making the view out the windows just as dismal as in 2019 :(
 

me_little_me

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And there are still many trains that have not recently been washed ... making the view out the windows just as dismal as in 2019 :(
Could be worse. At least Amtrak still has showers for crew and passengers in the sleepers!:)
 

ShiningTimeStL

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Apr 23, 2019
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Decreased OTP? Has the CONO always been such a reliable train? Have the midwest corridor trains always been so reliable? Hell even the Empire Builder and the Texas Eagle have been getting better (but still not good).
 

adamj023

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Apr 1, 2015
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Nothing significant ever changes at Amtrak. They tweak the system occasional, a new route here and a removed route there and lots of cost cutting and some new station openings.

To me the best Amtrak routes are the train to plane connections such as Penn Station to Newark Airport where you can get a reserved seat unlike commuter lines. The new High speed train in the Northeast is supposed to be delayed which is another route that makes sense. But most of the Amtrak network is useless to me and is counterproductive and losing a lot of money as well.

if Amtrak was run like it has been over the years but was a privately owned business, it would have been bankrupt and gone already.
 

adamj023

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Disagree. Amtrak has too many problems. It is usable however on the Northeastern Corridor lines for instance but nowhere near the level it should be at. Freight trains and passenger trains on the same tracks which the long haul routes are make for a noxious combination. Also Amtrak starts the new Cascades route in Seattle and crashes and people get killed on first day of new route and a host of other incompetence.

TV Shows like Married with Children for instance have known about Amtrak’s issues for years and have had parody skits on it. Taxpayers are on the hook for Amtrak even if they don’t use it as the federal government subsidizes it.
 

Qapla

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OK - you pointed out some of the problems ... are you saying these are unsolvable problems?

Think about it - more people are killed everyday on the Internet Highway System than on Amtrak - and, yes, some are even killed on brand new, just opened sections of road - and yet, no one is complaining about these problems and thinking roads should all be closed or government money should be taken away.

If independent tracks were installed for Amtrak with the same vigor as the added lanes to Interstates - things would be much easier for Amtrak to operate.
 

adamj023

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The cost of doing nationwide building out of Amtrak tracks is too high so it will never happen. The mechanism that works best for Long Haul is aviation which has significantly faster speeds and is already built out and we could get the speeds up if we got off the petroleum based economy. Being on the ground is unneeded for transportation except to takeoff and land. Bus combined with train where dedicated tracks have been built is better for those who want or require ground based transport, or cars, vans, and the like. I believe Amtrak should cut a lot of unprofitable long haul routes but tweak the network where dedicated tracks exist or are possible to add a few new lucrative routes where demand is.
 

Qapla

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I believe Amtrak should cut a lot of unprofitable long haul routes but tweak the network where dedicated tracks exist or are possible to add a few new lucrative routes where demand is.
It is fine that you believe that ... not all of us believe the same thing. As someone who does not fly, I see no reason us non-fliers should be relegated to second-class citizens because "Long Haul" should only be done by air -

Personally, I do not believe air travel should be prioritized at the expense of ground based travel - long distance travel on a single vehicle that can hold hundreds of people AND that can stop at several locations as it crosses the country just does not work in the air - not all want to go from coast-to-coast every time they travel.

Just imagine if, back in the early days of air travel, people had said that the cost of building airports with a network of road to allow people to access them and the cost of air traffic control was "too high" - where would air travel be today ... there was a time people thought air travel WAS a waste of tax money because only the rich could use it.

Aren't you glad that thinking did not prevail?
 

adamj023

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It is fine that you believe that ... not all of us believe the same thing. As someone who does not fly, I see no reason us non-fliers should be relegated to second-class citizens because "Long Haul" should only be done by air -

Personally, I do not believe air travel should be prioritized at the expense of ground based travel - long distance travel on a single vehicle that can hold hundreds of people AND that can stop at several locations as it crosses the country just does not work in the air - not all want to go from coast-to-coast every time they travel.

Just imagine if, back in the early days of air travel, people had said that the cost of building airports with a network of road to allow people to access them and the cost of air traffic control was "too high" - where would air travel be today ... there was a time people thought air travel WAS a waste of tax money because only the rich could use it.

Aren't you glad that thinking did not prevail?
The interstate highway system was started before air travel for the masses and at that time was appropriate to build. Since it was built already, people who have ground vehicles can use it as the upkeep isn’t that much, and the fact is air is still handling lighter weight and less frequent loads than the ground network which is super congested. Air travel growth is huge and is handling traffic for multiple routes globally. Ground is still necessary for transit to airports for the shorter distances.

Airlines don’t just do coast to coast routes or longer hail routes. They fly to many different airpots on very short and long haul routes.

A train is not efficient for many routes and is magnitudes slower. A train does work for short haul from the airports to stations in a shorter distance range like the Northeastern Corridor trains are, although there is overlap on many of those routes with airplane which provides competition.

Airplane speeds can be multitudes faster and don’t require ground based infrastructure and allow for much greater traffic to flow. Air is simply the best method we have to combat the traffic congestion problem which has so much untapped potential.
 

Qapla

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Air is simply the best method we have to combat the traffic congestion problem which has so much untapped potential.
I'm not sure if all the people who get stuck in the traffic jams and confusing highways around airports would agree ... have you ever tried to navigate the roads around MCO without ending up going to the wrong place at least once?

Setting that aside ... maybe, in your opinion, rail is not needed (odd coming from someone on a train riding forum) but that is not the general consensus of all people - especially those on this forum.

Somehow, I doubt you will convince many on this forum that "Air is simply the best method we have to combat the traffic congestion problem" ...

As for the Interstate system:

as the upkeep isn’t that much,
In 2014, a total of $416 billion was spent on highway and water infrastructure... $207 billion for operation and maintenance ... $165 billion was for highways alone
Forty-five percent of highway and road spending goes toward operational costs, such as maintenance, repair, snow and ice removal, highway and traffic design and operation, and highway safety
And the costs go up each year as prices rise.
 
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