Amtrak Wi-Fi (WiFi) Availability

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Re: Amtrak Wi-Fi (WiFi) Availability

Postby ApproachMedium » Thu Feb 20, 2014 8:14 pm

The funding for WiFi on amtrak trains has only been allocated for the lines that will use it the most. NE Direct services, Acela and now the Illinois state services and Michigan I believe are getting it as well.

This stuff just doesnt get put in trains, someone has to pay for it and id imagine that via some advertising for ATT and Verizon plus the states who support the services are contributing towards this.
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Re: Amtrak Wi-Fi (WiFi) Availability

Postby Woody » Thu Feb 20, 2014 9:34 pm

ApproachMedium wrote:The funding for WiFi on amtrak trains has only been allocated for the lines that will use it the most. NE Direct services, Acela and now the Illinois state services and Michigan I believe are getting it as well.

This stuff just doesnt get put in trains, someone has to pay for it and id imagine that via some advertising for ATT and Verizon plus the states who support the services are contributing towards this.

The Lake Shore Limited is covered by the Empire corridor only NY-Buffalo. I could see adding Wi-Fi to Cleveland-Chicago to support the Lake Shore Ltd and Capitol Ltd.

Amtrak would be better if we had more of it. More than one LD train a day each way could make possible much more Wi-Fi.

Even without more LD trains per route, at some point Amtrak will be putting Wi-Fi into the cars on the City of New Orleans (because now the Illini and Saluki have it to Carbondale, so that's about a third of the CONO's run. Likewise, the Texas Eagle can use the towers that now support Wi-Fi on the Lincoln service Chicago-St Louis. With the Cascades route and the Surfliners up to San Luis Obispo covered, the Coast Starlight is already halfway covered. Back East, the Crescent is covered by the Lynchburger down to Lynchburg, then again Greensboro-Charlotte.

A nice example this is, of how corridor trains are not the enemy of LD trains, but often help them very much.
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Re: Amtrak Wi-Fi (WiFi) Availability

Postby ApproachMedium » Thu Feb 20, 2014 9:51 pm

Its not about the towers that support the wifi so much, as the cars that support it. Right now only Amfleet 1 equiptment has it installed because there is no around the corner plan to replace the amfleet 1s and the majority of them serve the market that they knew would benefit the most from this.

Having the towers along the railroad is not something the railroad really has much pull for, Verizon is not going to install a 4G LTE tower along a ROW that sees two trains a day that will use it.
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Re: Amtrak Wi-Fi (WiFi) Availability

Postby Woody » Fri Feb 21, 2014 9:34 pm

ApproachMedium wrote:Its not about the towers that support the wifi so much, as the cars that support it. Right now only Amfleet 1 equiptment has it installed . . .

Having the towers along the railroad is not something the railroad really has much pull for, Verizon is not going to install a 4G LTE tower along a ROW that sees two trains a day that will use it.

Thanks for the info. But are you sure there aren't a few gaps where Amtrak got new cell towers put up even if it had to pay for them? (Meanwhile, I'm thinking that the cost of cell technology must continue to plummet even at the tower end of the signals.)

It still suggests that more corridor trains would help the LD trains get coverage. The Empire Corridor NYC-Buffalo has it for the NYC-Buffalo trains and the Maple Leaf, and so for that portion the Lake Shore gets a free ride with Wi-Fi. The Lake Shore also gets signals from Chicago into Indiana, where it splits off from the Michigan services. If you had two more daily roundtrips on the Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland corridor, it would be worth it to pay for a few more cell towers along the way.

Anyway, aren't all the single-level cars Wi-Fi able now? Even the Viewliners? Just to run on the NEC they'd need it, then add the Empire Corridor, the Keystones, the Lynchburger and Richmond trains that have it.

And now the CONO is 1/3rd ready to follow along, and the Coast Starlight, so some Superliner equipment will need to get Wi-Fi installed too. I see it could get complicated out West, where so many trains share the equipment pool. But if we're getting to the point where the answer is, "No M'am. The Cascades trains do have Wi-Fi but we don't have it on the Starlight . . ." well, that's not gonna be a good point to arrive at.
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Re: Amtrak Wi-Fi (WiFi) Availability

Postby ApproachMedium » Fri Feb 21, 2014 11:09 pm

Amtrak did not have any additional wayside equipment installed for the wifi project. Whatever infrastructure was there they went off it. The NEC travels past a good majority of populated places, but yes believe it or not there are dead zones. Any of those beyond corridor trains like to Lynchburg. NC, Pittsburgh etc its pretty much you get what you get. The only reason they have the service on the train is because there is an Amfleet 1 cafe car in the train which is the car that picsk up the cellular signals and passes it to the other cars via a wireless bridge, so they must be able to accept the wireless and cant have a non wireless car between them or they wont work.

And no, the ONLY stuff with wifi is Amfleet 1 cars, and its only stuff captive to the NEC. anything off corridor that has it like IL services now etc is because those places are paying to have it installed on cars captive to that service which I believe is still all amfleet and horizon stuff anyhow.
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Re: Amtrak Wi-Fi (WiFi) Availability

Postby Woody » Sat Feb 22, 2014 10:43 am

ApproachMedium wrote:Amtrak did not have any additional wayside equipment installed for the wifi project. Whatever infrastructure was there they went off it. The NEC travels past a good majority of populated places, but yes believe it or not there are dead zones. . .

And no, the ONLY stuff with wifi is Amfleet 1 cars, and its only stuff captive to the NEC. anything off corridor that has it like IL services now etc is because those places are paying to have it installed on cars captive to that service which I believe is still all amfleet and horizon stuff anyhow.

Wow. You mean if I pay for a roomette on a Viewliner, I can't get Wi-Fi, but if I only pay for a coach seat I do get free Wi-Fi? Thanks for the warning. In that situation I'd be a VERY dissatisfied customer. LOL. Because I do care about Wi-Fi (and don't give a damn about chocolate mints, wine & cheese tastings, etc).

Looks like there's plenty more opportunity to improve the Wi-Fi service. The new Viewliners will help a bit, and then rehabbing the existing ones. But it's really not a good idea to market Amtrak as having "Free Wi-Fi*" with that asterisk reading
*except no Wi-Fi on the train where you are now riding, or in your higher-priced room.
:(
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Re: Amtrak Wi-Fi (WiFi) Availability

Postby ApproachMedium » Sat Feb 22, 2014 10:56 am

Uh no you dont. The coaches used on the long distance trains are all amfleet 2s, there is NO wifi on any of those cars or any single car used in any long distance overnight train.

They do advertise it properly, its only available on certain services and they do note that when you are buying your tickets online.
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Re: Amtrak Wi-Fi (WiFi) Availability

Postby ApproachMedium » Sat Feb 22, 2014 11:03 am

Just to be clear, this is an amfleet II cafe used on all long distance trains, Which has NO wifi brains in it
http://farm2.staticflickr.com/1396/5167 ... af42_o.jpg

This is an amfleet I cafe with all the wifi stuff in it. See the quad antenna thing above the door in the left hand side of the photo? Thats the cellular antennas and GPS for the wifi brains. Without one of these cars or a cab car, the train does not have wifi.
http://i.ytimg.com/vi/cOIhGenG4Vg/0.jpg
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Re: Amtrak Wi-Fi (WiFi) Availability

Postby afiggatt » Sat Feb 22, 2014 12:02 pm

ApproachMedium wrote:And no, the ONLY stuff with wifi is Amfleet 1 cars, and its only stuff captive to the NEC. anything off corridor that has it like IL services now etc is because those places are paying to have it installed on cars captive to that service which I believe is still all amfleet and horizon stuff anyhow.

The California and Cascades services have WiFi as well. With the installation of WiFi into the Horizon cars, the only trains that do not have WiFi are the LD trains, the Piedmont trains AFAIK, and also, I think, the Hoosier State because it does not have a Horizon cafe car. The Carolinian runs with Amfleet I equipment so it has WiFi service. The other exception are the corridor trains with Amfleet II coach cars which don't have WiFi in those cars.

Amtrak did have a line item in a proposed budget several years ago to equip all the LD trains with WiFi. But Congress as usual provided far less funding that Amtrak requested, so the program to wire the Amfleet IIs and Superliners for WiFi was dropped. With more capital funding in the FY14 appropriation, we'll see if Amtrak will restart the program to install WiFi on the LD trains in the FY14 budget, but I would be surprised if they did. Too many other pressing capital projects to spend the funds on.
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Re: Amtrak Wi-Fi (WiFi) Availability

Postby ApproachMedium » Sat Feb 22, 2014 12:13 pm

I forgot about the California and cascades stuff, but again that's all captive service equipment.
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Re: Amtrak Wi-Fi (WiFi) Availability

Postby Greg Moore » Sat Feb 22, 2014 12:34 pm

Woody wrote:
ApproachMedium wrote:Amtrak did not have any additional wayside equipment installed for the wifi project. Whatever infrastructure was there they went off it. The NEC travels past a good majority of populated places, but yes believe it or not there are dead zones. . .

And no, the ONLY stuff with wifi is Amfleet 1 cars, and its only stuff captive to the NEC. anything off corridor that has it like IL services now etc is because those places are paying to have it installed on cars captive to that service which I believe is still all amfleet and horizon stuff anyhow.

Wow. You mean if I pay for a roomette on a Viewliner, I can't get Wi-Fi, but if I only pay for a coach seat I do get free Wi-Fi? Thanks for the warning. In that situation I'd be a VERY dissatisfied customer. LOL. Because I do care about Wi-Fi (and don't give a damn about chocolate mints, wine & cheese tastings, etc).

Looks like there's plenty more opportunity to improve the Wi-Fi service. The new Viewliners will help a bit, and then rehabbing the existing ones. But it's really not a good idea to market Amtrak as having "Free Wi-Fi*" with that asterisk reading
*except no Wi-Fi on the train where you are now riding, or in your higher-priced room.
:(


No, if you pay for coach OR sleeper on a LD you won't get Wi-fi. LD trains typically don't run with the Amfleet II cafes or coaches.
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Re: Amtrak Wi-Fi (WiFi) Availability

Postby Woody » Sat Feb 22, 2014 4:13 pm

Greg Moore wrote:
Woody wrote:
ApproachMedium wrote:Amtrak did not have any additional wayside equipment installed for the wifi project. Whatever infrastructure was there they went off it. The NEC travels past a good majority of populated places, but yes believe it or not there are dead zones. . .

And no, the ONLY stuff with wifi is Amfleet 1 cars, and its only stuff captive to the NEC. anything off corridor that has it like IL services now etc is because those places are paying to have it installed on cars captive to that service which I believe is still all amfleet and horizon stuff anyhow.

Wow. You mean if I pay for a roomette on a Viewliner, I can't get Wi-Fi, but if I only pay for a coach seat I do get free Wi-Fi? Thanks for the warning. In that situation I'd be a VERY dissatisfied customer. LOL. Because I do care about Wi-Fi (and don't give a damn about chocolate mints, wine & cheese tastings, etc).

Looks like there's plenty more opportunity to improve the Wi-Fi service. . . . not a good idea to market Amtrak as having "Free Wi-Fi*" with that asterisk reading *except no Wi-Fi on the train where you are now riding, or in your higher-priced room. :(


No, if you pay for coach OR sleeper on a LD you won't get Wi-fi. LD trains typically don't run with the Amfleet II cafes or coaches.

Yeah, I got that. ApproachMedium schooled me. :-D

I expect that will slowly change, maybe starting in Fiscal 2016, probably even later. I'm betting the coming Viewliner IIs have Wi-Fi built in, and then the retrofitted Viewliner Is will get it. After all, until they get the 25 Viewliner II sleepers with Wi-Fi in revenue service, there's no need to switch it on. If or when new single-level coaches are delivered, they'll come Wi-Fi ready.

They'll need to find a place to put the quad antenna, GPS, and other brain parts. Every Eastern LD train will get a new diner, and a bag/dorm, right, so put the stuff there to allow reception.

Now, I'm not talking about Wi-Fi thru the New River Gorge. I am thinking the LD trains while on the NEC, and probably down to Petersburg and Charlottesville, and then as they stop at towns along the rest of the way. People will be able to check their e-mails. They'll want their Wi-Fi. They just gotta wait. :(
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Re: Amtrak Wi-Fi (WiFi) Availability

Postby David Benton » Sat Feb 22, 2014 5:45 pm

I think Wifi for the LD service would be good , but generate alot of complaints when there's no reception. Do city folks even have a concept of areas without reception for miles?
a better idea i think , would to be to install a hard drive server in every LD cafe/lounge car. Have all the amtrak info on it , a few games, a few free books, a few magazines etc. News service updated daily via reception when avaliable. Should be enough to keep most campers happy. Could have a lot of potential upsells, do a deal with the likes of Amazon, zinio, netflix etc, and have onboard sales via eftpos. Could even sell Kindles onboard.
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Re: Amtrak Wi-Fi (WiFi) Availability

Postby EricL » Sat Feb 22, 2014 6:01 pm

David Benton wrote:I think Wifi for the LD service would be good , but generate alot of complaints when there's no reception. Do city folks even have a concept of areas without reception for miles?
a better idea i think , would to be to install a hard drive server in every LD cafe/lounge car. Have all the amtrak info on it , a few games, a few free books, a few magazines etc. News service updated daily via reception when avaliable. Should be enough to keep most campers happy. Could have a lot of potential upsells, do a deal with the likes of Amazon, zinio, netflix etc, and have onboard sales via eftpos. Could even sell Kindles onboard.
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This would be a very good idea, IF executed right.

However, it does jar my memory towards, very short-lived "Dig-E-Player" (circa 2007). The basic idea was a replacement for the old lounge car movies with a portable DVD player that you could watch in your room/at your seat. It was a bad idea for many reasons, namely:
- AFAIK, you could only rent/return it at the initial/final terminals
- all it was was a movie player, not an interactive product like Mr Benton suggests.
- the base technology/idea, when rolled out, was already quite a bit behind its time. i.e., even many of the "luddites" didn't go for it.
- in spite of the rentals being done at the station, the "stock" of these devices (while onboard) was still in charge of the LSA - a discrepancy which represented an accountability nightmare

Maybe selling Kindles (or iPads, or Nooks, or whatever) would be taking the idea a bit too far. The price tag would just be too hefty for many folks to jump on it, and a rental system is kind of a dicey proposition as well. The idea of having this interactive "offline" content available for anyone to peruse on their own personal devices, though, is probably worth merit, and the implementation cost of such would be relatively low.
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Re: Amtrak Wi-Fi (WiFi) Availability

Postby David Benton » Sat Feb 22, 2014 6:45 pm

Thanks Eric. Your right , I wouldn't expect the sales of kindle etc, to be high , and probably not worth it. Almost everyone would have some kind of wifi capable device. Book, magazine, movie and game sales I could see as a potential money spinner, certainly enough to pay for the installation of the equipment.
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