Wow. This is tough. I find myself in the unenviable position of publicly disagree with two people that I normally wouldn't. But I feel this is too important to leave unmentioned.
Book more than two weeks out and get the Saver Fare. Its better than any other discounts. The cleaning up of this and all of the other excessive discounting is long over due. Sure, the lack of discounts may stop some from traveling, but its nothing compared to the millions of dollars left on the table over the years that was discounted when it didnt have to be. These moves are smart business as they will substantially increase revenue without increasing costs.
Not everyone can make firm plans 2 weeks in advance. Amtrak used to have an extremely strong "walk up" market. It was one of the advantages of train travel. Someone passed away and the flights are full? We'll take Amtrak! The airlines are grounded? We'll take Amtrak! The Phillies won the playoffs? We'll take an Amtrak to Baltimore for the world series. It was a cash and carry operation. Delivery upon demand. No seats? No problem! We'll stand! We'd introduce riders of other forms of transportation by making it easy and affordable for them to ride. We were able to retain disaffected riders.
How much revenue have we left on the table by eliminating the convenience of travel? How many riders and future riders have we chased away by overpricing ourselves and making it inconvenient....and now expensive to ride?
With AAA, student, senior, etc discounts, it seemed to me that Amtrak was giving away too much revenue. I used to work for Five Guys, and it was a corporate principle that we never gave coupons or discounts because they implied that the food wasn't worth the price on the menu. It seems the discounts went away because Amtrak was losing money on them. Painful as this is, hopefully this brings Amtrak a step closer to financial viability.
Exactly. If you have a quality product, you shouldnt have to be discounting it all the time. Successful restaurants dont have to nor want to ever discount. Its a sign of being weak and desperate. We all end up paying for those discounts anyways. Have seen some signs in businesses over the years to the effect of Want a discount?, just give us a moment to raise our prices.
There is nothing wrong with offering flash sales and things like the Track Friday Sale to boost ridership during slower periods, but offering long term permanent disconts has to be stopped. Theres no reason to be discounting high demand trains.
*IF* you have a quality product and competition isn't everywhere, you can get away without discounting all the time. However, when you have a product that is typically slower that other forms of transportation, typically more expensive than driving and less convenient, you may want to give yourself EVERY advantage you can.
Amtrak is not cheap in some markets. If you're going to make it expensive and inconvenient as a plane, why not just hop on an actual plane to save time? If you're going to make it expensive an airlines are not available, there are fleets of cheap buses that arrive and depart right to the next the Amtrak station. The train may be a little faster, but it triples the cost of a bus.
You can practically take a limo from NYP-PHL for what you'll fork out for a train. There are also shared car services like Uber and Lyft, nipping away at Amtrak's heels....and if all else fails, I can drive myself.
There is a LOT of competition (that isn't getting the bad press that Amtrak is receiving as of late) for limited budgets. Is this the time to beat down walk up travel?
Many, many years ago, I worked as a salesperson. You have to sell the product. I'm in a rush, something just occurred and I have money in my hand. I need to travel! What can you say to me to lure me to your expensive, maybe once a day product, KnightRider? I save 20 minutes?
As for discounting "high demand" trains, if they are so high demand, why is the Capitol down to two coaches? Why is the Crescent down to two coaches? The Late for Sure? Even the Palmetto is down...and that was prior to losing another set on the Star...and I've always wondered how much of this "record ridership" is based upon people traveling back and forth on *discounted* vouchers.
Which brings me to a story that I wasn't going to tell but this is the perfect set up.
I was on a train, There was a fatality so nothing was moving. Announcement were made and the crew kept the passengers informed. As things were beginning to clear, a young lady (probably in her early twenties) approaches the crew. I was standing next to them (with my ID on). She asks if we think we'll move soon. The crew states we'll probably be on the move in a few minutes.
She says and this is direct quote (which I won't forget) "you are all doing a great job...but every time I write Amtrak and complain, they send me *liiiike* 60 dollars for future travel. I don't want to get you in any trouble so I wanted to ask if you minded if I write in an complain?"
The crew all looked at each other and said as long as you leave us out of it, we don't care. Then, the young looks at me and asked if I minded. I looked down at my ID (which I was sorry I was wearing) and said "if that is what you feel is necessary, by all means." She thanke dthe crew, told them they were doing a great job and walked away...presumably to complain to customer service.
I suspect she's not alone.
The point is, I remember when the Crescent used be 18 cars long. It had coach seating for 300 passengers. It is currently running around with seating for 120 coach passengers. I remember when a train like 95 on the NEC had 12 coaches (with two cafes)....and the coaches seated 85 passengers...and that train had standees!!!
That is high demand. Filling two coaches is not high demand. If anything, we should be finding more ways to put butts in the seats!
Whether you agree with an associations position on passenger rail, one thing certain is that discounts and promotions do help business. Read the media; there are sales going on for businesses constantly. Businesses do it to incentivize the customer and provide an enticement for people to purchase. Take those away and business will be affected. If the discounts are gone, less people will purchase tickets and prices will be going down regardless. Amtrak has now attacked the seniors, the AAA discount and the students. Is removing incentives and discounts a good way of promoting a business?
Sales and discounts are two different things. With sales, they can offer them whenever they feel the need. No need to entice riders during peak times, then no sale. Need to entice riders during non-peak times, then offer a onetime sale.
Having owned my own advertising agency in the late 90's, our statistics showed that the advertisers that had the best offers, enjoyed the best return on their investment. The businesses that had no offer did poorly. You cannot always count on any train selling out but even if they do, offers help get the cash in now rather than later. That's a huge advantage.
I believe that its safe to say that the next few years will represent changes in a critical demographic of Amtrak's LD ridership. The changes to this demographic will be significant in the next few years due to downsizing, relocation, retirement, changes in income, health issues and even death. Amtrak would be wise to consider this when promoting the service.
As one who is now in semi-retirement, you can bet that price comparisons, offers and discounts play heavily into my decision to purchase. Am I the only one???
Hmm, I think I can afford the extra $23.20 for a cross country trip in May. Can you?
AmtrakBlue, I'm forced to disagree with you. Consider what is said below:
As a semi-retired person on a fixed income, I agree with diagrua on this.
I use coupons,discounts,sales etc. whenever I can since that $5 or $10 I save adds up and enables me to have a little more disposable income to spend on things that are not essential such as Amtrak travel.
I agree that Amtrak needs to enhance its revenue, but think doing away with Student and Senior discounts is penny wise and pound foolish. YMMV
You might be able to do so....but not everyone is you! Consider that 23.50 on a corridor train. Then, multiply by your family of four. You are now approaching a savings of $100....each way. That may be the difference between taking the trip or not taking the trip. That maybe the difference between taking Amtrak and driving. Every little bit counts.
Edited by Thirdrail7, 10 February 2018 - 01:23 PM.