Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby Arlington » Thu Apr 02, 2015 6:26 am

Suburban Station wrote:Arlington is absolutely correct that diners are where the most trouble is. They have a lot of staff and limited hours. All amtrak food service is problematic but dining car service is a bottomless pit, particularly on single night services. The best thing they could do to the silver service is put it on the fec and shave four hours off.

I would like to see the Silver Meteor operating with all the sleepers that were on the Silver Stars (or one less than they'd have collectively operated on any given day), all in the name of improved diner productivity. If it works and lower costs permit lower fares you might even afford 2+2 = 5 sleeper growth on the Meteor.

SouthernRailway wrote:Arlington, in a variety of threads, you've been coming up with one self-created reason after another to claim that the demise of long-distance trains with sleeping cars is upon us, or should be. None have panned out.

The moment at which Silver Star sleeper service has been zeroed out would not seem the best moment for you to pick this fight, but here it goes: I'm not self-creating $40M per year in Silver Star losses. The only justification for the LDs is legal-political. Economically the LDs are an active volcano crater into which virgin rolling stock, staff and ROW slots are thrown by the superstitious, and amazingly, appeases the political gods in many rural states, but not in South Carolina. So stop throwing extra virgins into South Carolina's volcano. I'd argue that the Palmetto was our attempt to woo the South Carolinians and it worked as a day train, and we can leave it there as a reminder that we've got a national system and a legal mandate. But if you re-routed it via Columbia, you can cancel the Silver Star and put its sleepers (but not its diner) on the Silver Meteor. *Something* like that should happen, and supremely few passengers will be inconvenienced, and no "must serve" laws will be broken.

Legally, the Palmetto is -$10M more than the law requires to a state whose delegation of 6 out of 7 (except for the one African-American Democrat) finds Amtrak politically useful only as a punching bag and after the most recent PRRIA vote. Amtrak has no political support from White Guy South Carolina. They want to kill it. Sure, Amtrak should pursue some politicians who play hard to get, but not waste tens of millions on state delegations that have staked out a "we want to kill you" position ($10M in Palmetto losses, or $40M in Silver Star losses, or $60M to the bottom line if the Silver Star were cancelled outright).

SouthernRailway wrote:I recall, for example, that you claimed that the growth of budget airlines was killing the Crescent--even though budget airlines in the Crescent's trade area weren't having any impact whatsoever, and weren't growing anyhow.

I suspect my main thrust there was that at ATL and CLT to the South and in the markets from all of these cities to Florida, the airlines have comprehensively won vs trains (including, on the Silver side of the ledger, Allegiant's ability to pick of second tier cities to Florida), and therefore severely limit the train's ability to grow their way back to profitability with any kind of "premium" service. Whereas in WAS-NYC, and in Virginia markets accessing the NEC, trains have won. Lighter, cheaper, faster wins in the long run.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby Arlington » Thu Apr 02, 2015 8:03 am

Alternative explanation: This is a market test to determine what would happen *if* the Silver Star lost its sleepers.

Amtrak can calculate the "booking curve" for both Silvers should look like this far out. Every day, as a departure approaches, you expect to sell a certain number of tickets (maybe only 1 per week per departure, but they can look at whole seasons at a time) the booking curve tells you how sold out your July trains have traditionally been on April 1st, on April 2nd, every day up until departure.

They know how many Silver Star sleeper tickets they're supposed to be selling every day, and how many Silver Meteor berths they'd sell. Close off the Star, and the experiment is to see: do Meteor bookings go up versus the expected curve (as people switch) or down (if people are really picky about schedule and unbook whole Star/Meteor round trips if they can't get the Star they want). Some % will simply rebook on the Meteor (while others will cancel their trip or chose another mode).

Depending on how much better Meteor bookings get while the Star is unavailable, they'll be able to forecast how much Star revenue can be recaptured by a (potentially expanded) Meteor. My guess is a fairly boring 50%, such that Meteor annual sleeper sales (which were $11M last fiscal year) should go up by 50% of the Star's annual sleeper sales (which were $7m last year). If that recapture is at 50%, then they should see Meteor sales step up to what would be consistent with an annual $14.5M (11+3.5)

If the recapture on the Meteor is sufficient, well, then you can go on to the next step of figuring out what kind of train should cover the NC/SC hinterlands.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Thu Apr 02, 2015 8:16 am

chrsjrcj wrote:Rumor on another site says that the Star is losing one of its sleeprs and its dining car.


I think we both know what site you are addressing, Mr. JRC.. Rumors and April Fools Day are a fight fire with gasoline.

Their most interesting rumor is that the Star will become a "reduced grade" overnight train such as the Cardinal. That Sleeper sales have been suspended past June 30 is that part of the downgrade will be the elimination of inclusive meals for Sleeper passengers and the pricing points for such are still being evaluated. I would think that The Cardinal would be quick to follow suit.

The released equipment, be such on hand or on order, would be assigned to the City of New Orleans making such a single level train. The Superliner "City" (CONO) equipment would augment the Western trains and provide for a sixth Empire Builder set. Only problem; where would the nine or so A-II Coaches come from for the City?

Oh, but isn't speculation so much fun?
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby Tadman » Thu Apr 02, 2015 8:39 am

The frustrating thing about this topic and the added fact that GA/SC legislatures don't support Amtrak - the RIchmond-Carolina-Atlanta corridor is one of the hottest for jobs and business. There should be six day trains on this route, not a few pokey sleeper trains.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby ThirdRail7 » Thu Apr 02, 2015 9:22 am

I don't wish to add fuel to the fire or spread rumors.

I just want to say, take this seriously. This is not mere speculation. Serious changes are afoot and this may be the tip of the iceberg. This is not a "computer glitch." The only thing that is still outstanding is how it all ends..and we (and by that I mean the people at my level) should have the answer soon.

That being said, Mr Arlington's assertion that the Star's sleepers will be "zeroed out" is unlikely.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby Arlington » Thu Apr 02, 2015 10:47 am

I am not saying they *will* be zeroed out, (and that I think they *should* be has been said many times). Here, I am saying they are currently zeroed for booking and it makes possible the kind of "live fire" drill/test experiment that you can only do on real people if you want to know how much a Star trimming you could do, and how much would shift to coach or the Meteor or Palmetto business class.

That is serious stuff, and I think it says they are probing at a place where there is a whole lot of losses, legally surplus service, valuable NEC & WAS-ALX slots being underused, and no political support at stake (' cause it is already zero)
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby Matt Johnson » Thu Apr 02, 2015 12:45 pm

ThirdRail7 wrote:I don't wish to add fuel to the fire or spread rumors.

I just want to say, take this seriously. This is not mere speculation. Serious changes are afoot and this may be the tip of the iceberg. This is not a "computer glitch."


Unless Turboliner restoration is part of the serious changes, I don't think I like the sound of that!
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby Literalman » Thu Apr 02, 2015 1:10 pm

I disagree that what is profitable is the same as what is justifiable or needed as long as transportation is subsidized (and I'm not saying it shouldn't be). Take away the highway and air subsidies (see, for example, "essential air service," which has a subsidy limit of $200 per passenger) and the Silver Service economics might be very different. I'd like to see a national rail passenger system with funding comparable to what highways get. I might not see it, but I hope it will happen.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby JimBoylan » Thu Apr 02, 2015 5:56 pm

I don't think that Amtrak is adding any Sleepers to the Silver Meteor after July 1, 2015. I tried making reservations for 8 between Sebring and Miami, Fla. on March 2 and 1, 2016, and some earlier dates. I could get no more than 6 bedrooms, and there are 2 of them per Viewliner. The handicapped Rooms cannot be sold as Bedrooms until 2 weeks before the trip. Before July 1, the Silver Meteor seems to have 3 Sleepers and the Silver Star, 2. The computer does allow me to reserve up to 8 bedrooms on the Capitol Limited between Rockville, Md. and Washington, D.C., but no more than 2 family Rooms, so that train must be running with 2 full Superliner Sleepers, since the Transition car may have only Roomettes for sale.

Edit, had the train names reversed.
Last edited by JimBoylan on Thu Apr 02, 2015 6:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby dgvrengineer » Thu Apr 02, 2015 6:31 pm

It seems to me that Amtrak is going to make the Silver Star coach only with a café care for it's entire current route as a money saving measure. If successful,
it will probably be done to other LD train such as the Cardinal. One night only Eastern trains would not loose much revenue without a diner or sleepers and
would rid themselves of considerable expense. Multiple night Western trains would be a different story.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby hi55us » Thu Apr 02, 2015 7:09 pm

dgvrengineer wrote:It seems to me that Amtrak is going to make the Silver Star coach only with a café care for it's entire current route as a money saving measure. If successful,
it will probably be done to other LD train such as the Cardinal. One night only Eastern trains would not loose much revenue without a diner or sleepers and
would rid themselves of considerable expense. Multiple night Western trains would be a different story.
Larry


Worth noting, the website still shows the train running with a Dining Car (in the amenities section)... Would be misleading to sell coach passengers a ticket with a Dining Car listed as a amenity only to yank it further down the road...
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby gokeefe » Thu Apr 02, 2015 7:28 pm

hi55us wrote:Worth noting, the website still shows the train running with a Dining Car (in the amenities section)... Would be misleading to sell coach passengers a ticket with a Dining Car listed as a amenity only to yank it further down the road...


I disagree. Amtrak's Terms of Transportation make this abundantly clear:

Disclaimer of Liability

Amtrak's fares, time schedules, equipment, routing, services and information (hereinafter "Amtrak services") are not guaranteed and are provided "as is" without any warranties of any kind, either express or implied, and Amtrak disclaims all warranties, express or implied. Applicable law may not allow the exclusion of implied warranties, so the above exclusions may not apply to you.

Amtrak reserves the right to change its policies without notice.

Amtrak further specifically disclaims liability for any inconvenience, expense, or damages, incidental, consequential, punitive, lost profits, loss business or otherwise, resulting from errors in its timetable, shortages of equipment, or due to delayed trains, except when such delay causes a passenger to miss an Amtrak train guaranteed connection. When a guaranteed Amtrak train connection is missed, Amtrak will provide passenger with alternate transportation on Amtrak, another carrier, or provide overnight hotel accommodations, at Amtrak's sole discretion, but only when such circumstances resulted from the actions of Amtrak and this shall constitute Amtrak's sole liability and passenger's sole and exclusive remedy. Some states may not allow the exclusion of incidental or consequential damages, so the above limitation or exclusion may not apply to you.

Amtrak also disclaims any liability for the products and/or services of Amtrak's advertisers, business partners, sponsors, suppliers, licensors and agents to the extent permissible under the law and Amtrak shall only be responsible for the rail transportation services that it provides.


It certainly isn't good service but they are very clear that things can change without notice and they are not bound to amenities as advertised when sold. How they handle these changes from a customer service stand point is another matter entirely. As best we can tell they update their information as soon as they know about changes to consists.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby Matt Johnson » Thu Apr 02, 2015 8:16 pm

dgvrengineer wrote:It seems to me that Amtrak is going to make the Silver Star coach only with a café care for it's entire current route as a money saving measure. If successful,
it will probably be done to other LD train such as the Cardinal.


I'm taking the Cardinal in a couple of weeks, in a roomette. I would never think about taking it if it were coach only. This coach only talk seems like utter lunacy, even without considering the Viewliner II order. I can only hope it's too stupid to actually be true!
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby hi55us » Thu Apr 02, 2015 8:32 pm

gokeefe wrote:
hi55us wrote:
I disagree. Amtrak's Terms of Transportation make this abundantly clear:


I understand that they can legally change the amenities, but it's realllly bad PR. Amtrak needs as much good PR as it can get...
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade ?

Postby Greg Moore » Thu Apr 02, 2015 8:44 pm

Matt Johnson wrote:
dgvrengineer wrote:It seems to me that Amtrak is going to make the Silver Star coach only with a café care for it's entire current route as a money saving measure. If successful,
it will probably be done to other LD train such as the Cardinal.


I'm taking the Cardinal in a couple of weeks, in a roomette. I would never think about taking it if it were coach only. This coach only talk seems like utter lunacy, even without considering the Viewliner II order. I can only hope it's too stupid to actually be true!


Ayup, same for me on the Crescent.
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