Amtrak reducing/eliminating discounts effective Jan 9?

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Amtrak reducing/eliminating discounts effective Jan 9?

Postby EdSchweppe » Wed Dec 06, 2017 11:34 pm

I've only seen the one tweet about this, so I don't know how real it is. But someone is reporting that as of January 9 2018, Amtrak is planning on reducing or eliminating many of its discounts:
On November 8, 2017, the LOSSAN Agency was notified by Amtrak of upcoming changes to Amtrak’s national tariff policy. A number of modifications are being instituted with the implementation currently scheduled for January 9, 2018. The most significant of these are reductions to various passenger discount programs and the complete elimination of others. The proposed changes reduce the discount for seniors and the disabled from 15 percent down to 10 percent, with age of eligibility for the senior discount being increased from 62 to 65 years. The national student discount is being discontinued. Current policy allows for two children to receive a 50 percent discount per each full fare paying adult. The proposed adjustment would make that ratio one child per adult. Another adjustment being implemented in the first quarter of 2018 is the elimination of the 10 percent discount offered to American Automobile Association members.

The original tweet was https://twitter.com/calwatch/status/937858938069856256; I found the above text by going to https://lossan.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx and selecting the "12.06.17 LOSSAN Board Agenda Packet" link.

I don't recall anything on this board about discount adjustments. FWIW, at first blush these seem ill-chosen.

Anybody have any more recent information?
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Re: Amtrak reducing/eliminating discounts effective Jan 9?

Postby BandA » Thu Dec 07, 2017 3:04 am

Is this something to due to the federal budget?
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Re: Amtrak reducing/eliminating discounts effective Jan 9?

Postby BandA » Thu Dec 07, 2017 3:16 am

Having LD trains with one set of discounts, and each individual state-sponsored train with their own set of discounts will be wildly confusing.
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Re: Amtrak reducing/eliminating discounts effective Jan 9?

Postby NaugyRR » Thu Dec 07, 2017 10:01 am

I will be pretty annoyed if my AAA discount gets dumped
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Re: Amtrak reducing/eliminating discounts effective Jan 9?

Postby Tadman » Thu Dec 07, 2017 10:09 am

I look at it as a supply-demand issue. I've been traveling a lot by train lately to make sure I hit select-plus this year and there are plenty of sold-out trains and higher fare buckets leading me to believe that demand is good. Given the inelastic supply (no new cars = no more seats) it only makes sense to raise prices.

Although none of us want to pay more, it's a good sign that Amtrak is moving closer to market rates as that helps close the subsidy gap.
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Re: Amtrak reducing/eliminating discounts effective Jan 9?

Postby artman » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:26 am

As a AAA member and father of a 12 or under, I would like to keep the AAA discount but am OK with dropping the number of children to 1. The rest I am in agreement with changing as well. In fact, I think the AAA discount should be good for four people maximum on one AAA number. I took seven of us to Freeport, ME last weekend on one AAA number. That seems excessive to me.
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Re: Amtrak reducing/eliminating discounts effective Jan 9?

Postby R36 Combine Coach » Thu Dec 07, 2017 8:27 pm

I'd like AMTK to go more in line with all federally funded public transportation agencies which have 50% reduced or greater senior fares (this has been a key item condition of USDOT/FTA funding).
Since my friend continues to chain smoke nonstop, she is probably an Alco.
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Re: Amtrak reducing/eliminating discounts effective Jan 9?

Postby bratkinson » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:28 pm

R36 Combine Coach wrote:I'd like AMTK to go more in line with all federally funded public transportation agencies which have 50% reduced or greater senior fares (this has been a key item condition of USDOT/FTA funding).


The difference between Amtrak and all other public transportation agencies is they are commuter operations. As such, from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, the number of riders is copmaratively quite small. Their goal is to increase equipment utilization by offering senior rates low enough for them to not drive into (or out of) town. Regional transportation agencies are also funded by state and local taxes, as well, so there is far more desire to maximize equipment utilization.

Looking at the 'commuter' operations of Amtrak, such as the NEC or Chicago corridors, why should seniors (such as myself) riding a morning 'commuter' train in the NEC get a discount when they usually fill nearly every seat? My finances are shaky at best, and saving $10-15 on a trip really helps. But business common sense and revenue management both dictate increasing income as much as possible.

And long distance train senior discounts? Why sell a seat (or the transportation only cost in a sleeper) for less than full fare during the summer, or holidays, when they can sell out nearly 100% of the time? OK, during the non sellout seasons, using a discounted rate to attract seniors makes sense to fill out the trains. And, as anyone using AGR points has discovered, using points doesn't appear to offer any discounts.
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Re: Amtrak reducing/eliminating discounts effective Jan 9?

Postby R36 Combine Coach » Fri Dec 08, 2017 1:00 am

bratkinson wrote:
R36 Combine Coach wrote:I'd like AMTK to go more in line with all federally funded public transportation agencies which have 50% reduced or greater senior fares (this has been a key item condition of USDOT/FTA funding).

Looking at the 'commuter' operations of Amtrak, such as the NEC or Chicago corridors, why should seniors (such as myself) riding a morning 'commuter' train in the NEC get a discount when they usually fill nearly every seat?
The Hiawatha has adopted peak/off-peak commuter fare pricing with the two weekday AM inbound trips (to CHI) and two late afternoon outbounds charged as "peak", much as MNCR and LIRR do (and also SEPTA until recently).
Since my friend continues to chain smoke nonstop, she is probably an Alco.
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Re: Amtrak reducing/eliminating discounts effective Jan 9?

Postby gokeefe » Fri Dec 08, 2017 3:51 pm

EdSchweppe wrote:Anybody have any more recent information?


I can confirm that these are coming and that the information you shared matches exactly with what we've heard.

BandA wrote:Is this something to due to the federal budget?


No. This is Amtrak changing their tariff schedule likely in large part due to very high demand.

BandA wrote:Having LD trains with one set of discounts, and each individual state-sponsored train with their own set of discounts will be wildly confusing.


There are state officials who would agree with you. In some places where federal and state supported trains operate mixed service the differences may be particularly confusing.

NaugyRR wrote:I will be pretty annoyed if my AAA discount gets dumped


Enjoy it while it lasts. Unless something drastic happens it is going away.

Tadman wrote:Although none of us want to pay more, it's a good sign that Amtrak is moving closer to market rates as that helps close the subsidy gap.


That is exactly what they are doing (for better or for worse).

artman wrote:As a AAA member and father of a 12 or under, I would like to keep the AAA discount but am OK with dropping the number of children to 1. The rest I am in agreement with changing as well. In fact, I think the AAA discount should be good for four people maximum on one AAA number. I took seven of us to Freeport, ME last weekend on one AAA number. That seems excessive to me.


There are many others who would agree. Continue to watch http://www.amtrakdowneaster.com for route specific promotions ($15 fares in January!).

R36 Combine Coach wrote:I'd like AMTK to go more in line with all federally funded public transportation agencies which have 50% reduced or greater senior fares (this has been a key item condition of USDOT/FTA funding).


There are quite a few Amtrak state supported services (the Downeaster being one of them) which receive some FTA funding (usually capital grants). Consequently these routes will be required to continue to offer the discount likely through the use of route specific fare codes.
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Re: Amtrak reducing/eliminating discounts effective Jan 9?

Postby Noel Weaver » Fri Dec 08, 2017 9:03 pm

Other than the Auto Train I could never figure out why Amtrak gave any discounts to anybody connected with the AAA. For many years the AAA lobbied against all money for any support for passenger rail whether it be long distance, corridor or commuter services. When I lived in the northeast I remember their publications always speaking out against any government support for rail passenger service. It was the all mighty automobile or else. If they do away with the AAA discount I say good for Amtrak, it should have been done many years ago.
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Re: Amtrak reducing/eliminating discounts effective Jan 9?

Postby electricron » Fri Dec 08, 2017 11:26 pm

Noel Weaver wrote:Other than the Auto Train I could never figure out why Amtrak gave any discounts to anybody connected with the AAA. For many years the AAA lobbied against all money for any support for passenger rail whether it be long distance, corridor or commuter services. When I lived in the northeast I remember their publications always speaking out against any government support for rail passenger service. It was the all mighty automobile or else. If they do away with the AAA discount I say good for Amtrak, it should have been done many years ago.
Noel Weaver

I agree, and would take this step all the way and eliminate all fare discounts. Amtrak is already using a variable fare process charging different fares in step with available seats. As the train sells more seats and less seats are available, the fares increase. Buying seats earlier when fares are cheaper because seat availability is higher should be the only discounts Amtrak gives.
Of course, if Amtrak fell back to using fixed pricing again, having discount fare programs should be reinstated too. Double dipping on discounts - buying seats early with lower fares and adding discounts fares is a sure way to bankruptcy. Few businesses allow double dipping specials, and Amtrak shouldn’t either.
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Re: Amtrak reducing/eliminating discounts effective Jan 9?

Postby gokeefe » Sat Dec 09, 2017 12:28 am

electricron wrote:I agree, and would take this step all the way and eliminate all fare discounts.


I would not support eliminating the military, veteran, student, disabled or senior discounts. All of those discounts are meaningful contributions by Amtrak to the nation. With the exception of disabled they already restrict most of these fares from certain trains.

If they are going to offer a discount that you can utilize through membership it should be to their Guest Rewards members.
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Re: Amtrak reducing/eliminating discounts effective Jan 9?

Postby hs3730 » Sat Dec 09, 2017 5:46 pm

Sounds like the NARP (erm, RPA?) discount is intact. NYS has their I love NY 15% off w/5 day advance purchase (covers travel within NYS, and to Montreal), I am guessing that will remain intact as well.

Between the 3 day advance purchase requirement and the fact it only applies to the base fare, I more often than not find myself not using a discount code anyway...
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Re: Amtrak reducing/eliminating discounts effective Jan 9?

Postby Suburban Station » Sat Dec 09, 2017 9:30 pm

They are reducing the not very generous child discounts?
Regarding Amtrak prices they are quite high in the NEC even by international standards (despite lower quality product). Outside the NEC that might be different. Load factors are low but cutting cars doesn't save money. Hopefully they will be increasing the spread between peak fares (full trains) and low demand trains rather than offering discounts.
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