I would guess it would be unrealistic to not have a late train (around 9:30pm) going east.
I'm going to make a hard call here. I think this is the tail wagging the dog, and Amtrak should *not* have a "cleanup train" for late western trains. This is wasting a valuable Chicago-East Coast slot on assisting the money-sucking western Transcontinentals. If there were an independent business case for a train departing Chicago for the east at 9:30, that would be a reason to do it; "collecting passengers from delayed Western trains" is NOT a good reason.
We've already documented that a supermajority of "Chicago-East Coast" passengers do *not* connect from *any* western trains. (A fair number connect to the corridors, but we're not worried about those trains being super-late.)
LSL ridership was predicted to go up by 10% or more by changing the schedule. Is it really worth losing 9% of your riders on a *relatively successful* service, in order to avoid overnight stays and hotel bills for customers on your *less successful*, *lower-ticket-price-per-mile* services? I say it isn't. They don't hold the Silver Service for late trains coming into NYP or WAS. They should dispatch the LSL at an appropriate starting time and not hold it for Western trains.
I will also point out that people taking most of the Western trains long distances are not in a hurry and can afford to spend the time overnight in Chicago in case of a late train. People riding a short distance on those trains, like from Denver or Minneapolis are an exception, but they are already dealing with their train arriving at their starting point late, and have time to find alternate transportation if they're in a hurry to make the Chicago connection.
I'll tell you what railways USED to do in situations like this.
(a) The railway owned a hotel located in the station.
(b) When getting news of delays that day, the railway would block out rooms in the hotel for delayed trains.
I don't know if Amtrak could set up a partnership with a hotel company and do this, but it would be better than messing up another train's schedule.
Edited by neroden, 05 November 2015 - 10:16 AM.