Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Dick H » Mon Feb 05, 2018 9:37 am

Trips to Boston are not going to be running "faster". Most, if not all, upgrades
planned for the immediate future on PAR and the MBTA are to reduce congestion
and keep the trains running on time on the present schedule.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Arlington » Mon Feb 05, 2018 9:50 am

Dick H wrote:Trips to Boston are not going to be running "faster". Most, if not all, upgrades
planned for the immediate future on PAR and the MBTA are to reduce congestion
and keep the trains running on time on the present schedule.

I know. Cowford and I are lamenting that $70m was spent on rail from POR to BRU (for very few new riders and at the cost of a 3rd trainset) instead of spent upgrading the core BON-POR (for speed, for capacity, for PTC to allow more R/ts operated by that 3rd trainset).

Instead of learning the lesson that farther-and-thinner isn't better, NNEPRA is now off to Rockland...a whole lot of train hours that will run even emptier than POR-BRU does. The great mercy is that here, at least, they aren't upgrading the rails or adding a new trainset to support Rockland service.

And here's a thought: Running to Rockland is going to be terrible for the economics of the Café in particular: doubling the operating hours on runs but nowhere near doubling sales.
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Tom M » Mon Feb 05, 2018 12:48 pm

All this is getting tedious. Would I ride the Downeaster if the café car was removed? Yes, since transportation was primarily what I was purchasing. Would I miss the amenity? Absolutely. And as for a cart moving down the aisle, forcing passengers to make a purchase from a limited array of options when the cart comes by, as opposed to when they feel moved to go to the café car? No, thank you. If the concern is about the café losing money, I can't imagine what kind of cost recovery there would be after paying someone to push the cart the length of the train with a severely reduced range of products to sell. For those who are recommending the airline model of a beverage cart, remember that TWO people typically staff that cart.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby BandA » Mon Feb 05, 2018 3:30 pm

Arlington wrote:...And here's a thought: Running to Rockland is going to be terrible for the economics of the Café in particular: doubling the operating hours on runs but nowhere near doubling sales.
Where are the Cafe staff based, where is the Cafe serviced? You could close the Cafe between Brunswick and Rockland if it is not busy enough. I assume the Cafe is not serviced in Boston, so you would have to re-stock it in Rockland, or make a long station stop.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby gokeefe » Mon Feb 05, 2018 3:37 pm

Staffed and serviced out of Brunswick with the exception of the one trainset that still spends the night in Portland.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby sicariis » Tue Feb 06, 2018 9:56 am

NNEPRA was at the Exeter Board of Selectmen giving an update on service:
http://www.seacoastonline.com/news/20180205/downeaster-ridership-remains-strong-in-exeter

http://www.townhallstreams.com/stream.php?location_id=46&id=15125 Starts around the 20 minute mark.

There's a brief mention of Lincoln St. reconstruction but no real mention of alleviating the parking crunch. have to think that would be a big step in bolstering ridership on trains other than 680.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby artman » Thu Feb 08, 2018 12:51 pm

Tom M wrote:All this is getting tedious. Would I ride the Downeaster if the café car was removed? Yes, since transportation was primarily what I was purchasing. Would I miss the amenity? Absolutely. And as for a cart moving down the aisle, forcing passengers to make a purchase from a limited array of options when the cart comes by, as opposed to when they feel moved to go to the café car? No, thank you. If the concern is about the café losing money, I can't imagine what kind of cost recovery there would be after paying someone to push the cart the length of the train with a severely reduced range of products to sell. For those who are recommending the airline model of a beverage cart, remember that TWO people typically staff that cart.


Amen!
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby artman » Thu Feb 08, 2018 1:13 pm

electricron wrote: but who wants to sit by drunks on a train anyways?


So If someone enjoys a beer on the train on the way home, that makes them a drunk?
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Re:

Postby electricron » Thu Feb 08, 2018 4:15 pm

Dick H wrote:That comment that it's often a stretch to get the passengers to outnumber the crew on other than the early morning and early evening trains is ridiculous, which implies that no-one is riding eight of the ten Downeaster trains each day......
The Downeaster service makes top utilitization of just two train sets and gets good to excellent cooperation from Guilford/PanAm and the MBTA keeping the trains on time. I see it as both an inter-city and commuter operation. I don't really see what the issue on that is.
Dick

I thought the Downeaster service was actually using three train sets?
I agree with you that the Downeaster is both an intercity and commute rail service. Too many try to make it fit into one peg and criticize it because it doesn’t do either really well. As a commuter rail service, it might be better to have BiLevel trains or five abreast seating. As an intercity train it would be better to have peak trains in both directions in both the am and pm. A better analogy would be it is an octagon peg that fits in both square and round holes.
But it does both type of services good enough.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Dick H » Thu Feb 08, 2018 4:49 pm

My comment on two train sets goes way back to when the service first
started with four trains a day. When they went to five trains a day, they
added the third set, which did run with four cars for some time. I think
the standardized on five car sets in 2016, They went to five trains a day'
on 8-18-07.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby gokeefe » Thu Feb 08, 2018 7:42 pm

Three trainsets. Five roundtrips, running ten trains per day. One trainset runs only one roundtrip and will eventually run two when the sixth roundtrip is implemented.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Cowford » Sat Feb 10, 2018 11:32 am

Tom M wrote:All this is getting tedious. Would I ride the Downeaster if the café car was removed? Yes, since transportation was primarily what I was purchasing. Would I miss the amenity? Absolutely. And as for a cart moving down the aisle, forcing passengers to make a purchase from a limited array of options when the cart comes by, as opposed to when they feel moved to go to the café car? No, thank you. If the concern is about the café losing money, I can't imagine what kind of cost recovery there would be after paying someone to push the cart the length of the train with a severely reduced range of products to sell. For those who are recommending the airline model of a beverage cart, remember that TWO people typically staff that cart.


Pardon the tedium, but comparing cart service to that provided by airlines invites further comment.

First, airlines directly offer service to EVERY passenger - and most every passenger takes at least a drink. If operated like other rail services, Downeaster cart servers would make themselves known, but would only stop on request. Busy trains (rush hour/special event trains) could more easily be scaled with additional carts/servers. (NNEPRA largely knows in advance from history and reservations how busy each train will be.)

Secondly, a reduced menu. I'm not sure what the options are serving HOT foods via cart are. It's doable, but not sure if it's practical or cost effective. (That would be part of any evaluation.) Regardless, I question how many folks purchase these items. Overall - and especially given the breadth of the menu (including vegetable lasagna!?!?) - the cafe is not exactly busting at the seams; it generates a paltry $1.39 per passenger. To put it in perspective, that's an average of $197 per trip. Or the equivalent of about 33 beers or 100 cups of coffee. I've bartended; that's a sloooow night.

Thirdly, employment of capital. The replacement cost of a cafe car is, what?, $2.5 - $3 million. Equipping a train with carts would be in the low five figures.

Fourth, revenue potential. A cafe has 54 fewer seats than a coach. Let's say carts would take up four seats. The cafe therefore reduces train capacity by 50 seats with revenue potential of over $1,400 per trip on busy days (and, to Arlington's point, increases the frustration of potential riders that can't secure a seat). And, by offering seat-side service, my money is on the cart option actually increasing food service revenue.

Fifth, environmental considerations. Cafe rider seating equals 6,400 lbs of tare weight per passenger. A coach equals about 1,611 lbs per passenger. Granted, the additional tare has only a slight incremental difference in fuel burn (though coach substitution and a full train would have a big impact on a per passenger basis), but given the train is largely funded by CMAQ, it's more than slightly hypocritical that NNEPRA defends this service without apparent evaluation of a more environmentally friendly option.

Short- and medium-distance trains from Europe to the Shinkansen bullet trains in Japan have successfully adopted the cart concept. Time to do so in the US.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby highrail » Tue Feb 13, 2018 5:58 pm

Got a chance to ride the Downeaster today, which I have not done in at least a couple years.

Got the Northbound this am out of Haverhill. Great run, great crew, with a minor slowdown due to a freight making its way onto the side track at Wells.

Southbound this afternoon had a couple extra engines and a cafe car attached that I would guess are heading back to Boston for service. I was amazed at the number of Bruins fans heading to Boston on the 2:25 pm train. There were probably 30+ getting on at Portland and a fair number at each stop on the way back to Boston. Great to see a crowd on the train!

For whatever reason, we were running south on the outbound rail as we reached Haverhill, leaving at least a couple people heading to the Bruins game stranded on the inbound side of the platform. They ran ahead and crossed over in front of the train trying to get on for the trip to Boston, but nope, the train started and went right past them, leaving them high and dry on the platform. (given that they may not have been ticketed on this train...may have mistaken this for T train...I have edited to reflect that)
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Last edited by highrail on Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby gokeefe » Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:29 pm

Good to hear you enjoyed the ride. Sorry to hear about the passengers left at Haverhill. Appreciate you taking the time to mention it here.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Backshophoss » Tue Feb 13, 2018 9:48 pm

Is Haverhill a MBTA staffed station? Was there any notice/announcement of the train arriving at the other platform?
Or was this a "last minute" change done by a PAR/MBTA dispatcher?
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