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AAA Discontinued Effective 2/18/18


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#61 ChuckL

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 12:00 PM

I don't understand why discount only for AAA? If you must promote multi-modalism, why wouldn't you give discount to all Automobile promoting organizations? I could go for that as a consistent move to encourage all automobile users to occasionally choose Amtrak. As things stand I have no problem with the selective favor to AAA members going away.
 
I have more problem with Student discounts going away, much more so than even the Senior discount being reduced. Frankly I would have less problem with the Senior discount going away altogether in order to restore Student discounts. As a demographic the Seniors are way richer than typical Students in today's economy, and a Student enticed into riding Amtrak with discounts today will ride for many more decades than any Senior will.
 
Today's Seniors will be gone in a decade or three, and will become immobile enough not to be riding trains too frequently if at all, even sooner than that. Amtrak needs to create and encourage clientele who will hang around for many more decades beyond that.
 
Mind you I am a Senior myself by almost any standard definition of the term.

As a AAA member and former Senior by Amtrak’s definition, I must wholeheartedly disagree with the comments about AAA and Senior riders, although as a former University employee on the administrative side of the house for my entire career, I would be in favor of the Student discount being resurrected because many would still benefit. AAA discounts, and not other auto organizations ONLY selling insurance and not travel, still apply to many hotels and car rental agencies as do AARP and/or Senior discounts.

I still do support the sale promotions on a weekly basis on routes that aren’t running at capacity. VIA even does this for some sleeping accommodations.

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Edited by ChuckL, 11 February 2018 - 12:08 PM.


#62 jebr

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 12:09 PM

Will the smart phone addicted Millennial's take our place?

It's highly unlikely that they will.

 

Considering that Millenials are generally much more willing to use and support non-automobile transportation options, I would say Millenials will almost certainly be willing to replace and grow Amtrak once the baby boomer generation can no longer take Amtrak. That is, if Amtrak actually wants to entice Millenials. The removal of the student discount seems like a short-sighted attempt to grow revenue while removing an incentive to create lifelong customers; I agree with jis that if anything the student discount is more valuable to building long-term customers than the senior discount is.

 

The desire of Millenials to stay connected as much as possible is a selling point for Amtrak. If I'm driving, I have to focus on the road and so can't safely drive and surf social media, forums, etc. I can do that on Amtrak. Planes, while getting better with on-board wi-fi, generally are still a bit less connected than a train can be, and plane travel is less environmentally friendly than train travel (that is, as long as Amtrak actually wants to make it environmentally friendly...reusable plates might help with that :) )

 

The only way Amtrak is going to go away is if they're unable to shift their offerings to appeal to a new generation. The Millenial generation is more likely to ride trains, so Amtrak just needs to make sure they're offering on-board products that support that market. Fresh food offerings, environmentally friendly offerings (reusable diningware would be a great start!,) free wi-fi, and comfortable seating are all things that would be relatively easy for Amtrak to do and probably not too offensive to the baby boomers.

 

No need for the flowers on the table, though.  :)



#63 Bob Dylan

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 12:57 PM

jis post: a good idea!( and I'm still in favor of the Senior Discount As I am not Wealthy!😁😄)
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#64 jis

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 01:10 PM

Hey! personally I will happily take all the discounts I can get. But when I look at it taking myself and my own advantages out of the equation, what I see is what I posted.

 

Actually anyone getting a reasonable level of Social Security, Railroad Pension and/or other Government or Industry Pension is probably doing better financially than a typical student with no or minimal financial help from their parents. Just keep that in mind when thinking about Student Discounts.



#65 JRR

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 02:39 PM

Today’s Seniors will pass away, however, as they do each day, a new group of those lucky enough to live so long, graduate to Senior status.


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#66 neroden

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 06:47 PM

I have to agree that of the people I've met on Amtrak, the only ones who seemed to be really highly price-conscious were the youth.  The student discount is probably advisable.


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#67 Thirdrail7

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 08:44 PM

Valid points, but wouldn't your aims be better served then by lower overall pricing, rather than a discount that only some people have access to?

(as an aside, does the equipment still exist to run 18 car trains routinely?)

 

You can only lower your prices so much, particularly with Congress mandating maximums on discount while attempting to reduce the subsidy.  This is going while costs are still climbing.

 

As for routinely operating 18 car trains, you probably couldn't do it these days....unless other trains ran with 1 car! :)

 

It's been very interesting to catch up on this thread. Thirdrail, you bring up some interesting points. Ridership does go up every year, though, so are you saying there has been less recently?

 

I'm also interested in the answer to if there is enough equipment to go around for the longer trains that you speak of, TR. Wouldn't longer consists cause even more issues at stations with short or medium-length platforms though?

Or offer some close-in discounts to fill trains that are running pretty quiet that day (or that week) closer-in than what the SmartFares currently allow.

THIS! A million times this. I think ridership would soar if Amtrak lowered fares in the days or the week before departure. Don't some airlines do this to fill planes? I know most of AU's members are long-distance users, but there are quite a few of us that travel on the NEC. I understand Amtrak is trying to make the most money it possibly can in order to eventually break even/make a profit and pour that revenue into capital projects, but some of the fares on the NEC, especially for short rides, are pretty ridiculous. Yes, the WAS–NYP corridor is fast and very congested, but who wants to pay double, triple, or even more than driving or taking the bus? Yes, the train is faster (usually not by much though), more comfortable, and a better experience, but when you're a college student, a family of four, and/or buying at the last minute, it gets to be too expensive.

 

Yes, I do enjoy having two seats to myself on the NEC, which occasionally happens (recently not as much), but we all know more ridership=more revenue=more Amtrak=curing Amtrak.

 

Ridership probably climbs every year, particularly since Amtrak still manages some of the state supported services and they are subsidized by the states.  Long trains would require proper loading and proper planning....just like they did for years.

 

As for your second thought, this is the way Amtrak used to operate. There was plenty of walk up, last minute travel because prices were consistent. Even when you had the old "three bucket" reservation system, the buckets didn't change based upon how close to the the departure time you were. It change based upon train availability.

 

Additionally, Amtrak used to have discounts such as "Shopper's Excursion discounts" that were tailored to riders on certain trains, between certain city pairs on certain days of the week.  There were round trip excursion fares. Indeed, a lot of the discounted fares used to be blacked out approaching major holiday in addition to every Friday and Sunday (typically 11a-7p).

 

It is easy enough to do if you're looking to ease the crunch.


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#68 akbrian

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 09:04 PM

I use the AAA discount for hotels, rental cars and until now, rail. The AAA travel website is still pretty good for trip planning of various types. Ive never seen AAA as anti-rail, more like pro-travel. I hate that this goes away now, as I was within a couple years of the old senior discount age. The rail, car rental, and hotel combo is a pretty viable one in my opinion.

#69 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 09:15 PM

Having read every post in this thread I still find myself supporting the student and NARP discounts. I'm less enthusiastic about the senior discount. Not because I don't think it helps but rather because I'm fairly certain that any senior discount which remains will simply follow the current scorched earth generation into the sunset like so many other social and financial benefits.  I'm indifferent toward the AAA discount so long as AAA covers at least 50% of the cost.

 

I think a neglected point on this thread is that Amtrak uses price buckets to tie train prices to demand. A low demand train is by definition already discounted for that day because it's still in the lowest price bucket.


This would be more relevant if congress hadn't created special restrictions on the maximum allowable deviation between the highest and lowest buckets. Amtrak's ability to precisely tie fares to widely varying levels of demand is somewhat clumsy and limited as a result. Which is part of the reason special fares and discounts remain important and necessary.

 

Today’s Seniors will pass away, however, as they do each day, a new group of those lucky enough to live so long, graduate to Senior status.

 

Today "senior" typically refers to a pensioner or retiree. Soon it will refer to elderly employees too busy trying to earn enough money to make up for receding benefits and budget shortfalls to spend much time or money on sunset joyrides.


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#70 Lonestar648

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 10:59 AM

I believe there should be a Student Discount, because those who would travel by train and/or bus do not have the money that many other students.  The amount of the Senior discount is minimal, but every dollar helps when planning a trip.  !0% off rail fair and 10% off the hotel room can add up to a few meals on a week plus trip.  The more people who belong to NARP the stronger the organization becomes and that benefits Amtrak.  A question to ask is if it is Amtrak cutting off AAA or is it AAA that no longer wants to participate.  I remember a hotel franchise owner telling me that he was afraid that the AARP discount was in trouble because the hotel chain and AARP could not agree on the contract.  They did at the last minute, but this raises that question.



#71 jis

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 11:42 AM

Maybe if it is problematic figuring out who is actually a student and who is not, one could consider doing a European style Youth Discount scheme which is purely age based and therefore easy to check and verify?



#72 Lonestar648

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 01:50 PM

Almost all College students have a photo ID which is an "Everything" card.  Even the High Schools in our area require all students to have Photo ID's.  It would easy to require the School photo ID.  



#73 neroden

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 03:41 PM

Maybe if it is problematic figuring out who is actually a student and who is not, one could consider doing a European style Youth Discount scheme which is purely age based and therefore easy to check and verify?

That would be fine.  Non-students of college age are typically also dirt poor, and of course those under 18 are typically really skint.


Edited by neroden, 12 February 2018 - 03:41 PM.

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#74 Ryan

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 04:50 PM

Almost all College students have a photo ID which is an "Everything" card.  Even the High Schools in our area require all students to have Photo ID's.  It would easy to require the School photo ID.


What works in your area doesn't necessarily transfer nationwide. A great many HS students don't have a photo student ID.
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#75 seat38a

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 09:56 PM

I'm kind of whatever they are getting rid of this. The AAA discount generally becomes a nuissance on the the Surfliner if your in Business Class and need to make changes. If you buy a coach ticket with the discount, you can still jump on any train that departs 3 days after your purchase date but if your plan changes and you need to leave sooner, then you need to pay the discount back or get a talking to from the conductor. At least on the Surfliner, using the AAA discount really takes the flexibility out of what is a very lenient ticketing policy.



#76 calwatch

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 11:01 PM

The student discount should have been a youth discount IMHO with a cutoff at age 25 or so. Too many grad students have student IDs which they have kept continuously. Overall I think they are just keeping the senior discount to avoid more political backlash - if Amtrak was an airline they would be offering no discounts as well, and Richard Anderson is an airline guy.



#77 KnightRail

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 11:15 PM

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.

 
 
Knightrider,
 
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?
Dont disagree with you, although what incentive do people have to book early and tie up their money, giving an interest free loan, for up to 11 months out if they can get the same low price all the time last minute. A caveat of making a price conscious reservation last minute is the need to be flexible. The price conscious traveler is competing with the business traveler who is willing to swipe that corporate card like its hot. These business travelers are often willing to travel at the full fare as time is money to them, and they are not spending their own money. A walk-up one-way Acela fare of ~$200 or Regional fare of ~$150 to or from NYP and they dont think twice about doing it. Not getting every last dollar out of corporate travel is leaving easy money on the table. Corporates willingness to pay high prices has unfortunately caused fares to become extremely overpriced for non-business travel. These prices most certainly drive away riders. The way for the non-business traveler to avoid the corporate surge is to travel when the business travelers do not. The low D bucket is often available for walk-up next train sales on off-peak trains. On the North end this means trains like 177, 178, 179, 67, Saturdays, etc. Of course this is only in regards to On-Corridor as Off-Corridor is a totally different animal. There is no reason that long distance trains are so short and demand is so weak other than extreme overpricing compared to the competition.

 




 






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!
 
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.
The question is where to set prices. Do you use the retail strategy like the department store Kohls where everything is 50% or more off all the time. Exaggerated example, say a full rail fare is $400. Then market it at 75% OFF! so the consumer is thinking they are getting a great deal saving $300 but in reality the fare is never sold at the full fare, its always on sale. Its a deceitful mind game but it works for Kohls. Another retailer is Bed Bath & Beyond. They totally flood the market with 20% off coupons, but their prices are all artificially inflated by about 20% expecting them to be couponed. CVS is the same. Their regular prices are sky high because they flood customers with Extracare coupons. Even after sales and couponing they still are charging higher prices than the big box retailers. Years back JC Penny tried the strategy of no sales, no coupons, same price everyday for everyone. It was a complete failure. Its all about the perception of getting a deal. Should high rail fares be maintained and discounting be expanded? Conventional retail strategy would say yes.

#78 Lonestar648

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 12:46 AM

The general public believes in their minds that an items, no matter what quality they are purchasing, they expect the price to be the lowest and be a special deal.  I have a neighbor who only buys the cheapest price he can find then complains and complains when he has problems.  I pay more for better quality, have fewer issues, but he demands that even the cheapest should be the same as the most expensive.  This mental attitude prevails in the travel industry, so somehow Amtrak has to get the highest fare they think passengers will pay, while at the same time giving passengers a good feeling they got a deal, whether it is over cost, or getting a good price making Sleeper affordable.  Eliminate the discounts, which are minimal on some trips, and maybe put that budget into Sales to fill more seats.  Airlines have had sales for certain routes at certain times for years.



#79 AcrossTheOcean

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 05:24 PM

My suggestion for boosting Amtrak ridership is to have Amtrak fares come up as a flight when someone searches for a domestic US flight on expedia or other search engine. 

 

First, it will put Amtrak on more people's radar.  About a year ago, I saw an Amtrak advertisement of facebook claiming you could travel coast to coast for a certain amount, obviously coach seats and the lowest bucket.  But a lot of people commented as if traveling across the continent on Amtrak had just been put on their bucket list.  Amtrak isn't a mode of transportation that many US residents even think to consider when they plan to travel somewhere.

 

Second, it makes air travel Amtrak's "competition." For those looking at cost just as much if not more than at convenience, Amtrak is usually the better deal.  There is another thread about the trip I am planning from SOB to WAS.  Roomettes for two adults and two kids cost about the same as airfare.

 

As far as discounts, I wish that "child" was still defined as "person under age 15" instead of "person 12 and under."  But I am used to German trains where kids 14 and under can ride almost any train for free if their parent or grandparent travels with them.


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#80 PRR 60

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 09:42 PM

As they did with the Amtrak changes with the senior discount, student discount and the change in child fares, California will be reinstating the AAA discount for state-supported Amtrak services. Amtrak California is targeting having their AAA discount in place by the end of March.

 

Capitol Corridor 






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