Acela II (Avelia Liberty): Design, Production, Delivery, Acceptance

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Arlington
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Re: Acela II (Avelia Liberty): Design, Production, Delivery, Acceptance

Post by Arlington » Sun Sep 08, 2019 10:52 am

Ken W2KB wrote:
Sun Sep 08, 2019 10:37 am
Radio bandwidth is scarce
Relatively. It is not scarce compared to questions like "how long 'til Baltimore" (it is only scarce compared to questions like "can I have 4k streaming video of current conditions of the platform at Baltimore")
Ken W2KB wrote:
Sun Sep 08, 2019 10:37 am
seat in the Aer Lingus aircraft on my recent roundtrip to Ireland had an approximately 8 or 10 inch touch screen with information and entertainment, crew announcements, etc. The new Amtrak equipment should likewise include such an installation.
This. Or, frankly, on JetBlue everyone seems happier doing their stuff on their own screen rather than using the one in the seatback.

No matter how you slice it, nobody should feel like their 21st century job is "I answer highly-predictable questions, but only when I'm physically present"
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Re: Acela II (Avelia Liberty): Design, Production, Delivery, Acceptance

Post by gokeefe » Sun Sep 08, 2019 6:40 pm

Arlington wrote:
Sun Sep 08, 2019 7:50 am
Radio ahead for a Redcap?

Like thinking we need more people to be Taxi dispatchers, that is a thought founded on the false assumptions that
- radio bandwidth is scarce
- wireless operators know a mysterious art
- voice-coded conversation is efficient

New Customers want app-mediated self-service
This is not true when you're dealing senior citizens or people with physical impairments who may or may not be able to work with an app. I understand that because we are talking about Acela that many of these demographics will only have a minimal presence.

Regardless, this is the type of thing I've seen done. It is not necessarily by radio. Could be phone to passenger services. Or it could just be by radio on the station channel upon arrival.

Point being that conductor duties have a far wider range of responsibilities beyond ticketing and handling an emergency.
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Re: Acela II (Avelia Liberty): Design, Production, Delivery, Acceptance

Post by mtuandrew » Sun Sep 08, 2019 10:01 pm

Mr. O’Keefe: that’s exactly the kind of work an OBS crewmember would be best at.

Amtrak must have done the math and determined that the higher capacity of a seven-car consist was worth the extra pay of another assistant conductor, or has already negotiated with the UTU.

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Re: Acela II (Avelia Liberty): Design, Production, Delivery, Acceptance

Post by Backshophoss » Mon Sep 09, 2019 1:00 am

The "Downeaster" has created an exception to selling "fare media"(MBTA "Charlie Card") in the Cafe car.
However the Acela II is longer and carries more Passengers,so the 2nd AC is needed.
What is needed is better informed Station staff at the major cities on the NEC to explain the local transit options,NOT an APP
Each major city should have a customer rep from the transit system working with the Station staff(SEPTA,are you listening?)
to help those passengers that need it.
A conductor should be able to get word to that station's staff that some passengers will need help to connect with local transit.
A booklet showing the transit options at each major city would be a help.
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Re: Acela II (Avelia Liberty): Design, Production, Delivery, Acceptance

Post by Tadman » Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:47 am

bostontrainguy wrote:
Thu Sep 05, 2019 8:09 am
Tadman wrote:
Thu Sep 05, 2019 4:38 am
Also doesn't seem to be an issue in sleeper, where 50% of the seats face backwards and are certainly not rotating. Where are the guys complaining about the sleeper seats facing backwards? Haven't heard much on that.
Because it's not true. Fact is they always orient the sleepers vestibule or A end forward which means that most seats do face forward. Since every bedroom (except the Viewliner ADA which has the seat facing forward) has the jump seats, every room has available forward facing seats.

I have ridden many Amtrak sleepers and have always faced forward. This includes the Family Room in the Superliner.

If I am traveling by train I want to see what's coming. I don't want to see what I just missed!
Regardless of the orientation of the vestibule, 50% of the seats/benches inside a viewliner of Superliner sleeper face each direction. If you’re solo in a roomette, no big deal. If you’re in the bedroom and solo, I guess you could sit in that solo chair, but those chairs suck. They’re like that $99 office chair at Staples. You don’t really want to sit in it for 8 hours, let alone 12-48 hours.

TLDR people in Sleeper face backwards all day on 2 day rides and nobody says a word. Corridor trains for 2 hours? Now let’s panic.
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Re: Acela II (Avelia Liberty): Design, Production, Delivery, Acceptance

Post by Arlington » Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:49 am

George: I am going to posit that the Acela riders are typically younger (working age / midcarreer ), and that future passenger growth skews younger still (recruited from bus and air), and ever more techhy 2022 and beyond.

Because they are more likely to be on work-related day trips, they typically have less luggage and lighter luggage then other rail passengers (vs NER, for example).

Additionally they have a work-related budget and ability to stay well connected. And are riding on a train that has a complete ADA audio-visual system for announcements.

On other routes I might concede that more people need more conductor help, but here it seems a thin veil on overstaffing and not an effort to enhance passenger value (if in fact additional AC will be required per consist, fares have to pay for them)

The additional passengers per departure are corridor users stolen from other modes, and can be assumed to be familiar enough with how they get around on both ends that they would not represent additional conductor burden
Last edited by Arlington on Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Acela II (Avelia Liberty): Design, Production, Delivery, Acceptance

Post by Tadman » Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:49 am

gokeefe wrote:
Sat Sep 07, 2019 10:16 pm
Arlington wrote:
Sat Sep 07, 2019 9:27 pm
^ so if it is "answers questions & concerns*"
Agreed simple requests have alternate options.

Here are some examples:

1. Could you please help me with the ADA accomodations? (eg. safety locks etc.)

2. Can you arrange for a Red Cap to assist us upon arrival?

3. My seat was accidentally taken by another person. Can you please help with the situation?

4. Which doors (all or just some?) will open when we arrive?

5. General concerns about other passenger behavior.

6. First aid for injuries or illness.

7. Passenger equipment issues (seats, lights, restrooms, doors, outlets, tables, shades).
1,2,4,7 are all easily fixed in the app. I know, not everybody has a smartphone, but most of us buy tickets online and that still would allow for ADA and redcap requests, they just have to be made from a desktop 1 hour prior to departure.
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Arlington
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Re: Acela II (Avelia Liberty): Design, Production, Delivery, Acceptance

Post by Arlington » Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:56 am

^ And I'd say that 3 will be solved by Reserved seating, just like it does on Airplanes.(not that there's never a conflict, but people have figured out what resources they have (a boarding pass on their phone) to resolve things)

And since 1,2,3,4,&7 are ever less brought to the Conductor, that frees up their time for 5 & 6 & whatever.
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Re: Acela II (Avelia Liberty): Design, Production, Delivery, Acceptance

Post by David Benton » Mon Sep 09, 2019 4:30 pm

I would say where extra help is needed, its at the stations , and on the platforms.
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Re: Acela II (Avelia Liberty): Design, Production, Delivery, Acceptance

Post by BandA » Wed Sep 11, 2019 12:17 am

If you had everything really automated, (trainline? doors, all high-level boarding, assigned seating w/LCD screens, perhaps separate call buttons for regular & urgent needs, <1% sale of tickets on-board, etc), you boil down the conductors work to the safety elements: Is someone stuck in the doorway or gap? Are the brakes working? Backing up / confirming that the engineer is working safely? This allows economy of scale. Remaining issues: baggage / bikes, ensuring that passengers get off when they are supposed to, and unruly passengers. That's why I suggest adding a call button and a separate urgent call button. Less distractions for the conductors, presumably higher job satisfaction, and presumably higher safety from new modern best practices.

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Re: Acela II (Avelia Liberty): Design, Production, Delivery, Acceptance

Post by electricron » Wed Sep 11, 2019 1:14 am

David Benton wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 4:30 pm
I would say where extra help is needed, its at the stations , and on the platforms.
On a nation wide basis, I would strongly disagree because there are so many stations as compared to trains. But this thread is about Acela and Acela 2 trains, which limits the number of stations to just the NEC. Every station these trains visit have at least two platforms, some have more. The NEC has 15 stations the Acela trains visit, embarking and alighting passengers. Therefore at least 30 platforms to man throughout the day. They operate over two 8 hour shifts at least, so we're up to at least 60 staff working just on the platforms.

There are only 20 Acela trains, three train staff per train totals the same 60 staff on the platforms. Amtrak does not even use all 20 Acela train sets every day. I'm not sure there is any savings to be had having more staff on the platforms vs more staff on the trains.

One could make the argument when you consider Amfleet regional service trains added to the mix changes the results for the NEC, with more savings from having more staff on the platforms than more staff on the trains. Should we include them while discussing Acela and Acela 2 trains?

Nationally, Amtrak visits more than 500 stations with more than 300 trains a day. The sheer number of stations make having more staff at stations far more expensive than having more staff on trains. Golly, many stations do not even have an Amtrak staff at all. Taking staff off the trains to up the staff at stations is obviously going to cost more. Having extra crew aboard the train allows Amtrak's conductors and assistant conductors the ability to flag a broken grade crossing signal systems, keeping the train moving along although delayed. Without them aboard the train, the train would come to a standstill waiting on someone to flag the broken grade crossing.

Of course, this scenario does not apply to most of the NEC except in Connecticut. I can see it now, an Acela or Acela 2 train at a standstill for hours waiting on someone to flag one of these few grade crossings.

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Re: Acela II (Avelia Liberty): Design, Production, Delivery, Acceptance

Post by David Benton » Wed Sep 11, 2019 1:38 am

We are talking about the Acela/ Avelia, so yes , I would ignore nationwide issues.
If you're going to calculate 2 shifts per platform , then you need to compare it to 3 shifts per Acela , Boston to Washington. But as this is a premium product its not really about saving money or jobs , it is about enhancing the passengers experience. And the OBS personnel are trained to do that better than Conductors, who seem to have little customer service training/expectations.
The ideal situation would be to have the Conductors and Assistants also trained as OBS , and expected to help in that role when their operational roles allow it. If this allows extra staffing of platforms then that would be a bonus.
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Re: Acela II (Avelia Liberty): Design, Production, Delivery, Acceptance

Post by electricron » Wed Sep 11, 2019 9:07 am

David Benton wrote:
Wed Sep 11, 2019 1:38 am
We are talking about the Acela/ Avelia, so yes , I would ignore nationwide issues.
If you're going to calculate 2 shifts per platform , then you need to compare it to 3 shifts per Acela , Boston to Washington. But as this is a premium product its not really about saving money or jobs , it is about enhancing the passengers experience. And the OBS personnel are trained to do that better than Conductors, who seem to have little customer service training/expectations.
The ideal situation would be to have the Conductors and Assistants also trained as OBS , and expected to help in that role when their operational roles allow it. If this allows extra staffing of platforms then that would be a bonus.
The cost of labor is always a significant expense for any customer service business.
I wish for days gone by when there were red hats working at stations pushing and pulling hand small carts willing to help individual passengers with their bags, all for a price of a good tip. Today, you see large carts being pulled by small tractors carrying enough bags for an entire train - all in the name of efficiency - without paying tips and personal thanks for the help.
Of course, the red hats back then did not have the benefits workers expect today.

Ever seen the original movie of "Murder on the Orient Express", where the passengers boarding the train had to navigate through all the vendors on the platform. The movie probably exaggerated the number of vendors, but you will not see anything close to that today.

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Re: Acela II (Avelia Liberty): Design, Production, Delivery, Acceptance

Post by Arlington » Wed Sep 11, 2019 11:10 am

In the age of steamers, a steamer trunk needed its redcap.
This is not whom Acela, nor any of its staffing should be targeting.

Since the mid 60s (only a few years before A-day) and accelerated by Airline Deregulation, luggage has gotten progressively more mobile. Somehow between rollerblades and folding scooters, cheap, sealed-ball-bearing wheels can be fitted to anything that's too big for shoulder straps. The trend is clearly to self-service luggage:

1) light molded plastics or canvas shells replaced heavier materials
2) Backpacks and canvas gym bags replaced briefcases
3) Midside-and larger bags gained wheels (first 2 wheels & and retract/extend handles)
4) Wheels got bigger diameter, then went to 4 castersf
5) Now scooter bags*
6) Soon self-propelled**

A look at actual Acela passengers sees most bags having either
+ Dual shoulder straps, like a backpack (which are now fully-accepted as business-trip luggage)
+ Single shoulder sling, like a gym bag or courier bag (originally mocked as man-purses)
+ Wheels-and-retractable handle. (roller bags / roll-aboards)

Sure, staff the NERs for guy-with-one-big-garbage-bag or a 1960s jumbo American Tourister with no wheels, but for heavens sake don't design the Acela or its processes for that.

The High Speed Corridor train of 2022 needs to have it is service elements centered on how its customers--(downtown-to-downtown, work trips) actually travel--which is light and mobile--airline or bus style, not sleeper or steamship style.

Look, the labor has been taken out of all kinds of things that went self-service or no service with the full-throated approval of consumers: shoes that don't need a shoeshine, Internet search instead of 411 or yellow pages, many retailers having self-checkout, Printing you own ticket, Express pickup of rental cars, bags you can handle yourself. Plan on it.

The design brief should be: how can we reduce friction and staff at the same time?

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Re: Acela II (Avelia Liberty): Design, Production, Delivery, Acceptance

Post by mtuandrew » Wed Sep 11, 2019 2:51 pm

If Amtrak does have to add an additional Assistant Conductor to the Avelias (AX-IIs?), they ought to negotiate a smaller OBS crew for the reasons Arlington mentioned. Ideally, one or both of the ACs would provide some sort of customer service beyond their train-handling duties, even just “pinch hitter at the snack bar while the OBS crew takes a bathroom break.”

That said, Amtrak has a strong case that it doesn’t need an extra person due to the consist being permanently coupled and more accessible than the AX-I. It’ll be an interesting thing to see when they roll out an operational plan, because Amtrak hadn’t said anything about needing extra crew.

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