Why aren't overnight trains able to compete with flying?

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MARC Rider

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Yes. I am saying that route should be a very busy passenger rail corridor.
Even if a route becomes a "busy passenger rail corridor," the host railroads might want to clear the tracks late at night to be able to rune the freight trains they can't run during the day because it's a "busy passenger rail corridor." Even Amtrak on the NEC hosts freight trains at night, though, of course, they do manage to get 65/66/67 through, too. But the NEC has a lot of capacity that some of the freight railroads don't have.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Even if a route becomes a "busy passenger rail corridor," the host railroads might want to clear the tracks late at night to be able to rune the freight trains they can't run during the day because it's a "busy passenger rail corridor." Even Amtrak on the NEC hosts freight trains at night, though, of course, they do manage to get 65/66/67 through, too. But the NEC has a lot of capacity that some of the freight railroads don't have.
That may be true. I still believe my statement is correct. That NYC-Chicago should be a busy passenger corridor that includes night trains.

I’m sure NS would have a problem with adding one more nyc-Chicago train as is.
 

Tlcooper93

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That may be true. I still believe my statement is correct. That NYC-Chicago should be a busy passenger corridor that includes night trains.

I’m sure NS would have a problem with adding one more nyc-Chicago train as is.
In principle, I agree. NYC-Chicago is a very poorly planned, and underutilized market. OH politics are partially the reason though.

If the transportation politics there looked a little more like VA, we’d have a much different situation, and maybe a more rail friendly state, with routes in between some of the major cities in OH.
 

neroden

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Overnight business travel will never again be a major part of Amtrak's business. Overnight trains must be marketed for leisure and personal travel. Speed alone is not as important as reliability and comfort. I think Amtrak does have an opportunity what with air travel being such a dreadful experience as it currently is, and I do not think they are taking advantage of it.
Business travel is already less than half of the total travel market, and shrinking! Businesses are saying "do it by teleconference" whenever possible. So the future of the *entire* travel market is leisure / personal travel. So this is in line with the general trends.

The main reason most people don't consider overnight trains in the US, right now, is that they don't run on time. Many, many people, *even* Richard Anderson, pointed out that a reliable overnight route which had a *reliable* morning arrival would be very attractive.
 

Willbridge

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Re "which is late more often" -- one big thing to consider is what happens when you are late.

Amtrak actually rebooks me or puts me up in a hotel. They don't debate whether the train being delayed by flooding in North Dakota was "their fault" or "the weather's fault." I didn't make my connection and I am accommodated.

It's true that random airline delays are moderately uncommon- but weather related delays are exceedingly common, and the when it's weather, the airline says "not our fault you are stuck in Seattle tonight, go get your own hotel room and dinner, and come back here at 6 in the morning to be rebooked." So much for flying home the same afternoon my conference ends and sleeping in my own bed!

I have had some success getting employers to pay for train travel, even for sleeper travel. They won't, in general, pay for first-class upgrades; but some of them are responsive to "reimburse you up to the cost your plane ticket would have been" and some are responsive to "yes, you DID save us a $200 night at the conference hotel by riding an overnight train and arriving the morning of the conference", and treating the sleeper upgrade as lodging rather than travel.
Weather-related air delays are one of the reasons for the Amtrak Cascades. But, of course, it's been over 60 years since the last overnight train ran PDX<>SEA. My dad used it for business trips for a monthly staff meeting in Seattle.

I used the Amtrak North Star in both directions between MSP and CHI in a heritage sleeper on business and it was comfortable but aged and with an awkward location in the Twin Cities. It combined business convenience with lots of connections in Chicago for other travelers.

1981 10 North Star.jpg
 

Qapla

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Not sure if the bad nights sleep was caused by the train ... I have had bad nights of sleep in hotel beds and even my own bed.

I will agree that a roomette is quite small for two adults.
 

Ferroequinologist

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My father always took the train from Pittsburgh to NYC or sometimes Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Buffalo, etc. At first there were only propeller planes, flights were bumpy & very expensive. Pittsburgh's airport was way west of downtown and we were east. He'd return from NYC and get off at E. Pgh. & walk into his office building. He saved on hotel & had a Pullman roomette or duplex room (sort of like a bedroom, but for one person with 2 bedrooms at each end of the car and 12 duplex rooms in between, 1 lower, 2 upper, 2 lower, 2 upper, 2 lower, 2 upper, 1 lower). PRR had those, though NP had four on the same level below a dome. (B&O may have had a few in a dome car along with their unique two-person drawing rooms.)
This was in the 1930s or 1940s? A lot has changed since then.
 

Hytec

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I realize that my experience may be rare, if not unique.

Before I retired I routinely rode the Crescent between Slidell, LA and Alexandria, VA for meetings. I'd depart SDL on #20 at 8:00 AM and arrive ALX at 9:00 AM the next morning. A quick Metro to the office in Arlington for 10:00 meetings. Meetings usually ended by 5 PM. So, a leisurely Metro to WAS Union Station to depart on #19 at 6:30, arriving SDL at 4:30 the next afternoon. #20 and #19 were usually on time in the '80s and '90s. Never more than 30 minutes late. (That's not even close, today, sadly.)

When I first put in the travel request, the Finance Manager asked why I was taking A TRAIN?
I explained that due to airline schedules, I had to leave on a noon flight, requiring an overnight motel in Arlington. Then, again because of airline schedules, I had to overnight in Alexandria before catching a morning flight back home. Either way, I would be three days away from the office.

Though the clincher was economics, all in 1987 Dollars.
Air - $1250 R/T, Motel, 2 nights @$200/night. Total $1650.
Rail - $750 Sleeper, incl. senior ticket discount. Total $750.

His response, "Oh, have a nice trip."
 

Bob Dylan

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I realize that my experience may be rare, if not unique.

Before I retired I routinely rode the Crescent between Slidell, LA and Alexandria, VA for meetings. I'd depart SDL on #20 at 8:00 AM and arrive ALX at 9:00 AM the next morning. A quick Metro to the office in Arlington for 10:00 meetings. Meetings usually ended by 5 PM. So, a leisurely Metro to WAS Union Station to depart on #19 at 6:30, arriving SDL at 4:30 the next afternoon. #20 and #19 were usually on time in the '80s and '90s. Never more than 30 minutes late. (That's not even close, today, sadly.)

When I first put in the travel request, the Finance Manager asked why I was taking A TRAIN?
I explained that due to airline schedules, I had to leave on a noon flight, requiring an overnight motel in Arlington. Then, again because of airline schedules, I had to overnight in Alexandria before catching a morning flight back home. Either way, I would be three days away from the office.

Though the clincher was economics, all in 1987 Dollars.
Air - $1250 R/T, Motel, 2 nights @$200/night. Total $1650.
Rail - $750 Sleeper, incl. senior ticket discount. Total $750.

His response, "Oh, have a nice trip."
I was able to do the same thing when I lived in DC and traveled the NEC Corridor Regularly on Work trips.

I was fortunate enough to be able to make my own travel arrangements.

At first I flew on the Infamous Eastern Shuttles, then discovered that I could ride the Trains cheaper and beat the Airlines times Door to Door, also returning to WAS without an extra night in a Hotel on a lot of the trips..

My favorite were the Metroliners, when still run by PRR and after Amtrak started also!

I also was able to use the Crescent and the Silver Trains on a few trips to the South, and on several occasions the Cap,LSL and several of the Western LD Trains to the NW and SW out of Chicago.
 
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MARC Rider

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When I worked in Washington, pretty any trip up to New York was done by train. This wasn't unusual at all, and that's how pretty much everyone traveled. I was a little bit of an oddball, as I also rode it to Boston and Newport News (when I had business in Tidewater Virginia.) Later on, I would ride the Capitol for business trips to Ann Arbor. Aside from having to get up early to get off in Toledo, the the Ambus got me to Ann Arbor about the time to start work. Then after work, I'd have dinner with colleagues, and they'd take me to the train station to catch the Ambus back to Toledo. If it was a one--day trip, I didn't need a hotel at all. If it was multiple days, someone got me a car from the motor pool so I could drive around town. I also took the train to conferences in Chicago, and also to conferences in Tampa and Hilton Head. I'd have to arrive the day before for the conferences in Chicago and Tampa, which means I'd have to leave two days before the meeting, but I could leave Washington after work and make it to Hilton Head (Silver Meteor to Savannah, taxi to the airport, rental car to Hilton Head) and make the start of the conference. On one trip to Sacramento, I didn't like the flights being offered, so I flew non-stop to San Francisco and caught the Capitol Corridor out to Sacramento.

Those were about the only business routes that were practical for me. Anything longer was just too much time off of work.
 

crescent-zephyr

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On one trip to Sacramento, I didn't like the flights being offered, so I flew non-stop to San Francisco and caught the Capitol Corridor out to Sacramento.
I’ve done that before! Also gone Anaheim south to San Diego on the Surfliner instead of flying out of LA airports.
 
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My favorite were the Metroliners, when still run by PRR and after Amtrak started also!
Just a minor correction...while the PRR ordered the Metroliner's, by the time they went into service in 1969, it was run by successor, Penn Central until Amtrak.
 
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I realize that my experience may be rare, if not unique.

Before I retired I routinely rode the Crescent between Slidell, LA and Alexandria, VA for meetings. I'd depart SDL on #20 at 8:00 AM and arrive ALX at 9:00 AM the next morning. A quick Metro to the office in Arlington for 10:00 meetings. Meetings usually ended by 5 PM. So, a leisurely Metro to WAS Union Station to depart on #19 at 6:30, arriving SDL at 4:30 the next afternoon. #20 and #19 were usually on time in the '80s and '90s. Never more than 30 minutes late. (That's not even close, today, sadly.)

When I first put in the travel request, the Finance Manager asked why I was taking A TRAIN?
I explained that due to airline schedules, I had to leave on a noon flight, requiring an overnight motel in Arlington. Then, again because of airline schedules, I had to overnight in Alexandria before catching a morning flight back home. Either way, I would be three days away from the office.

Though the clincher was economics, all in 1987 Dollars.
Air - $1250 R/T, Motel, 2 nights @$200/night. Total $1650.
Rail - $750 Sleeper, incl. senior ticket discount. Total $750.

His response, "Oh, have a nice trip."
That worked out perfectly for you, schedule-wise.:)
Just a question...by 1987 dollars, those amounts seem high to me. Did you mean, adjusted for inflation to today's equivalent?
 

MARC Rider

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I just saw this article about European Overnight Trains. Which are gaining popularity as well. If you look at the interiors it appears they have a clue as to what a train could, or should look like. Amtrak could take a few design clues from these.
You mean Amtrak should start offering 6-berth couchettes or platzkart?

The trains in listed in the link are super luxurious tourist trains, not practical overnight transportation for the masses.
 

MARC Rider

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When I worked in Washington, pretty any trip up to New York was done by train. This wasn't unusual at all, and that's how pretty much everyone traveled. I was a little bit of an oddball, as I also rode it to Boston and Newport News (when I had business in Tidewater Virginia.) Later on, I would ride the Capitol for business trips to Ann Arbor. Aside from having to get up early to get off in Toledo, the the Ambus got me to Ann Arbor about the time to start work. Then after work, I'd have dinner with colleagues, and they'd take me to the train station to catch the Ambus back to Toledo. If it was a one--day trip, I didn't need a hotel at all. If it was multiple days, someone got me a car from the motor pool so I could drive around town. I also took the train to conferences in Chicago, and also to conferences in Tampa and Hilton Head. I'd have to arrive the day before for the conferences in Chicago and Tampa, which means I'd have to leave two days before the meeting, but I could leave Washington after work and make it to Hilton Head (Silver Meteor to Savannah, taxi to the airport, rental car to Hilton Head) and make the start of the conference. On one trip to Sacramento, I didn't like the flights being offered, so I flew non-stop to San Francisco and caught the Capitol Corridor out to Sacramento.

Those were about the only business routes that were practical for me. Anything longer was just too much time off of work.
Another business ride I would take: I occasionally had business in Greenville, SC. The Crescent worked great -- Leave DC after work, arrive at about 5 AM, Hang out with some coffee until I was picked up. After work, spend a pleasant evening having dinner along the redeveloped main drag in Greenville, then a ride to the station for the ~11 PM northbound departure. OK, it was an Amshack, but at least you could sit inside, and there was a station agent who would tell you how late the train was. Back in DC the next mprning, and back to the office. No need to get a hotel.
 
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