Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

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Re: Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

Postby bratkinson » Sun Nov 05, 2017 8:56 pm

Arlington wrote:The problem in the diner is rooted in the fact that
- Amtrak has to pay $25/hr for labor* (instead of the $10/hr that sets our "bought food" price expectations)

While I won't dispute the hourly rates you quoted, know that unionized labor comes with a 35-50% additional rate to account for vacations, sick time, pension matching (RRR), medical insurance, training, uniforms, and, in the case of trains, meals, transportation, and overnight accomodations. All employers have to pay matching FICA deductions (Tier I for railroaders), unemployment tax, and even Workmans Comp payments. That adds maybe 6-7% to the hourly rate the employees get.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

Postby ryanov » Tue Nov 07, 2017 12:07 pm

Spent some time catching myself up since I participated last in the discussion about a year ago.

It appear clear to me that Arlington had a conclusion in mind, spent a lot of time with the numbers, came up with the conclusion he had to start with, and wrote convincing detailed posts about it. I don't have similar time or inclination to spend on these numbers, but I also know it's possible for multiple people to look at the same numbers and draw other conclusions, so I don't treat what he says as a foregone conclusion just because he included a dollar number.

It's been raised here that the departure/arrival times had more to do with at least a couple of passengers' train choice than the diner. I personally would be very reluctant to travel on a train with no diner, but if I can't arrive when the other train does, that won't work.

Would be nice if trains stayed nice. The dollar amount is rounding error in the budget. I can't believe that this much time and energy is spent looking into "how to save people a couple of dollars of year," more or less, but I guess that's this "great country" we live in.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

Postby Philly Amtrak Fan » Tue Nov 07, 2017 3:35 pm

I think in this board compared to the other train board I frequent there are a few here that care about the economics about running trains and consider the diner and certain trains to be expenses and luxuries. At the other board, talk about the diner as an expense would be consider taboo and grounds for shunning. There's threads about meals as if Amtrak is a restaurant and not a transportation company! I feel some people will actually fly between Philly and Chicago or Chicago and Los Angeles but only take the train because of the great Amtrak steaks! That's a really long trip for an Amtrak steak which I'm sure is lesser quality than what you can get at your neighborhood Outback or Longhorn.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

Postby Tadman » Tue Nov 07, 2017 4:54 pm

ryanov wrote:
Would be nice if trains stayed nice. The dollar amount is rounding error in the budget. I can't believe that this much time and energy is spent looking into "how to save people a couple of dollars of year," more or less, but I guess that's this "great country" we live in.


I think this speaks a lot to human psychology. The same people that shell out $1200 for a sleeper for a few nights can't shell out so few more bucks for a decent meal in the diner? $1200 tickets and $100/night for dinner is too much? We're not talking about superbudget travel here.

But it's the same culture that will buy a $50k SUV and fail to change the tires or shocks on time because "it's too expensive".
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

Postby gokeefe » Tue Nov 07, 2017 6:17 pm

It's a problem of relative value ... People seem to place a far greater value on privacy, comfort and convenience than they do on a diner meal. Also worth noting that unlike meals a sleeper accommodation isn't something you can buy in a station for less money and higher quality.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

Postby ryanov » Tue Nov 07, 2017 6:29 pm

I don't think you can argue that you can buy a sleeper meal for less money and higher quality in the station either. You definitely can't have a hot meal from a station hundreds of miles later.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

Postby gokeefe » Tue Nov 07, 2017 6:31 pm

Depends on whether or not a restaurant inside will bring it to the train. Most places on long distance trains this probably can't happen.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

Postby electricron » Tue Nov 07, 2017 6:37 pm

Tadman wrote:
ryanov wrote:
Would be nice if trains stayed nice. The dollar amount is rounding error in the budget. I can't believe that this much time and energy is spent looking into "how to save people a couple of dollars of year," more or less, but I guess that's this "great country" we live in.


I think this speaks a lot to human psychology. The same people that shell out $1200 for a sleeper for a few nights can't shell out so few more bucks for a decent meal in the diner? $1200 tickets and $100/night for dinner is too much? We're not talking about superbudget travel here.

But it's the same culture that will buy a $50k SUV and fail to change the tires or shocks on time because "it's too expensive".

Maybe a diner isn’t that necessary on a trip with just one night with an afternoon departure and a morning arrival. Eating a snack, sandwich, or pizza that one night isn’t going to turn off many riders. But that changes on the West Coast with two and possibly more night trips. It’s one thing to skimp on one meal, it’s another when your talking about four, five, or six meals.

I frequently ride the Eagle to L.A. and the Starlight to Seattle from Dallas, three nights on the trains with nine guaranteed meals.
1) dinner near Austin
2) breakfast near Del Rio
3) lunch near Alpine
4) dinner near Lordsburg
5) breakfast (if running hours late*) near Palm Springs
6) lunch near Santa Barbara
7) dinner near Salinas
8) breakfast near Klamath Falls
9) lunch near Eugene
10) dinner near Olympia
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

Postby David Benton » Wed Nov 08, 2017 5:54 pm

Tadman wrote:
ryanov wrote:
Would be nice if trains stayed nice. The dollar amount is rounding error in the budget. I can't believe that this much time and energy is spent looking into "how to save people a couple of dollars of year," more or less, but I guess that's this "great country" we live in.


I think this speaks a lot to human psychology. The same people that shell out $1200 for a sleeper for a few nights can't shell out so few more bucks for a decent meal in the diner? $1200 tickets and $100/night for dinner is too much? We're not talking about superbudget travel here.

But it's the same culture that will buy a $50k SUV and fail to change the tires or shocks on time because "it's too expensive".

We strike the same thing in the RV industry. People pulling up in $200K plus RV's, and arguing over a buck or 2.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

Postby mmi16 » Wed Nov 08, 2017 8:30 pm

If you have to ask the price - you can't afford it!
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

Postby bostontrainguy » Thu Nov 09, 2017 12:21 pm

gokeefe wrote:It's a problem of relative value ... People seem to place a far greater value on privacy, comfort and convenience than they do on a diner meal. Also worth noting that unlike meals a sleeper accommodation isn't something you can buy in a station for less money and higher quality.


Being an experienced Amtrak sleeper customer, I think you are absolutely right. I guess I would be happy in my private room if I could bring my chosen meal onboard (or maybe pre-order it from the Amtrak cafe where it would be heated up for me) and bring it back to my room to eat it in private.

Would Amtrak care to sell pre-ordered meals in the Acela lounge for sleeper passengers to bring onboard?

Maybe the toilets should be replaced with mini fridges? Could a community microwave be installed in the new sleepers? A great cold sandwich would be fine for one evening. Give me coffee and a warm bagel and a coffee roll in the morning and I'll be happy. Maybe some cereal and milk. All similar to the Auto Train.

Although I love the diner experience, the traveling by train in private is the important part.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

Postby mtuandrew » Thu Nov 09, 2017 1:56 pm

An in-room cooler or fridge would be a great idea, as long as it is easy to clean. Same with a communal microwave, though then you have the dread “burnt popcorn smell” risk. Probably better to have that appliance in the cafe car.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

Postby electricron » Thu Nov 09, 2017 2:31 pm

Having a small refrigerator would probably lead to Amrak prestocking it with $5 bottles of water and sodas, and $10 tiny bottles of liquor, which they will charge extra after inventorying your room/roomette after you alight from the train. In other words, they’re going to want to make money off the extra amenities somehow, not give it away for free.

Which will mean they will now have to install a lock on the room/roomette door so no one can steal these goodies from your refrigerator.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

Postby OrangeGrove » Thu Nov 09, 2017 4:42 pm

Considering Amtrak always needs to expand revenue in the area of food & beverage (helps pacify Congressional critics), that's hardly the worst idea ever heard. Just leave enough room for my generic grocery brand bottled water to keep the Perrier company.
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Re: Silver Star Downgrade and Diner Discussion

Postby Hamhock » Thu Nov 09, 2017 10:30 pm

They'd definitely have to do it by charging after-the-fact; otherwise, adding an additional potential of "attendant swaps out with own store-bought product, pockets cash sale, swaps in commissary product, reports zero sales" is probably not a good idea.
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