• Better food on non-LD trains - is it doable?

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

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

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  by STrRedWolf
 
rohr turbo wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 1:21 pm @electricron let's take your NY-Montreal analysis and apply it to Albany-Montreal. Zero non-stop flights so you must conclude Amtrak has 100% market share between these two population centers. As it's 8 hours between those cities, we definitely need food service. Will better quality food increase ridership? Couldn't hurt.
That's what I've been thinking with these daytrip trains that average at least 8 hours. You're going to need food service. You also going to need food service if you're over two hours and it hits the prime dining times.

Hold on, this thread's making me hungry... (*noms on a cookie bar*) :grin:

The question here is really what level of quality of food are we really looking for here, keeping in mind the effort it would need.

Right now, we have:
  • Full diners, capable of cooking a flat iron steak...
  • Acela cafes, which can heat up and arrange food like a fast food joint, from what I could gather...
  • Flex Dining, which is heat-and-serve dinners you can get at the grocery store...
  • Cafe service, which is heat-and-serve 7-11 food (except 7-11 food tastes better)
For an 3 hour trip, DC to NYC, Cafe service is fine -- it's a quick bite to eat. But DC to Boston or Vermont's stations, or even the Pennsylvanian, reaching 8 hours for a single stretch? I have to say I'd want a meal. And when you're delayed four hours? You'll want two meals.

You're covered on the Acela between DC and Boston... although you have a limited selection. Flex Dining... well, you can yank out a row or two out of the standard Cafe, retrofit in some freezers, and be able to serve the meals. You don't need a full diner, and you don't need to really redesign the cafe car. But you just need to add enough capacity to hold the various meals, and the Flex Dining bowls are what? 8 inches in diameter? Plus the Flex Dining breakfast is just really one microwave meal and some stock staples on top of the Cafe fare. Compare the various menus. You have six meals to keep frozen and even one of them you don't need to carry half the time.

Comparing the levels to each other, and keeping in mind how much effort is needed... you can slap diners on those daytrippers or you can Flex Dining. And I think Flex Dining will be cheaper for these day trippers.
  by photobug56
 
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 9:43 am
photobug56 wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 1:06 am Not everyone is in a hurry, and these days, even ignoring COVID, I've no desire to fly commercial anymore. At best, it's a lousy painful way to travel. My last time was actually Delta in first class, and it was bloody awful.
Mr. Photobug, from your "handle" I gather you are now 65yo and could well be retired; I also gather you are avid in the "foamin'" department.

I've known other "avids" over the years who simply are predetermined to dislike air travel. I agree, especially after my last flight - overseas in Business Class - it's not fun. The masks are a necessary annoyance at this time, and in flight service has been reduced to a level once found in Coach; well, back when the MILW only knew that as the only class of service available (including for the CEO)!!!!

But guess what: while no fun, in six hours between anywhere in the CONUS, "it's over and done".

Finally, after my Jan '20 Auto Train trip leaving SFA the day Kobe Bryant was killed, I decided such was a "that's all folks". Was it a nightmare? no. It was just a "meh" which only saved me 400 miles of driving compared with the 800 for those in the Northeast. And now, that their rate for a journey in that same "window" next Jan will be $1100, it's a "never again".
I'm not retired. I used to love air travel until the bumbling fools known as TSA made it painful as hell (German, Israeli, British are more thorough but actually competent and professional), airlines in the US made it as uncomfortable as they could. And that last Delta FC trip with a pair of worn out planes, extremely overcrowded lounges, nasty or incompetent ground staff and worse ruined both legs. And that in so many cases you have to fly many hours out of your way to get somewhere (think NYC to BOS via the midwest to get the idea) doesn't help. The regional airport close by only has flights to odd spots in Florida, Baltimore instead of DC, etc., and then only a few flights total per day - and they cost 2 or 3 times as much compared to the major airports. The major airports have hour long backlogs just to get onto the properties. Plus you don't want to use long term parking - who knows, maybe you get all of your car back on your return, car services can easily cost a couple hundred bucks each way to the airports.

2 years ago when we used Acela, as horrible as NYP is (sure, the new Taj Mahal station is nice but nowhere to sit, and way out of the way from everything else), homeless everywhere - but Amtrak itself was civilized and comfortable, and the red caps super helpful. Food on the train sucked. And some of the track north of DC is awful. But it was much easier than air.

IOTW, if you have to go quickly, you put up with air. Otherwise, a good train with decent food is a huge improvement. That on too many trains the food is awful, and Amtrak doesn't really market some trains, are problems that need to be fixed.
  by lordsigma12345
 
Right now there’s zero difference between Acela cafe and northeast regional cafe - exact same menu.
  by electricron
 
rohr turbo wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 1:21 pm Haha; yes Mr. Norman, indeed I do! :-D

@electricron let's take your NY-Montreal analysis and apply it to Albany-Montreal. Zero non-stop flights (even pre-Covid) so you must conclude Amtrak has 100% market share between these two population centers. As it's 8 hours between those cities, we definitely need food service. Will better quality food increase ridership? Couldn't hurt.
Albany to Montreal driving distance is around 222 miles, around 3.5 hours, averaging 63 mph per Google.
It is true there are zero direct commercial airline flights between these two cities, never-the-less there are flights available with just one intermediately stop at various United or Delta hubs with total elapse times ranging between 5.5 to 9.5 hours. Amtrak takes 8 hours between these two cities. So the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way by far is to drive. This may be the perfect intercity bus service opportunity.

Looking at my earlier response for data, 14.7% of riders ride this train between 200 and 300 miles.
Some math follows;
159 passengers per day (average) x 14.7% = average 23 passengers per day traveling between these two cities at most on this specific train. That is less than half one Amfleet coach car in capacity. When you consider that the passengers per day is for two trains, one in each direction, that on either train that day half of that averages to 11.5 passengers per train. Again I repeat, that is an average over an entire year, any particular day may have more or less than 11.5 passengers per train riding between Albany and Montreal.

Seems like a whole lot of effort and energy to commit to appease 11.5 passengers per train with better meals.

Here's a great idea, drive and you can choose which restaurant along the way to stop and enjoy a great hot or cold meal at. :wink: Not only would you have a great meal, but you would get there twice as fast.
  by STrRedWolf
 
photobug56 wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 9:31 pm No surprise there. But what does Acela First Class eat?
In short, breakfast is ether a bacon & swiss omlete or Hueveos Racheros, or a broccoli and cheddar egg white omless or a egg souffle; lunch or dinner is chicken tandoori, lobster crab cake, roasted veggies in puff pastr, spanish pork stew, two types of salads, or a cheese & fruit plate.

It's on Amtrak's site.
  by photobug56
 
We start on Long Island. That adds a lot of time and painful driving. Or we cab to a direct train if possible. Would help if LIRR ad Amtrak recolonized the existence of each other and if Amtrak marketed their train.
  by markhb
 
I think the whole "> 4 hours" metric is a red herring. One of the trains that has been frequently mentioned here as a model is the Downeaster, and yet 100% of Downeaster passengers are on the train for 3:30 or less; the vast majority are on it for roughly 2:30 or less (current schedule time POR-BON is 2:32). The line for the cafe is usually out the door and it's just the standard cafe / business class car with fridge, microwave and convection oven. I know if I'm on the early train down I usually look forward to grabbing breakfast in the cafe since it's better than I'm willing to make myself at home at those hours. I believe there's room for the food to be a revenue driver at almost any trip length if it's of good quality.

So far as driving Albany to Montreal goes, I get it, but you can't have a cocktail while doing so!
  by photobug56
 
From my home on Long Island to Montreal, 6.5 hours right now ignoring fill up, food , traffic problems, border problems = and then there are bathroom stops. For us, not a fun trip unless split with a hotel overnight and some sightseeing. That gets expensive too.
  by rohr turbo
 
electricron wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 5:50 am
Looking at my earlier response for data, 14.7% of riders ride this train between 200 and 300 miles.
Some math follows;
159 passengers per day (average) x 14.7% = average 23 passengers per day traveling between these two cities at most on this specific train. That is less than half one Amfleet coach car in capacity. When you consider that the passengers per day is for two trains, one in each direction, that on either train that day half of that averages to 11.5 passengers per train. Again I repeat, that is an average over an entire year, any particular day may have more or less than 11.5 passengers per train riding between Albany and Montreal.

Seems like a whole lot of effort and energy to commit to appease 11.5 passengers per train with better meals.
Both your math and your logic are wrong.

There are 315 passengers per day (avg.) divided between two trains. 95% go more than 100 miles (call that almost 3 hours). So that's 150 passengers per train who are very likely to partake in a coffee, a snack, an alcoholic drink, and/or a meal already. not 11.5. If the offerings were even more attractive, revenues and possibly even ridership could increase.

On another note: I find it odd that only 5K ALB passengers per year use the Adirondack, while Saratoga's count is almost 20K, Plattsburgh 13K, Schenectady almost 9K. Anyone have insight why this might be?
  by ExCon90
 
Just a thought, but does Amtrak blank out seat availability NYP-ALB until a few days prior to departure to avoid excluding sales to points beyond reached only by the Adirondack? (For that matter, how far in advance can you reserve on a Silver from New York to Richmond?)
  by jp1822
 
ExCon90 wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 9:19 pm Just a thought, but does Amtrak blank out seat availability NYP-ALB until a few days prior to departure to avoid excluding sales to points beyond reached only by the Adirondack? (For that matter, how far in advance can you reserve on a Silver from New York to Richmond?)
NO, they do not do this for ANY train.

Ethan Allen can really get messy on Friday escape from NYC. Perfect departure time for New Yorkers (5:45 pm) heading for their weekend get-away in the Hudson Valley, but beyond Albany to get to Vermont, those passengers are the ones that really should get priority since Vermont is technically paying for the train. Early on the Ethan Allen ran "express" from NYP to Albany; and there was even a separate frequency that ran between Albany and Rutland. This is a problem.....

And also for the Silver Service and even the Crescent. People can book short trips, thus blocking out those looking to book for longer trips. I've seen the Adirondack go to "sold out" status NYP to Saratoga Spring, but then beyond Saratoga Springs to Montreal, there was just a handful of passengers. It's only that way when you have something big going on in Saratoga though. One would think the addition of extra cars - or even an extra train (to Saratoga that Amtrak used to do) would be the answer.
  by electricron
 
rohr turbo wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 8:03 pm
Both your math and your logic are wrong.

There are 315 passengers per day (avg.) divided between two trains. 95% go more than 100 miles (call that almost 3 hours). So that's 150 passengers per train who are very likely to partake in a coffee, a snack, an alcoholic drink, and/or a meal already. not 11.5. If the offerings were even more attractive, revenues and possibly even ridership could increase.
I included the stats available for this train in an earlier response, but limited my specific discussions to specific city pairs then under discussion; New York City to Montreal and later Albany to Montreal.
And you are correct using your analysis as well - not limiting the discussion to specific city pairs.
This thread is not about serving any drinks or snacks aboard non LD trains, it is specifically about Amtrak providing better meals aboard these trains. Additionally, I'm not the one who is singling out specific trains, but I am responding to those that do.

The point most fail to recognize about having cafes on trains is that they lose money. It costs Amtrak more to provide the service than it earns in sales. On non LD trains, this loss is passed onto the states subsidizing the train. Some states refuse to pay for this loss, therefore cafe services are not even provided on some trains.

Every train seems to have different stats as for how long or how far passengers ride them. One should expect different levels of service depending upon that statistic. I do not think it is "wrong" to point these statistics out.
  by NRGeep
 
Gluten free options would be optimal for Celiac disease folks who really can not have wheat unlike fad diet gluten free people.
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