Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

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Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

Postby peconicstation » Mon Mar 30, 2015 11:08 am

OK, on another forum there has been a discussion going on for awhile about the fact that you are not able to book Sleeper space on the
Silver Star starting July 1.

Comments run the gamut from Amtrak stating that it is a "computer glitch" to a "pricing evaluation" and so on.
The other speculation being that the Silver Star is being downgraded to a coach train, with the Meteor offering expanded sleeper
availability.

Anyone here know that the deal is ?


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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby JimBoylan » Mon Mar 30, 2015 5:37 pm

Sleeping room are available June 30, 2015, but "none left" on July 1, 2015, or Feb. 28. 2016!
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby hi55us » Mon Mar 30, 2015 6:14 pm

Reading the HTML Code behind the page it seems as though the sold out status is being triggered by the sleeper not being offered to any customers (this was triggered by trying to book NYP-Tampa on September 1st).

This makes no sense if true, considering amtrak is getting a number of new viewliner sleepers and 92/98 don't share the same route...
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Mar 30, 2015 6:29 pm

The optimist in me hopes that Amtrak is simply redoing their reservation system to reflect the different room types available on the V-II as opposed to the V-I.

The pessimist in me thinks that someone at 60 Mass has read Mr. Norman's post about how easy it would be to discontinue either Silver and leave just one Florida train running,

The realist in me feels that someone forgot to fix Amtrak.com after some server work :P
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby prr60 » Mon Mar 30, 2015 6:41 pm

Amtrak has been toying with the idea of a trial un-bundling of sleeper and meals. I wonder of this is the trial, and they are working to reprogram Arrow for a new set of fare buckets for room-only reservations after july 1.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby CComMack » Tue Mar 31, 2015 6:25 am

Amtrak's official word on the matter, as of three days ago:

It appears that our corporate office is currently holding the sale of sleepers due to some upcoming adjustments.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Wed Apr 01, 2015 7:56 am

mtuandrew wrote:The pessimist in me thinks that someone at 60 Mass has read Mr. Norman's post about how easy it would be to discontinue either Silver and leave just one Florida train running,

Mr. Stephens, it is the Meteor, vice Star, that I believe Amtrak could whack without the Notice under ARAA 97. If the Star were to be whacked, Lakeland, Tampa, and stations along the SAL, such as Camden, would be without service - and that would trigger a requirement for Notice.

However, if it were to be the Meteor, service would remain at all existing stations.

But pragmatically, it would appear that the provision for Notice has been rendered "toothless"; Amtrak discontinued Sunset East now almost ten years ago without Notice, and I don't think anybody thinks it's coming back. If any underemployed railfan "Saul" out there believed a challenge could be mounted account no Notice, I think such would have moved forth by now.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby FatNoah » Wed Apr 01, 2015 8:53 am

If the Star were to be whacked, Lakeland, Tampa, and stations along the SAL


Naturally. My in-laws just purchased a home in Lakeland and my family is embarking on its first overnight (well, for my wife 7 year old, anyway) rail trip. Hopefully this won't be our last trip to Lakeland.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby Arlington » Wed Apr 01, 2015 11:29 am

hi55us wrote:This makes no sense if true, considering amtrak is getting a number of new viewliner sleepers and 92/98 don't share the same route...

The expensive thing is the diner and the sleeper staff. If these can be concentrated on one train (the Silver Meteor) that should be very good for train economics.

Meanwhile, the Palmetto, with only Business Class comes the closest of all the LDs to making money.

Palmetto = -5.7 per ASM
SilverStar = -12.1 per ASM
SilMeteor = -8.9 per ASM

It would make a lot of sense to try to run the Silver Star as a Business Class train, and cut it sort at Savannah. Further, If the Palmetto were re-routed (off the Meteor's route in NC/SC and onto the Star's route), then no network city would have to lose service, thus cutting $40m in annual SilverStar losses, while preserving all service to all cities on historic LDs as required.

See also the dreaded Replace Cresilvers with Day Trains thread ;-)
Last edited by Arlington on Wed Apr 01, 2015 12:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby Arlington » Wed Apr 01, 2015 11:57 am

A SilverDay train could be retimed to work a lot better as a partner to the other trains in the NY-NC corridor.

Today, the Carolinian runs just an hour apart from the Silver Star southbound, and only 2 hours apart northbound. The Silver Star also serves its SC/GA cities at crappy local times (between 1am and 4am both ways). There's a big opportunity to be had in leaving only the SilverMeteor as the night train and re-working the schedules of the Palmetto, Carolinian, and, maybe, a SilverDay.

I'm going to state their FY2014 annual losses in Millions now:
Carolinian: -$1.2M (NC-state-supported)
Palmetto: -$10.5M (cited by Boardman as covering its operating costs, but not allocated overhead)
SilverStar: -$40.2M (vs $7M in sleeper revenues)
SilMeteor: -$30.1M (vs $11m in sleeper revenues)

The easiest way to add *at least* $40m to Amtrak's bottom line would be to kill the Star and re-route the Palmetto to cover places like Cary, NC. Actually, we'd expect to be a bigger win that that, because some of the Star's revenues (particularly some of the $7M sleeper revenues) would be re-captured on the Meteor and other re-timed trains. If you said that just 1/3 of the Star's sleeper revenues came back on the Meteor, Amtrak would end up $42m ahead (assuming the Palmetto route change were a wash)

Doubling sleeper revenues on the Silver Star solves very little: considering the costs of additional sleepers, you'd probably only cut losses by $5m...basically the least attractive / lamest option of those I've examined.

Not up for such a radical change? OK, make the SilverDay and terminate it in Savannah. Still, you have to assume that some of the Star's sleeper traffic would just be recaptured on the Meteor (add a sleeper to share the diner). Maybe the Silver Day ends up losing -$20M/year. Still totally worth doing to come out $22M ahead.

Downgrading or eliminating the SIlver Star is basically a can't-lose proposition. Today, Amtrak has $80M too many costs chasing too little revenue in the NY-NC-FL market, and trimming capacity makes complete sense. Start with the biggest money loser (the SilverStar in general and its sleepers in particular) first.

South Carolina is, today, a big freeloading beneficiary of all this extra NY-NC-FL service. Frankly, if they can't be happy with whacks taken at the Silvers, they need to step up and start a state supported train, such as WAS-ATL or WAS-SAV
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby Bob Roberts » Wed Apr 01, 2015 12:39 pm

^ I have fantasized about extending the Carolinian down to Columbia from Charlotte -- unfortunately its too long a run and a new station in Columbia would be necessary and South Carolina....

That said, a Charlotte to Columbia train could be feasibly extended to Charleston. This might be a reasonable way to link SC into the mythical SEHSR network and replace some lost service in SC (if they actually want it)

pardon the daydreaming.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby Arlington » Wed Apr 01, 2015 1:14 pm

Incidentally, I'd note that 6 out of 7 South Carolina Reps (the Republicans) voted against the recent Amtrak re-authorization, and that Georgia's reps were split: 9 Republicans voting "no" and 1 Rep and 4 Democrats voting yes.

So if there was ever a place where Amtrak should focus its efforts to cut costs within the scope of the law (not cutting LD cities), I'd say that SC and GA are 100% logical targets. If they're such big believers in defunding and cutting losses, I say take Amtrak's money from where their mouths were.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby deathtopumpkins » Wed Apr 01, 2015 2:20 pm

Arlington wrote:Incidentally, I'd note that 6 out of 7 South Carolina Reps (the Republicans) voted against the recent Amtrak re-authorization, and that Georgia's reps were split: 9 Republicans voting "no" and 1 Rep and 4 Democrats voting yes.

So if there was ever a place where Amtrak should focus its efforts to cut costs within the scope of the law (not cutting LD cities), I'd say that SC and GA are 100% logical targets. If they're such big believers in defunding and cutting losses, I say take Amtrak's money from where their mouths were.


But the point of Amtrak is to provide transportation service to passengers, not to be a political tool to punish representatives from the opposing party.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby Arlington » Wed Apr 01, 2015 3:01 pm

deathtopumpkins wrote:But the point of Amtrak is to provide transportation service to passengers

Yes, and the best way to know where passenger need is greatest is to see who actually needs transport enough to spend the $ it takes to cover the costs to haul their carcasses around.

One train per day can do that just fine. So can all-coach trains. There is no public policy justification for sleepers, except that they are the only tool that can serve the crazy-long western routes. But particularly in the East, day trains are proving that they can do a fine job of serving 500 -- 600 -- 700 mile routes just fine.

Right now the Silvermettos over-serve (beyond the legal mandate) these markets to the tune of $80m in losses per year (for a railroad whose net loss is $188m). The Silver Star costs $86m to run and brings in $37m in revenues ($7m sleeper, $30m coach). If you cut the Silver Star entirely, and re-routed the Palmetto to "cover" (which Amtrak can, 'cause its their train), you'd save $86m in costs, and probably only lose $15m in revenues, because about $20m worth of trips will have perfectly fine alternatives on either the Carolinian, Palmetto, or Silver Meteor.
deathtopumpkins wrote:But the point of Amtrak isnot to be a political tool to punish representatives from the opposing party.

Punish? Yes, to trainlovers like us, Amtrak cuts seem like punishment, but for SC and GA it is a special treat: giving them what their representatives say they want: cuts and lower losses. I'd call that responsive government, not political payback.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby Amtrak67 of America » Wed Apr 01, 2015 3:37 pm

Arlington, i have a funny feeling youre an employee. I just read about this study among other things at work and was unaware of these studies that have and posted for employees to see. I believe you foreshadowed all this awhile ago if im not mistaken.
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