A Tale of Two Railroads

Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, Amtrak67 of America, Tadman, gprimr1

speedbird
Posts: 69
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2004 7:11 pm
Location: Secaucus NJ

A Tale of Two Railroads

Post by speedbird » Wed Apr 25, 2012 9:43 am

Goofus and Gallant made a go of the northeast corridor a couple of weeks ago, traveling from the New York area to the Washington area on board Amtrak. It really was a tale of two railroads.

Gallant booked a Friday afternoon Crescent (19) from New York Penn to Alexandria, Virginia; for the same price as an Acela Express to Washington (okay, $150 versus $145), Gallant was able to book a roomette. That’s two seats, two beds, a private toilet and sink, and a meal all included in the price. After a long and hectic week, the private bedroom hit the spot, as a mid-afternoon nap was followed up by a relaxed meal in the dining car.

On a side note, Gallant noted a single sleeper car passenger leaving at Washington Union Station, telling the attendant, "I think I'm going to get off here instead of at Alexandria." I think that was the plan all along, wink wink.

For the return trip Sunday afternoon, Goofus booked the Acela Express (2222) from Washington Union Station to New York Penn (and used the Metro to get from King Street to Chinatown). For the same price as the sleeper accommodation on the Crescent (okay $145 versus $150), Goofus got to sit at a four-seater table with three other people on laptops, furiously working on a late Sunday afternoon. Goofus also had to admonish someone for using his cellular telephone in the quiet car.

Both Gallant and Goofus checked their baggage, Gallant checked a bicycle a couple of days ahead, and secured his travel bag in the baggage car during the ride down to Alexandria. For the return, Goofus checked a bicycle and his travel bag to make their way east on board the Silver Star about three hours ahead of his train. Goofus was happy to travel light on the somewhat cramped Acela, and was more than a little alarmed at the size of some of the baggage that his fellow passengers elected to carry.

Goofus knows all about why the long distance trains don’t receive east of Richmond/Manassas, but would rather ride like Gallant, even if it means sacrificing an hour in order to enjoy a more relaxed ride home. Goofus works full weeks, knows all about work, but feels he doesn’t need to be around the crazy laptop people when traveling for pleasure.

Gallant has another voyage planned for a Friday about four weeks out, this time on the Silver Meteor (97). Goofus, in an attempt to avoid the mad Sunday scramble, has scheduled himself into a regional 84 Monday morning, where perhaps boarding in Alexandria (seven miles short and a day late) will save some of the headaches from boarding late in Washington; he’ll also send his baggage up on the 20 which runs a few minutes ahead.

If that doesn’t work out, for the next trip Gallant will ride a long-distance train west, and then perhaps a plane or a rental car for the eastbound trip. The 10 minutes on NJT between Secaucus and NY Penn ten times a week is more than enough exposure to the bad-dressing, cell-phone-talking, big-bag-carrying doofuses that apparently rule the roost these days. I’m not sure Amtrak quite understands that not everyone wants wi-fi, cell signal, and the fastest possible ride; particularly when that means sacrificing the kinds of amenities that make train travel enjoyable and not suck.

mtuandrew
Posts: 5870
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:59 am
Location: the Manassas Gap Independent Line

Re: A Tale of Two Railroads

Post by mtuandrew » Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:08 am

Interesting trip report, Mr. Myers!

It really does show how much better off LD passengers are, as compared to the everyday Northeast Regional passenger - from what I understand, the seat pitch in A-II long-distance coaches is broadly equivalent to that in A-I Business coaches. I'm frankly amazed more people don't follow Gallant's example, or the example of Mr. "I'll just get off here", whether in long-distance coach or a roomette.

More thoughts on business compartments later.

Greg Moore
Posts: 5362
Joined: Sat Mar 13, 2004 12:15 am
Location: IT Consultant
Contact:

Re: A Tale of Two Railroads

Post by Greg Moore » Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:22 am

You know, I feel like an idiot now. All the times I took the train from WAS to NYP, I probably could have snuck in a few trips to/from Alexandria and gotten a sleeper. Hmm.
Check out QuiCR, Quick, Crowdsourced Responses for businesses.

Don31
Posts: 1467
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2004 10:40 am
Location: CNJ M.P. 16 - Cranford, NJ

Re: A Tale of Two Railroads

Post by Don31 » Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:10 pm

Wow, very interesting. I'll certainy do some serious thinking before my next trip down to DC.
You can't fix stupid, but stupid eventually fixes itself.

User avatar
Tadman
Posts: 9415
Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2004 10:21 am

Re: A Tale of Two Railroads

Post by Tadman » Wed Apr 25, 2012 1:26 pm

that's absolutely my type of trip, and I'd much rather have the sleeper compartment than the Acela experience...

mtuandrew
Posts: 5870
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:59 am
Location: the Manassas Gap Independent Line

Re: A Tale of Two Railroads

Post by mtuandrew » Wed Apr 25, 2012 1:53 pm

Right now, Amtrak doesn't have nearly enough sleepers for its long-distance trains. Once it does, maybe Amtrak can consider a "mini-LD" service on the Corridor - take a standard Cardinal consist with diner-lite, baggage car and Viewliner, add a few Corridor coaches, and sell the Amfleet II long-distance accommodations for a business class upcharge. It ought to be able to comfortably make a round-trip daily in the late morning and overnight as 66 or 67, and adding another consist would give an early morning and late afternoon train for business travelers.

How about the name "Acela Comfort"? No? Well, perhaps "Shoreliner service" or "Northeast Select service" or something similar. If I had the money, I wouldn't mind using this service rather than the Acela Express, and it certainly would fill a (potential) niche not offered at a reasonable price by airlines.

Paulus Magnus
Posts: 112
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2012 1:34 am

Re: A Tale of Two Railroads

Post by Paulus Magnus » Wed Apr 25, 2012 2:09 pm

What's Amtrak's incentive to do that however when that service is a money-loser while Acela is a money-maker and the Regional is only a minor loser, trending towards maker? Running it as a daytime Parlor Train, where the base level of service and price is first class, might be worthwhile, but not if there's coach or others attached.

mtuandrew
Posts: 5870
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:59 am
Location: the Manassas Gap Independent Line

Re: A Tale of Two Railroads

Post by mtuandrew » Wed Apr 25, 2012 2:31 pm

Paulus Magnus wrote:What's Amtrak's incentive to do that however when that service is a money-loser while Acela is a money-maker and the Regional is only a minor loser, trending towards maker? Running it as a daytime Parlor Train, where the base level of service and price is first class, might be worthwhile, but not if there's coach or others attached.
What service? I used the Cardinal consist as an example, not as a suggestion of routing. :grin: Besides, you said yourself that Regionals are trending towards making money.

Perhaps a train with exclusively business class and parlor cars would work best, with meals available like on the Acela - and that's essentially a set of LD coaches, sleepers and a Diner-Lite. The corridor coaches aren't really necessary I guess, but I figured it'd be nice to keep the late-night 66/67 within the price range of the lowly folks who can't afford the yards of legroom in business :wink:

CarterB
Posts: 2743
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 9:19 am
Location: Bergen County, New Jersey
Contact:

Re: A Tale of Two Railroads (Silver Service Version?)

Post by CarterB » Wed Apr 25, 2012 2:33 pm

Has anyone tried the same trip as Mr. "Gallant" except on the Silver Meteor or Silver Star from NYP to ALX?
Seems to me to be a much better ride south than other choices. I like the idea of the roomette and lunch or dinner
thrown in.

Too bad they don't pick up NB passengers any longer at ALX.
Bring back the Slumbercoaches!!

ThirdRail7
Posts: 4076
Joined: Sat Oct 01, 2011 7:07 pm

Re: A Tale of Two Railroads (Silver Service Version?)

Post by ThirdRail7 » Wed Apr 25, 2012 3:26 pm

CarterB wrote:Has anyone tried the same trip as Mr. "Gallant" except on the Silver Meteor or Silver Star from NYP to ALX?
Seems to me to be a much better ride south than other choices. I like the idea of the roomette and lunch or dinner
thrown in.

Too bad they don't pick up NB passengers any longer at ALX.
This is an old story, though with a twist. People know that is cheaper to reserve trains to off corridor points and get off early. It is quite routine. I will say, I don't think many people reserve sleepers though!

Nice touch!
mtuandrew wrote:
Paulus Magnus wrote:What's Amtrak's incentive to do that however when that service is a money-loser while Acela is a money-maker and the Regional is only a minor loser, trending towards maker? Running it as a daytime Parlor Train, where the base level of service and price is first class, might be worthwhile, but not if there's coach or others attached.
What service? I used the Cardinal consist as an example, not as a suggestion of routing. :grin: Besides, you said yourself that Regionals are trending towards making money.

Perhaps a train with exclusively business class and parlor cars would work best, with meals available like on the Acela - and that's essentially a set of LD coaches, sleepers and a Diner-Lite. The corridor coaches aren't really necessary I guess, but I figured it'd be nice to keep the late-night 66/67 within the price range of the lowly folks who can't afford the yards of legroom in business :wink:
I think this is a money loser. The Parlor car was the concept of the 9800 and people didn't like it. Accommodating less people (though at a much higher fare) doesn't really make sense in the overstuffed NEC.
I want my road foreman!

mtuandrew
Posts: 5870
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:59 am
Location: the Manassas Gap Independent Line

Re: A Tale of Two Railroads

Post by mtuandrew » Wed Apr 25, 2012 3:55 pm

ThirdRail7 wrote:
mtuandrew wrote:
Paulus Magnus wrote:What's Amtrak's incentive to do that however when that service is a money-loser while Acela is a money-maker and the Regional is only a minor loser, trending towards maker? Running it as a daytime Parlor Train, where the base level of service and price is first class, might be worthwhile, but not if there's coach or others attached.
What service? I used the Cardinal consist as an example, not as a suggestion of routing. :grin: Besides, you said yourself that Regionals are trending towards making money.

Perhaps a train with exclusively business class and parlor cars would work best, with meals available like on the Acela - and that's essentially a set of LD coaches, sleepers and a Diner-Lite. The corridor coaches aren't really necessary I guess, but I figured it'd be nice to keep the late-night 66/67 within the price range of the lowly folks who can't afford the yards of legroom in business :wink:
I think this is a money loser. The Parlor car was the concept of the 9800 and people didn't like it. Accommodating less people (though at a much higher fare) doesn't really make sense in the overstuffed NEC.
But there's only one 9800. Did it ever run regularly on NEC trains, and was it a part of the reservation system accessible through normal channels? It isn't much good if 99.9999% of Amtrak's NEC passengers don't know it exists, and of those 99.9999% don't have the means to reserve it.

That said, a parlor service like this really needs a different room pattern - the roomette is rather large for two, and the bedroom is too small for four.

ThirdRail7
Posts: 4076
Joined: Sat Oct 01, 2011 7:07 pm

Re: A Tale of Two Railroads

Post by ThirdRail7 » Wed Apr 25, 2012 6:09 pm

mtuandrew wrote:
ThirdRail7 wrote:
mtuandrew wrote:
Paulus Magnus wrote:What's Amtrak's incentive to do that however when that service is a money-loser while Acela is a money-maker and the Regional is only a minor loser, trending towards maker? Running it as a daytime Parlor Train, where the base level of service and price is first class, might be worthwhile, but not if there's coach or others attached.
What service? I used the Cardinal consist as an example, not as a suggestion of routing. :grin: Besides, you said yourself that Regionals are trending towards making money.

Perhaps a train with exclusively business class and parlor cars would work best, with meals available like on the Acela - and that's essentially a set of LD coaches, sleepers and a Diner-Lite. The corridor coaches aren't really necessary I guess, but I figured it'd be nice to keep the late-night 66/67 within the price range of the lowly folks who can't afford the yards of legroom in business :wink:
I think this is a money loser. The Parlor car was the concept of the 9800 and people didn't like it. Accommodating less people (though at a much higher fare) doesn't really make sense in the overstuffed NEC.
But there's only one 9800. Did it ever run regularly on NEC trains, and was it a part of the reservation system accessible through normal channels? It isn't much good if 99.9999% of Amtrak's NEC passengers don't know it exists, and of those 99.9999% don't have the means to reserve it.

That said, a parlor service like this really needs a different room pattern - the roomette is rather large for two, and the bedroom is too small for four.

This idea mimics the thoughts observed in this thread:

Rooms On Regional and Short Distance Trains?
http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopi ... hilit=9800

As indicated, the 9800 was in REGULAR, advertised, rotation on Metroliners. Occasionally, it even subbed for club class on regionals. The 9800 was supposed to be the first of many. There were constant customer service polls. Passengers were given random upgrades when this car was in their train. There was plenty of feedback and the bottom line is people didn't really like it. The first class passengers didn't think a a lot of it, the regular passengers refused to pay for it and as a control car, it didn't play well with the DC meatballs (meaning it damn sure won't get along with an HHP-8.) To swap it out for a coach makes zero sense since you're trading 70 seats for 33 max that probably won't sell out. It would be hard to justify the additional costs of hauling it.

I could reasonably state that such a service would further draw the ire of an annoyed Congress who already wonder why they're subsidizing passenger meals, sleepers and first class service.

This is why the 9800 is an island in the stream.
I want my road foreman!

afiggatt
Posts: 1447
Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2009 8:41 am
Location: Sterling, VA

Re: A Tale of Two Railroads

Post by afiggatt » Wed Apr 25, 2012 6:23 pm

mtuandrew wrote:
Paulus Magnus wrote:What's Amtrak's incentive to do that however when that service is a money-loser while Acela is a money-maker and the Regional is only a minor loser, trending towards maker? Running it as a daytime Parlor Train, where the base level of service and price is first class, might be worthwhile, but not if there's coach or others attached.
What service? I used the Cardinal consist as an example, not as a suggestion of routing. :grin: Besides, you said yourself that Regionals are trending towards making money.

Perhaps a train with exclusively business class and parlor cars would work best, with meals available like on the Acela - and that's essentially a set of LD coaches, sleepers and a Diner-Lite. The corridor coaches aren't really necessary I guess, but I figured it'd be nice to keep the late-night 66/67 within the price range of the lowly folks who can't afford the yards of legroom in business :wink:
The NE Regionals are nominally making money above the rails now, although that may change once the agreed to accounting for the state supported corridors is implemented. In the 5 year financial plan, the FY12 budget projection had the NE Regionals pulling in $530 million in total revenue with expenses at $501 million.

As for a daytime parlor train, how would that be scheduled? With 36 daily trains on weekdays between NYP and WAS, would one become a NE Regional with high end "Parlor" cars? Would that draw enough business to be worthwhile complicating the NEC marketing approach? Amtrak is making good money and a real profit off of the Acelas. Would the Parlor train draw business away from the Acelas but with a much smaller profit margin? With limited capacity on the NEC and trains often selling out, what benefit would Amtrak get from running a lower capacity Parlor train on the NEC for a niche market (until there is more capacity on the NEC)? Another problem is that lack of Amfleet II cars to spare for a NEC only train. I don't see this concept happening.

If a number of people start booking rooms from NYP to Alexandria VA on the Crescent, the Silvers, or the Cardinal, odds are that Amtrak would make ALX a receive stop only and force people to buy tickets through RVR or Manassas. Alexandria is co-located with a DC Metro station and there are plenty of VA Regionals that now cover the NYP to ALX segment.

george matthews
Posts: 4818
Joined: Fri May 21, 2004 9:07 am
Location: Britain
Contact:

Re: A Tale of Two Railroads (Silver Service Version?)

Post by george matthews » Wed Apr 25, 2012 6:29 pm

ThirdRail7 wrote:
This is an old story, though with a twist. People know that is cheaper to reserve trains to off corridor points and get off early. It is quite routine. I will say, I don't think many people reserve sleepers though!

Nice touch!
There is a remedy for Amtrak for people who get off earlier.

Some years ago Eurotunnel had specially low fares for day returns. But some people went through without coming back the same day. Their credit or debit cards were tapped for the single (higher) fare.

Gilbert B Norman
Posts: 14052
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 6:52 am
Location: Clarendon Hills, IL (BNSF Chicago Sub; MP 18.71)

Re: A Tale of Two Railroads

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Wed Apr 25, 2012 6:32 pm

While I must note and with thanks that Mr. Third Rail refers to a topic I originated last year, the scope of Mr. Speedbird's parable is more related to making use, and at a cost considerably less than Acela Coach (whoops, Business Class), of existing capacity for NEC trips, a "premium class' service.

On one side, it would appear that Amtrak is leaving potential revenue on the table that could be generated without any additional cost if it were to offer unsold Rooms for local NEC travel. The Arrow (or whatever the system is known as today) could certainly identify Rooms that have been sold "downline" then sell those for local travel as well. Ergo, more revenue, no additional costs.

But a downside is that Operations are likely quite happy with the existing arrangement having all stops on the Meteor, Star, and Crescent conditional stops on the Corridor - especially Northbound where the condition is Discharge only. With the leisurely schedule of some 3hr 50min and only five stops as well as the authority to leave Wash early if all station work is complete, this gives the Train Dispatchers great flexibility on how and where to "slot" these trains. While Southbound, such a proposal could prove feasible, Northbound would surely cause disruptions from existing train handling practices.

Post Reply

Return to “Amtrak”