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Will full service dining ever return to the Western trains?

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20th Century Rider

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Auto train has been the most profitable LD train in the country... easy to understand because...
1] It transports autos from an extremely large and high density area... to a very popular vacation destination that requires a car to get around.
2] It eliminates driving through a lengthly congested corridor
3] Large number of consumers have the financial means to pay for this elective convenience
 

Nick Farr

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I have no clue what point you are trying to make. Yes many people that travel are traveling to go on a vacation?
I'm saying that vacations are why the highest revenue passengers take LD trains. They're not public transportation like airplanes or the NEC are.

This is why I'm saying the classic LD routes need to be right sized to their respective markets.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Auto train has been the most profitable LD train in the country... easy to understand because...
1] It transports autos from an extremely large and high density area... to a very popular vacation destination that requires a car to get around.
2] It eliminates driving through a lengthly congested corridor
3] Large number of consumers have the financial means to pay for this elective convenience
Don’t forget the unique snowbirds. Having your own car vs. a rental doesn’t matter too much for a 1 week vacation. But the snowbirds own property and will be staying for a month or 2, it makes sense that they want their own vehicle.

On top of that, they will be at the age where the long drive is not appealing to them.

(I call them snowbirds but of course they can go back and forth between the properties whenever they want to, it’s not strictly seasonal).
 

crescent-zephyr

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I'm saying that vacations are why the highest revenue passengers take LD trains. They're not public transportation like airplanes or the NEC are.

This is why I'm saying the classic LD routes need to be right sized to their respective markets.
The definition of public transportation is-

“buses, trains, subways, and other forms of transportation that charge set fares, run on fixed routes, and are available to the public.”

You don’t get to define it based on why people choose to use it.
 

20th Century Rider

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Don’t forget the unique snowbirds. Having your own car vs. a rental doesn’t matter too much for a 1 week vacation. But the snowbirds own property and will be staying for a month or 2, it makes sense that they want their own vehicle.

On top of that, they will be at the age where the long drive is not appealing to them.

(I call them snowbirds but of course they can go back and forth between the properties whenever they want to, it’s not strictly seasonal).
Excellent points to add to that list!:)
 

pennyk

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Don’t forget the unique snowbirds. Having your own car vs. a rental doesn’t matter too much for a 1 week vacation. But the snowbirds own property and will be staying for a month or 2, it makes sense that they want their own vehicle.

On top of that, they will be at the age where the long drive is not appealing to them.

(I call them snowbirds but of course they can go back and forth between the properties whenever they want to, it’s not strictly seasonal).
There are numerous reasons why people take the Auto Train. Maybe almost as many as are reading this thread.

I agree that many of the Auto Train passengers are snow birds, who usually stay in Florida for at least several months, who want their car at their destination.

I am a Floridian and have taken the Auto Train many times when we visited my sister and mother-in-law who live(d) in the mid-Atlantic/northeast. I recall in the mid-90's taking the Auto Train when my ex and I ran the Marine Corps marathon. I have seen "bikers" take their motorcycles on the Auto Train to go to Bike Week at Daytona.

AlanB (of this forum) used to take the Auto Train with family members to visit Disney.

I no longer want a vehicle when visiting the northeast or mid-Atlantic. However, a few years ago, I wanted to ride the Auto Train without a car (for fun). A friend of mine was taking the AT to visit his mother in Florida. I took the Silver Star up to DC, then metro to Tyson's Corner, where I met my friend and we drove to Lorton. I made my own reservation on the AT and linked it to his car. Since he wanted to ride SunRail, he drove to a SunRail station, and after riding for a while, I got off at the station closest to my home and walked home. It is not easy to take the AT without a car, but that scenario worked well for me. :)
 

crescent-zephyr

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There are numerous reasons why people take the Auto Train. Maybe almost as many as are reading this thread.

I agree that many of the Auto Train passengers are snow birds, who usually stay in Florida for at least several months, who want their car at their destination.
Oh indeed! Lots of reasons to take the auto train. When I was young I begged my parents to take the auto train so I could eat in a full dome dining car. They said no. (years later I got to fulfill that dream on the Hoosier State! Ha).

I have friends from Virginia who took the auto train down to Florida and then drove back through Georgia, Tennessee, the Carolinas etc, so it was part of their driving vacation.
 

Dakota 400

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I have friends from Virginia who took the auto train down to Florida and then drove back through Georgia, Tennessee, the Carolinas etc, so it was part of their driving vacation.
In January, this was one reason why I chose to use the Auto Train. I drove to Florida and had the enjoyment of having my new car to use while I was there. Then, I rode the Auto Train North so that I could visit relatives in Maryland before driving home to Ohio.

I enjoy driving and I enjoy riding Amtrak. I was able to include both of the things that I enjoy during what will probably be the only vacation I have during 2020.
 

tgstubbs1

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Auto train has been the most profitable LD train in the country... easy to understand because...
1] It transports autos from an extremely large and high density area... to a very popular vacation destination that requires a car to get around.
2] It eliminates driving through a lengthly congested corridor
3] Large number of consumers have the financial means to pay for this elective convenience
I think the price is worth it. Saving fuel and wear and tear on the car, not to mention traveling at night.
 

tgstubbs1

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It’s not the same as the snowbird market... but I wonder if a California version of Auto Train would work. California is all about “car culture” and I could see a San Diego to Sacramento run being quite popular.
I think an overnighter between SoCal and the bay area would become very popular.
I know there are plans for HS rail to Vegas. There were plans for auto transport there a few years back but maybe they were worried about people drinking and driving.
 

20th Century Rider

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It’s not the same as the snowbird market... but I wonder if a California version of Auto Train would work. California is all about “car culture” and I could see a San Diego to Sacramento run being quite popular.
A few interesting possibilities in Cali... certainly a run from LA right up into the peninsula using existing trackage dropping folks off right at the metro doorstep could be appealing to many... eliminating the bridges and all the road congestion... perfect short overnight trip.
Another possibility is the LA - Las Vegas corridor... traffic not so bad there... but a discretionary spending choice for those who want to start the party before they get there???
 

Qapla

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I'm saying that vacations are why the highest revenue passengers take LD trains.
And what is wrong with serving this market? They buy tickets and spend money - does it really matter why they are going to where they are going?

They're not public transportation like airplanes or the NEC are.
Wait ... are you saying that no one takes a plane because they are going on vacation?

I live in Florida and people come here to vacation - and they do this all year round. That is why it is referred to as a "tourist state". Many people make their income in the tourism industry. Should we just ignore that industry here in Florida because it is not "business" related ... it is tourism?

During the winter months it has, at times, gotten quite cold and caused icing on the runways. Florida is a warm state - thus the nickname "sunshine state" and, as such, we don't have de-icing equipment and snowplows at the airports like the northern states do. When these conditions cause a disruption of the air travel out of the state and strands people at the airports it makes news. The TV stations send reporters with cameras to the airports and interview the stranded passengers. Guess what?!? MOST of them are here on VACATION not business. Seems the planes engage in "air cruises" so why shouldn't Amtrak attract and encourage land cruises?

To downplay tourist business as "only [land/sea/air]cruises" is to ignore a well paying and significant portion of travel dollars - land, sea or air!
 

me_little_me

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I think an overnighter between SoCal and the bay area would become very popular.
I know there are plans for HS rail to Vegas. There were plans for auto transport there a few years back but maybe they were worried about people drinking and driving.
So better to make them drink and drive all the way from Southern California? Not likely the reason. In fact, Las Vegas without a car is like NYC with one. We were there last December and it was too hot to go even from one casino to another without a car - and we don't gamble!
We looked for an auto-plane but some members of this forum thought it was an air-cruise and nixed it. :)
 

lordsigma

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I have not ridden the AT to see "first hand" ... but, I would venture to say that the majority of those using the AT are NOT going to Disney. It is not really that practical to take your car all the way to Florida on a train for a few days stay at an over-priced hotel. Flying in quicker and easier. Many who want a car while at the theme parks simply rent one when they get there.

Most I have seem who have their own car with them drove it there themselves - they did not take the AT

Have you taken the AT? Have you been to Disney? Have you surveyed those who have used the AT to verify that the AT is only being used as a "land cruise for Disney"?

Keep in mind, some of us actually live in Florida ... not Michigan
A lot of generalizations here about the auto train. From someone who has ridden Obviously there’s a substantial amount of snow birds as well as folks going to the theme parks. I’ve seen them all in the dining car on the auto train. Just because flying is “easier and cheaper” doesn’t mean there aren’t people who don’t like flying or people that are trying something different. But on the other hand to say it’s all people on a “Disney cruise” is also not accurate. I’d say the largest contingent is snow birds but like any other service there is a diverse group of riders. (Source: someone who rides frequently to go to the Orlando area for a week and then rides back.) this year I am taking the silver service to avoid having to drive to DC (my closest Amtrak station is Springfield MA and this will allow me to take the train all the way from there) but I am a big auto train fan:
 

bms

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I have met a lot of people riding long distance trains for work, but I don't see why work is any more valid of a reason to travel than leisure. People need both in their lives. However, three day per week schedules are going to make business travel virtually impossible as they won't fit the business needs of very many companies.

Perhaps Amtrak could use some schedules that appeal more to business travelers. Based on the train timings, the Capitol Limited from WAS-CHI is the only long-distance train I can think of that that's timed for business travel. There used to be a whole host of sleeper trains that would follow that type of schedule, leaving a big city in the late afternoon or early evening and then arriving in another big city the next morning.
 

20th Century Rider

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I have met a lot of people riding long distance trains for work, but I don't see why work is any more valid of a reason to travel than leisure. People need both in their lives. However, three day per week schedules are going to make business travel virtually impossible as they won't fit the business needs of very many companies.

Perhaps Amtrak could use some schedules that appeal more to business travelers. Based on the train timings, the Capitol Limited from WAS-CHI is the only long-distance train I can think of that that's timed for business travel. There used to be a whole host of sleeper trains that would follow that type of schedule, leaving a big city in the late afternoon or early evening and then arriving in another big city the next morning.
Those days appear to be gone. It is questionable as to how in focus the government is with the needs of the people it is supposed to be serving.
 

bms

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Those days appear to be gone. It is questionable as to how in focus the government is with the needs of the people it is supposed to be serving.
Yes, the only realistic possibility of getting any new sleeper service like I describe is if sleepers were added to trains 65 and 66 between Boston and Washington. I doubt they will do even that.
 

20th Century Rider

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Yes, the only realistic possibility of getting any new sleeper service like I describe is if sleepers were added to trains 65 and 66 between Boston and Washington. I doubt they will do even that.
That was once upon a time and long ago... it was a train called the "Night Owl" between Boston and Washington. Amtrak is going in the opposite direction of 'more and more;' now it's 'less and less.'
 

jiml

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Don’t forget the unique snowbirds. Having your own car vs. a rental doesn’t matter too much for a 1 week vacation. But the snowbirds own property and will be staying for a month or 2, it makes sense that they want their own vehicle.

On top of that, they will be at the age where the long drive is not appealing to them.

(I call them snowbirds but of course they can go back and forth between the properties whenever they want to, it’s not strictly seasonal).
While the original concept of the Auto Train may have been to appeal to those going to Disney - hence the location of the southern terminus - I think the demographic has changed to snowbirds, a term which has traditionally referred to those of us northerners who spend the winter in Florida. This change was abetted first by the rapid increase in gas prices a few years back, followed by the real estate crisis which made Florida property (and by proxy rentals) cheaper and finally, as posted in one of the lengthy threads about the Auto Train, the recent spike in car rental rates in Florida - traditionally some of the lowest in the US. We used to fly to Florida, rent a car for several weeks and seldom went to Disney World or other attractions. Car rental increases made this un-affordable for longer periods, so taking your own vehicle whether on the Auto Train or simply driving it became the practical option. If we lived in the northeast US and vacationed on the east coast of Florida, we'd be on the Auto Train every year. Unfortunately we're a day and a half away from Lorton and almost as bad at the other end (extreme northwest Florida). The bottom line though is Auto Train = necessary transportation, not a cruise train.
 

Qapla

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If there was a way to detrain in Jacksonville with your car it would serve North Florida as well as south Georgia - it is a shame this has never been done
 

railiner

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I have met a lot of people riding long distance trains for work, but I don't see why work is any more valid of a reason to travel than leisure. People need both in their lives. However, three day per week schedules are going to make business travel virtually impossible as they won't fit the business needs of very many companies.

Perhaps Amtrak could use some schedules that appeal more to business travelers. Based on the train timings, the Capitol Limited from WAS-CHI is the only long-distance train I can think of that that's timed for business travel. There used to be a whole host of sleeper trains that would follow that type of schedule, leaving a big city in the late afternoon or early evening and then arriving in another big city the next morning.
The Crescent schedule is fairly useful for that between Washington and Atlanta...back in the Southern Crescent days, they would add/remove cars at both...
 

railiner

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While the original concept of the Auto Train may have been to appeal to those going to Disney - hence the location of the southern terminus - I think the demographic has changed to snowbirds, a term which has traditionally referred to those of us northerners who spend the winter in Florida. This change was abetted first by the rapid increase in gas prices a few years back, followed by the real estate crisis which made Florida property (and by proxy rentals) cheaper and finally, as posted in one of the lengthy threads about the Auto Train, the recent spike in car rental rates in Florida - traditionally some of the lowest in the US. We used to fly to Florida, rent a car for several weeks and seldom went to Disney World or other attractions. Car rental increases made this un-affordable for longer periods, so taking your own vehicle whether on the Auto Train or simply driving it became the practical option. If we lived in the northeast US and vacationed on the east coast of Florida, we'd be on the Auto Train every year. Unfortunately we're a day and a half away from Lorton and almost as bad at the other end (extreme northwest Florida). The bottom line though is Auto Train = necessary transportation, not a cruise train.
Back when the Auto Train was privately operated, Amtrak would try competing with it, by offering a week of free car rentals in Florida.

 

railiner

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If there was a way to detrain in Jacksonville with your car it would serve North Florida as well as south Georgia - it is a shame this has never been done
It might be convenient for some, but doing enroute switching would probably have an adverse effect on overall reliability of operations...
Doubt that Amtrak would want to experiment with that....
 
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