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Sleeper-Less Overnight/LD Trains?


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#1 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 10:16 AM

In my post about the Crescent Star being a reality posters have started to consider inventory and equipment assignment for the new route. It is not the first instance this has been done. For most if not all new LD routes, sleeper cars are considered a requirement. Some people also have said a diner car is also a requirement but it is clear that Amtrak is low in inventory of sleepers and diner cars and the Silver Star has no diner car and several others have "diner lite" (has the full diner returned to the LSL?). 

 

However, I don't feel that a diner car or even a sleeper should be a requirement for starting a new LD route (preferable for sure but not a requirement). I'm sure many of you regularly or always use sleepers for LD service. I remember one poster lamenting about sleepers on the Cardnal being ridiculously expensive compared to other eastern LD routes (LSL/CL) and he was right. On the other hand I found coaches for the same day to be cheaper than the others. But I have never rode a sleeper on any LD train and I've gone cross country three times.

 

But in many LD trains, a huge majority of LD passengers travel coach class. According to NARP stats, about 10.3% of LSL passengers, 12.5% of SM passengers, and 17.% of SWC passengers ride in sleepers. The average LD passengers doesn't travel anywhere near the full route (neither does the average LD sleeper passenger). But even for passengers traveling the full distance (or close to) for several trains a majority of them still ride coach. Looking at the bars between the coach and sleeper, it looks like about 2/3 of passengers on the LSL travelling 800-899 and 900-999 miles still ride coach that length. A similar phenomenon exists for the SM traveling 1100-1199 and 1300-1399 miles. For the SWC, the breakdown for >2000 miles is roughly 50-50 between coach and sleepers. For the CZ, more >2000 mile passengers ride sleeper but more passengers between 1000-1099 (probably CHI-DEN, around the same distance as CHI-NYP or NYP-ORL) passengers ride coach.

 

This being said, I strongly believe a sleeper-less LD train can work (although not for a longer train like the SWC or CZ). The Night Owl has no sleepers at all. In the past, the Three Rivers did not use sleepers for the first year or two, the case when I rode the train in 1997 (http://www.timetable...0511n&item=0026). If the only reason the Capitol Limited/Pennsylvanian through cars aren't in service now is a lack of sleepers, I think they should just start the service now without the sleeper car and add the sleepers if/when they are available. In this case, passengers east of Pittsburgh can ride coach through PGH and get a sleeper at PGH. Maybe no one here would ride it and would probably ride another seven hours CHI-NYP or CHI-PHL just to use a sleeper but I'm pretty sure enough passengers will ride coach between those cities (as well as others) as a significant number of LSL/SM passengers ride coach between NY-Chicago and NY-Florida now. And this is not even talking about diner cars which for any new car, especially for Viewliner cars would be a given. But just like the Silver Star now, the Three Rivers's sleeper fares 30 lower than other LD trains because of a lack of a diner car (https://csanders429.wordpress.com/trains-and-routes/three-rivers/). I think it does work for a route where there is another option (LSL-TR and SM-SS) and if the alternative between a sleeper-less ride is a four hour layover in PGH at their Am-shack at night, I'd take the sleeper-less ride any day of the week.

 

So IMO get the service first and add the sleeper later (and the diner later on). The lack of sleepers is not an excuse for expanding LD trains/options (unless coach cars and other required equipment is in as short supply as sleeper/diner cars). If you don't want to ride 1000 miles in coach, don't. But don't deny me (and others) the right to do so.


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

Bring back the Broadway Limited (or Three Rivers or any Chicago-Pittsburgh-Philly train)!
 

https://www.facebook...roadwayLimited/

 


#2 R30A

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 11:41 AM

With the Crescent Star, I don't think equipment is the primary issue at all. Atlanta-NOL is far from the busiest part of the route, you could probably add the service with a single food service car, two coaches, and one sleeper. It is political will, track and station issues that keep the Crescent star from happening. 



#3 neroden

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 03:32 PM

While it is possible to run overnight trains without sleeper cars, it's leaving money on the table.


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#4 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 03:40 PM

While it is possible to run overnight trains without sleeper cars, it's leaving money on the table.

 

So you're saying sleeper cars pay for themselves and not an extra cost? If that's true then why is the Palmetto so successful (relatively speaking), even before they opened it up to NEC traffic?

 

And if you have enough equipment to run a sleeperless overnight train and don't that's also leaving money on the table.


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

Bring back the Broadway Limited (or Three Rivers or any Chicago-Pittsburgh-Philly train)!
 

https://www.facebook...roadwayLimited/

 


#5 jphjaxfl

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 03:42 PM

In pre-Amtrak days,  the trains that ran overnight without Sleeping Cars were mostly, passenger, mail and express trains making local stops.  Even some of those types of trains carried Sleeping Cars for part of their runs.



#6 A Voice

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 03:54 PM

 

While it is possible to run overnight trains without sleeper cars, it's leaving money on the table.

 

So you're saying sleeper cars pay for themselves and not an extra cost? If that's true then why is the Palmetto so successful (relatively speaking), even before they opened it up to NEC traffic?

 

 

The Palmetto does not operate overnight, and thus cannot be compared (for sleeper accommodations) to trains which do.  

 

You might or might not have a point depending on whether a sleeper is restored to trains #66 and #67.  



#7 Lonestar648

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Posted 29 April 2017 - 03:14 PM

Since the sleepers are either sold out or close to it, having an overnight train without them cuts out as many as 42 passengers.  I do not think it makes good business sense to set up an overnight consist without any sleepers.


Trains Traveled On:
Texas Eagle                                      Sunset Limited                            California Zephyr                                Southwest Chief                Empire Builder            Capitol Limited           Lake Shore limited (NYP & BOS)      Crescent
Kentucky Cardinal                             Cardinal                                       Pere Marquette                                  Wolverines                        Lincoln Service            Empire Service          Keystone Service                               Acelas
NE Regionals                                    Pioneer                                        Desert Wind                                       Broadway Limited             Three Rivers                Southwest Chief        Coast Starlight                                    Empire Service
 
Amtrak Miles Logged: over 206,000


#8 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 29 April 2017 - 03:24 PM

Just replace the sleeper with an extra coach car. You'd make up the 42 passengers and then some.


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

Bring back the Broadway Limited (or Three Rivers or any Chicago-Pittsburgh-Philly train)!
 

https://www.facebook...roadwayLimited/

 


#9 jis

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Posted 29 April 2017 - 03:26 PM

I think everyone agrees that overnight trains should have Sleepers if possible. The question in my mind is if other equipment (other than Sleeper) is available, must we refrain from introducing or continuing to run an overnight train on route where there is demand for such, just because Sleepers are not available? I think that is a worthwhile question to ponder. Should we have discontinued 65/66/67 when Sleepers became unavailable for it?

#10 A Voice

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Posted 29 April 2017 - 04:17 PM

Just replace the sleeper with an extra coach car. You'd make up the 42 passengers and then some.

 

How exactly do you know that?

 

In this presumably hypothetical example, what is the load factor in the existing coaches, perhaps more specifically during the overnight hours?  How many of those sleeper passengers would not travel by train at all if those accommodations weren't available, and critically, how much revenue is produced per sleeper versus the amount which would be found from the additional coach?  

 

If you don't have these answers, how can you know that a coach would "make up the 42 passengers and then some"?   

 

If there are already around 42 empty coach seats on the train, then the extra coach replacing a sleeper gets you absolutely nothing; Just an empty car to tow around.  



#11 bretton88

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Posted 29 April 2017 - 07:36 PM

Amtrak has coaches, why not convert a few to day-nighters, with airlines first class style lie flat seats? I think such an arrangement would be agreeable to passengers.

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#12 A Voice

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Posted 29 April 2017 - 09:08 PM

Amtrak has coaches, why not convert a few to day-nighters, with airlines first class style lie flat seats? I think such an arrangement would be agreeable to passengers.

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Setting aside that Amtrak is chronically short of single-level coaches, a car with true lie-flat seats would not have appreciably more passenger capacity than an all-economy sleeper (all Roomette car, or Slumbercoach duplex rooms, etc.).  



#13 neroden

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 04:47 PM

 

While it is possible to run overnight trains without sleeper cars, it's leaving money on the table.

 

So you're saying sleeper cars pay for themselves and not an extra cost?

 

Yes, of course.  I've been saying that for many years and I ran through the numbers in excessive detail as part of a long argument with another member a few years back.  Yes, they definitely pay for themselves.  (Dining cars don't.  Sleeping cars do.)

 

If you don't have sleeper cars available, sure, start an overnight train service with coaches only.  But order some sleeping cars!

 

Of course, Amtrak doesn't have enough coaches *either*, so the question is moot.


Edited by neroden, 30 April 2017 - 04:48 PM.

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#14 neroden

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 04:49 PM

Just replace the sleeper with an extra coach car. You'd make up the 42 passengers and then some.

Nope, you quite definitely lose money by doing that.  I ran through it in exhaustive detail a while back...


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#15 neroden

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 04:50 PM

I think everyone agrees that overnight trains should have Sleepers if possible. The question in my mind is if other equipment (other than Sleeper) is available, must we refrain from introducing or continuing to run an overnight train on route where there is demand for such, just because Sleepers are not available? I think that is a worthwhile question to ponder. Should we have discontinued 65/66/67 when Sleepers became unavailable for it?

Sure, I'm fine with running an all-coach overnight train if we have spare coaches and no sleepers.  The fact is, at least here in Single Level part of the country, we don't have spare coaches *either*.


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#16 west point

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 08:13 PM

Wouldn't a full sleeper provide more bottom line revenue than a full coach ?

#17 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 08:23 PM

OK the sleepers are more valuable. Doesn't change the fact we don't have any available (unless of course ...)


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

Bring back the Broadway Limited (or Three Rivers or any Chicago-Pittsburgh-Philly train)!
 

https://www.facebook...roadwayLimited/

 


#18 neroden

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Posted 01 May 2017 - 02:34 PM

Yeah, we don't have any coaches available either.

 

This keeps coming back to something really obvious: Amtrak needs to order more cars.  :-P  Period, end of story.  The only category they have excess of is cafes.


Edited by neroden, 01 May 2017 - 02:34 PM.

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#19 jis

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Posted 01 May 2017 - 03:06 PM

They should get a few hand me down coaches on hand if the infernal folks at Nippon-Sharyo ever deliver anything before we are all pushing grass. :P



#20 Carolina Special

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Posted 01 May 2017 - 03:24 PM

If Amtrak were given any money at all to order new coaches immediately, what designs would they use, for both single and bi-level?

Or would they have to take a couple of years to come up with new designs first?

Please tell me they've planned this out.




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