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#81 ScouseAndy

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 12:32 PM

 

 

 

 

. . .the ticket cost has substantially increased over time.

Just how much has ticket cost increased over time? I've only got about 17 months of fare data, but a quick look at the EB and CL shows their fares went up about 2.2% during that period (or about 1.7% APR) for mid-bucket coach + roomette. Do you have anything more concrete than "substantial"?
 
Over a period of about eight years routine sleeper fares I was buying for simple transportation between my two most common city pairs more than doubled from a low of around $150 to just shy of $400 each way for the dates I traveled each year.
 
On the surface that does indeed sound substantial. But such conclusions are misleading without knowing what the bucket levels were.
 
Misleading? How is a range of potential bucket prices going to trump the actual price paid for the same trip at the same time each year? My experience may be anecdotal but it's neither misleading or irrational.
How?  Because for all I (and apparently you) know the two dollar figures you mentioned could have been from different buckets.  Perhaps, as previously mentioned, the $150 was low bucket and the $400 was high bucket.  Being at the same time of the year has no bearing on the matter.  The fact that you paid $150 for a ticket 8 years ago and $400 recently for the same ticket means little without knowing the details (buckets).
 
While there may be a substantial difference in the prices paid, if those prices weren't at the same bucket level they can't really be compared.

Of course they can be directly compared, do you think that the vast majority of potential customers care about buckets and what the lowest price they could have paid? Or more likely that are simply concerned about the price they are quoted at the time they want to book? If 12 months/3 years or when ever they made the same trip and now they are being quoted twice or even thrice the price then they are feeling an massive price increase and will determine if they will travel by Amtrak based on if they feel the new fare is value for money.

Not everyone has the time or interest in pouring over spreadsheets and checking amsnag to work out the changes in bucket prices etc

#82 jis

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 12:38 PM

I think both of you are right. From an analytical perspective, yes, you have to know all the details of the buckets and what not. But from the point of view of a casual passenger, all that gobbledegook does not matter much. So if one were trying to say that DA's experience is misleading, that is so only within a certain context, and not the one within which DA made that statement. It certainly is not misleading for him to say that is his experience, since it certainly is his experience. Afterall the term "misleading" always implies that it is so in a specific context or purpose of the conversation. Apparently the contexts you two are talking about are different. So you can either keep talking past each other until the cows come home, or you can call it quits while both of you are ahead. :) But where would the fun of creating a five page yelling match be then, right?



#83 niemi24s

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 12:54 PM

All I can say is I'm sure glad his ticket 8 years ago wasn't at high bucket and his recent one at low bucket -  he could have posted that ticket prices had plummeted!   :blink:

 

I'm done here.  Use whatever adjective you think supports your perceived change in ticket prices.



#84 Ryan

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 12:59 PM

Or we can try and reconcile the two viewpoints. :)

The bucket based analysis isn't the whole story, since what really matters to passengers is what they pay. That being a function of both the prices of the available buckets and how many tickets are sold from each.

Unfortunately, we don't have that data. We do have something of a proxy in the Monthly Reports that broke out sleeping car revenue.

For FY16, Amtrak recorded $186M of revenue from 699k riders (average of $266/pax).

If someone has access to an old monthly report, one could compare. Still not perfect, since things like average distance traveled isn't necessarily the same, but if one were to look year over year some trends may become apparent.
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#85 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 01:11 PM

Although I would enjoy knowing which bucket everything came from for completeness sake I don't see how it would materially change the final outcome.  Although we often explain buckets by saying they are tied to occupancy that's not entirely true.  Amtrak alone controls the opaque rules and conditions and modifiers that determine which bucket is available for a given city pair on a given day on a given train.  Keeping this in mind let's say the buckets remained exactly the same price for all eight years.  The first couple years the low bucket was offered.  The next couple years the second lowest.  Then the third lowest and so on.  Eventually only the highest bucket is offered on the eighth and final year.  If each individual bucket never increased in cost (or was perfectly aligned with consumer inflation) would we say that the price increased 0% simply because the buckets themselves never increased in cost?  If yes, well that sounds positively ludicrous to me, and if not then what's the point of worrying about buckets in the first place?  


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#86 jis

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 01:19 PM

DA, I agree that the details of bucket fares will never trump what fares are actually offered as observed, unless details of exactly what proportion of each bucket were offered on each day is taken into account. And to that extent the obsession with buckets absent that additional information is just a nerdy preoccupation.

 

A more useful information would be simply to know exactly how many of what fares were actually offered on each day. That would be more useful than all the knowledge in the world about buckets. The buckets are a means to an end, and not an end in itself. Furthermore, even before there were buckets there were multiple fares offered for the same service using other means of managing the proportions.

 

However, all of this also has very little to do with the quality of meals over the years.


Edited by jis, 20 March 2017 - 01:19 PM.


#87 ehbowen

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 02:06 PM

Another factor is how predictable the various bucket pricing is. As an example, when I booked our Big Family Trip for May 2006 in July 2005, you could reliably expect to find fares at low bucket ten months out, as long as inventory was available. I snapped up four roomettes and the family bedroom, all at low bucket for the round trip. Nowadays, it's not unusual to find sleepers selling at mid- or even high buckets as soon as they enter inventory eleven months out, especially for holiday periods (our return trip from L. A. left the day before Memorial Day). What used to be a predictable strategy is now a crapshoot.


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#88 niemi24s

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 02:22 PM

Occupancy, supply & demand, yield management, proportion of buckets offered, and all those other things have nothing to do with the matter at hand.  The matter at hand (for me, at least) is not whether DA's description of his ticket cost increase as "substantial" is appropriate or not - but rather what that increase actually is.  If these prices were at the same bucket, then "substantial" might be a good description.  But that cannot be said because we simply don't know if they were at the same bucket.

 

All that's needed to calculate what the actual fare increase has been are the details of DA's most recent ($400) ticket: no. of people; end points; etc.  From that I can find what bucket it was.  No need to make this any more difficult than necessary.  Most here a fond of the "apples to oranges" analogy.  Trying to compare those fares is the same thing if not at the same bucket - a level playing field, so to speak.



#89 jis

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 02:28 PM

Agreed. If a customer has to contend with seemingly randomly varying fares, then it really does not much matter to said customer whether a dart board is used, or a five bucket system is used or a 20 bucket system is used. Their rational observation will be that the fares change randomly. They could carefully study variation patterns to try to game it, like there are web sites that keep track of how many days out one is likely to get the lowest fare on specific international routes, or use sites that aggregate information from multiple sources to provide information on what is the lowest fare available within a window of days, and when, and such. But those are all real observation based info, and not based on some deep analysis of the underlying system, Indeed, the airlines try hard to make it quite unpredictable and even dynamically change the fares associated with each fare category. Amtrak is restrained from doing so mainly due to their antiquated reservation system and not due to lack of desire or goodness of their heart.

 

Niemi, you are completely missing the point. From DA's point of observation the change in fare that he sees is what it is. He is not claiming that it is based on an aggregated observation set. For most travelers that is the reality, because when they walk upto their laptop and book a seat that is what they got. Someone else might have indeed got a lower fare in their later attempt, and that would be their legitimate observation. You are right in claiming that form your perspective a same bucket to same bucket comparison is better. But as DA explained,while that is interesting, since there is no guarantee that the same bucket is always offered at all times it does not really matter. And he is right in claiming that too. So there is no single correct answer here. It depends on what is it that each of you are looking for. What is the value of talking about a fare bucket if it is never offered as a real fare?



#90 niemi24s

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 03:22 PM

 What is the value of talking about a fare bucket if it is never offered as a real fare?

While it's true that some established buckets may never be offered as a real fare, rest assured any fare that is offered is both a real fare (cuz that's what you pay for it) and is one of the established buckets (cuz that's where the fares come from).  

 

And I'm perfectly cognizant of DA's point:  He paid $150 eight years ago for the same ticket he just paid $400 for and describes the increase as "substantial" without knowing anything about it - except its cost.  But that perceived "substantial" increase could be anywhere from 1.1% up to 13.0% APR.   Nobody knows for sure.  And with all the obfuscation here - nobody will ever know.

 

I was simply thinking of the neophyte reader seeing that and thinking "Dang, that Amtrak sure looks pricey - better fly or drive".   


Edited by niemi24s, 20 March 2017 - 03:24 PM.


#91 jis

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 03:32 PM

Yeah, there is danger of that, same as the danger of someone posting that s/he paid $400 5 years back and paid $150 for the same ticket today - by just the quirk of which bucket they got, and deciding that Amtrak has gotten cheaper today. So point taken.



#92 niemi24s

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 03:34 PM

Taking Ryan's suggestion about using the Amtrak reports to find what the increase might be, here's what I get from Page A-3.4 of the Sep reports for each of these years:

 

FY 16: Total $/Rider = $70.09, LD $/Rider = $105.76

FY 15: Total $/Rider = $70.78; LD $/Rider = $110.83

FY 14: Total $/Rider = $70.76; LD $/Rider = $112.41

FY 13: Total $/Rider = $66.70; LD $/Rider = $110.62

 

But then I've always heard these Amtrak figures are highly suspect.


Edited by niemi24s, 20 March 2017 - 03:34 PM.


#93 Ryan

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 03:55 PM

They're not.

You're probably thinking of the cost numbers, which can be because of the subjectivity surrounding allocating overhead costs onto individual trains.

Ridership and revenue are not subjective however. Just simple math.

(although it looks like you used the overall system numbers, not the sleeping car numbers. Where did you get the historical reports from?
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#94 jis

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 04:05 PM

The so called "allocated numbers" are the ones that are suspect. The actual observed and recorded numbers are much less so. They come straight from the operations and financial systems.

 

The problems arise because, for whatever reason, Amtrak's systems are unable to track actual numbers for things like fuel used on a run and actual staff hours used on a run and such. So what we get is a rolled up number and some judicious guess work to come up with schemes to divvy up the rolled up numbers to allocate them out to each train. Such generated numbers are always somewhat suspect. It gets even worse when HQ costs are similarly divvied up.

 

And for some reason unknown to me, Amtrak has yet to come up with a way to account for capital costs on a cost allocated basis, which probably is not a bad thing afterall, not to have these synthetic numbers on a per train basis, specially when none of those costs will go away when a train is canceled.



#95 niemi24s

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 04:21 PM

 Where did you get the historical reports from?

Google searches for "September 20xxy Amtrak Monthly Performance Report" turned up the ones for 2016 and 2015 pretty easily - straight from Amtrak.  Because each of these has last years data, that gave me data for FY 2016, 2015 and 2014 (in the Sep 2015 report).  Making the same Google search for Sep 2014 and digging a little deeper turned up the Sep 2014 report archived here...    http://anyflip.com/bwqz/qdex/basic ...which had the FTY2014 and 2013 data.  Amtrak has apparently withdrawn its Sep 2014 and earlier reports and I've not been able to find them anyplace.  The asterisk at the bottom of Page A-3.5 in the archived one may have something to do with it.     

 

I don't think any of the figures I used had "allocated" in their headers, but will check later.

 

And I couldn't even find any earlier editions of this, fer pity's sake: https://www.amtrak.c...Report-2013.pdf  As far as this type of performance data is concerned, it's like Amtrak didn't exist prior to Oct 2012.


Edited by niemi24s, 20 March 2017 - 06:51 PM.


#96 niemi24s

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 06:37 PM

Not everyone has the time or interest in pouring over spreadsheets and checking amsnag to work out the changes in bucket prices etc

Of course not everyone does.  But I do.  That's why I update this bucket chart several times a year and make it available to all forum members.

 

Attached File  18 Mar 2017 Amtrak Fare Buckets.jpg   202.08KB   19 downloads

 

Anybody that doesn't want to be bothered with fare possibilities is perfectly free to ignore it.  


Edited by niemi24s, 20 March 2017 - 06:47 PM.


#97 VentureForth

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Posted 21 March 2017 - 09:01 AM

Of course, there is a problem. Satisfied and happy passengers would demand more sleeping (and coach) cars, and, in short order, more trains. I have no idea as to how we could possibly deal with that issue....


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#98 Skyline

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Posted 21 March 2017 - 06:02 PM

I disagree that the Food ( and drink) on the Canadian is only slightly better than the current bland,generic stuff slung in Amtrak Diners.

Its on a par with Train Diners on the Crack Trains from the Glory Days such as the Super Chief, Crescent,Panama Express etc. as is the Service from the Wonderful Crews!

 

That was absolutely true on my last Canadian journey, all the way, on #1. I'll be repeating that in May, so I hope it's something I can report as still true.

 

The one thing I have noticed is timekeeping on the Canadian is as bad or worse than most western Amtrak LD routes...mostly due to freight issues, and combined with weather issues in the "off" season.



#99 Montreal Ltd

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Posted 22 March 2017 - 10:42 PM

On Canadian right now EB and food has been great. Rack of lamb for dinner tonight. Yes lots of freight but close to on time just west of Edmonton

#100 Montreal Ltd

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Posted 25 March 2017 - 05:30 PM

Ran into a lot of freight traffic in SK and MB, 4 hours late into Winnipeg and 5 into Toronto. But everyone enjoyed the extra train time.




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