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Everything posted by bratkinson

  1. bratkinson

    3 companion coupons available

    All gone...
  2. After offering 10 companion coupons for anyone a couple months ago, it turns out that 3 were unused. After confirming their not being used, they are once again available on a first come (by PM time stamp) first served basis. Please PM me if you want any or all of them. 2 of them have an expire date of 03/01/19...just 3 weeks from now! 1 of them has an expire date of 11/12/19
  3. bratkinson

    3 companion coupons available

    Only the 3/1/19 coupons left...
  4. I think it depends on who is in the Amtrak presidents' chair. If it's Anderson, I wouldn't be surprised one iota if he simply stored all of them in Florida or wherever and pushed to make a deal with VIA to sell them V2 baggage, diner, and sleeper cars. Do not lose sight of the fact he does NOT want to 'grow' the service or even revenue! He only wants to cut costs!
  5. bratkinson

    Longer & Longer consists

    It's all about each departments managers 'numbers'. I learned this the hard way about 40 years ago as a manager at a steel products manufacturing company, itself, a wholly owned subsidiary of a major US steel manufacturer. While investigating the reasons for why the coiled steel painting department was always playing 'catch up', it was discovered that the manufacturing department scheduling manager wasn't telling the paint department what was going to be manufactured more than 2 days in advance. Hence, the paint department had to go through numerous color changes on their 80 foot-long 20 feet high coil painting machine. Each color change took 2-3 hours, depending on if only one side had to be changed, or both colors had to be changed. Much disassembly and cleaning with hazardous chemicals was required for each color change. The result of this 2-day-only lead time was that the manufacturing department manager looked good on paper based on keeping their schedules and minimal damaged products and the paint department manager looked like a complete idiot whose costs were out of control. The manufacturing managers' reason? Once a coil was painted, it was put on 'their side of the wall' between departments. If it got damaged in any way on 'his' side, it was 'his' budget that took the hit, not the paint departments! Remember, we're talking 2-3 ton coils of steel being damaged, not a 5 foot roll one can buy at a hardware store. Long trains make the employment department manager look good as there's fewer crews, fewer overnight hotel stays, etc. Meanwhile, the dispatchers are nearing insanity trying to get a pair of 3 mile trains to pass each other at a 1.5 mile siding. Double saw-bys are very time consuming and end up clogging the line even worse than before! Here's an explanation of them: Double Saw By definition
  6. Everyone seems to forget the ample space under the seats in roomettes. I travel with a 21 inch roll on bag and once I've removed my large laptop computer from its pouch and pulled the hanging items and my shave kit out, it fits nicely under the seat. I make sure it's under the seat I'm sitting on, otherwise, I play footsie with it all day. I haven't tried it, but I think it would fit without a problem in the cubby above the aisle, too.
  7. bratkinson

    Crescent/CONO/Cardinal June Triangle Trip

    At New Orleans, I've stayed at the Hyatt Regency on Loyola, about 2 blocks from the station, and the street car at the station stops directly in front of the hotel. I also stayed last year at the Holiday in, about 2 blocks further down Loyola, but the street car stops a block away from it. Both are clean and safe, in my opinion. Having the street car outside the door is perfect for doing sight seeing and sampling the local food and entertainment. Check the prices on both, as it seems to vary which has the lower price, even as much as $100 difference! Here's the map of the area centered on the train station: Map of NOL station area
  8. bratkinson

    Best Use of eVouchers for trip to BAL

    I've successfully partially used a voucher on a trip, and the 'left over' was put back on to the original voucher, which I used a couple days later for another trip. And it's perfectly acceptable to use multiple vouchers to pay for a trip. When you get to the payment screen, there's a 'show my vouchers' or something like that button. Click on it and it will show all your vouchers. Click the check box next to one voucher and 'apply it' (some button, as I recall), then repeat the process with the 2nd voucher if there's still some money to be paid. Once you're out of voucher monies, fill in the credit card info and it will charge the card for the balance. Plan B: call the Amtrak number (1-800-USA-RAIL) and let the agent do all the work... And if there's any left over voucher money, tell them you'd like a new voucher...they may be able to do that rather than applying the left over money to an 'old' voucher.
  9. bratkinson

    Current Leadership Letter

    If you're a congress-critter, or even one in your state-house or local government, their point of view has to be 'transportation is transportation'. They're more or less willing to (somewhat/mostly) fund whatever it takes to get people from here to there, with the ultimate goal of getting your votes later on. Getting you from here to there has (in their opinion) no relationship to 'experience'. When's the last time any daily scheduled common carriers taunted 'luxury bus experience' or even 'luxury airplane experience'? So WHY would/should any of them give any consideration whatsoever for 'passenger train experience'? Especially since they almost NEVER ride Amtrak? Remember (as far as I know) NONE of them have any prior travel industry experience whatsoever. And all Anderson did at Delta, from what I've read, is push for 'get the passengers from here to there'...period. No frills, no charters, more fees for everything...that's his track...er...air...record. So, what's the odds of Anderson ever going face to face with Congress and testifying of the 'need' to enhance rail passenger 'experience'?
  10. bratkinson

    Cardinal vs. Capitol Limited DC to Chicago

    Plus it's "what the market will bear". Marketing 101...when you have the only game in town, you can charge whatever someone is willing to pay. Witness $5,000 super bowl tickets. Marketing 'rules' for maximum profit indicate you keep raising prices until the demand weakens. Then drop it a tad to fill all the rooms.
  11. bratkinson

    Cafe on the Star gets 5 stars

    Using Amsnag to decide when and by which route to go to Florida a couple of times, the 'spread' between the Star and the Meteor is quite variable. I've seen it as low as $20 or so for this past January back in early December, and I've seen it over $200 at other times of the year. When there's been more than $100 spread, I've opted for the Star. But at $20-ish incremental cost for steak dinners and eggs cooked to order in the morning...it's a no brainer.
  12. bratkinson

    Protect Motor at Secaucus now?

    Not to disagree with the previous respondents, but at age 71, I DO know the sound of an idling diesel when I hear it! Even through the window of a roomette. If not that dual mode, maybe an NJT unit?
  13. bratkinson

    30th street updates (lounge and food)

    Did you notice the black rubber 'speed bump' across the carpet covering an extension cord to the couch or coffee table in pic #2 above? And a couple more pix
  14. bratkinson

    30th street updates (lounge and food)

    I had a chance to spend an hour in the lounge at PHL this week and took some pictures to add to those Austruck posted above a couple weeks ago. I have to say the only thing missing is a pair of lanes to complete the 'bowling alley' look. I like this lounge better than all the rest as it gives a good view of what's going on in the main waiting area and the elevators directly to the platforms. But being on a balcony, it's long and narrow to begin with. The former furniture had several 'tall' desks to break up the extra long, narrow bowling alley effect. Those are gone. And in a turn about from what they did at Boston, (or is it the other way around?) the 'high' chairs for the 'high' work areas have solid plastic seats as do some 'low' chairs, vs BOS having padded those chairs and the steel bars underneath hurt my butt. Oh...and if you have an optical mouse like I do for my laptop (I've chased my dropped wireless mouse on the floor of a train far too many times! If if the wired one stops working, it's $4-5. Wireless - $15-20 to replace.) it won't work on the quite smooth, all white table tops! Good going Amtrak!!! One of the other things accomplished is they created larger 'group' areas with the L shaped couches and a couple of chairs at too-low coffee tables. Totally worthless for using a laptop or even a tablet. At least it was only for an hour. And they even put a TV at the far end of the bowling alley, in a newly constructred/under construction alcove obscuring the entrance to the rest rooms in a small hallway. I didn't bother taking a photo of the 2 workstations still there. I have not observed any workstations in any lounges in use in over 2 years! Why even bother?
  15. bratkinson

    Protect Motor at Secaucus now?

    With the diesel engine idling, based on passing through on #98 last week and having my roomette door closed so I heard the noise.
  16. 35-40 years ago, I regularly made the 14 to 28 connection 6-8 times per year and never gave it a 2nd thought. These days, I wouldn't do it. Although another poster in another thread said it's about 20% of the time the connection is missed, that is far too risky in my opinion based on my own observations in recent years. Just last April, I went to PDX on #14 and we arrived there only an hour or so behind schedule, so making #28 would not have been a problem. When I boarded #28 the next day to CHI, I noted that #14 was still 2 hours shy of PDX. So, in my opinion, it's a matter of looking at the wrong end of Dirty Harry's 44 magnum....'Do you feel lucky?' PS: If you were on #14 right now, you'll be 5+ hours late into Portland! Amtrak's site is presently quoting 8:53pm arrival!
  17. I just made Select Executive status for the first time ever today! Naturally, I got 4 free companion coupons with it. Combined with the 4 I got for 2018 Select Plus 'renewal' on March 1, and 2 more for BofA credit card anniversary, I have a total of 10 available that will go first come, first served takers. 4 of them have a 3/1/19 expire date, 2 with 9/15/19 expire date and 4 with 11/12/19. Please indicate your preference in a PM to me. If the 'earlier' expire date coupons are all taken, the next later date coupons will be transferred. Limit: 4 per person. Now all I have to do is figure out how to transfer them. I'm thinking I have to call and give them your name and AGR number. PS - I'll be using the upgrade coupons I also got myself. Bruce
  18. bratkinson

    Crescent/CONO/Cardinal June Triangle Trip

    cpotisch - your story of agent roulette (non-)success is pretty much par for the course. It's luck of the draw whether you get a good one or a bad one. I think I'm about 35% lucky at getting a good one.
  19. bratkinson

    Seating Protocol

    First and foremost, when getting on at an LD origination station like Chicago, sit where they tell you. In the case of the Lakeshore Ltd or the Empire Builder, as these trains split the next day, if you're in the wrong car, you'll end up several hundred miles from your destination. Their ticket scanner flashes your destination city so, for example, if you're in a New York car with a destination of BOS, he'll tell you to move to the Boston section up front. Sometime after you've gotten your seat check, and preferably just as the train is stopping at its first or second stop down the line, simply switch seats and move your seat check, too. From what I've seen, the boarding passengers at all stops down the line generally sit anywhere in the car they are told to sit in...BOS car for BOS, etc. Be sure to double check that boarding passengers are sitting in the same area as you are, as there may really be a big group down the line and you don't want to stick out being the only passenger in the front 10 rows of the car, for example. Be sure to move your luggage with you and mimic the placement of the seat check...leaning to the right, vertical, etc. Should the conductor tell you to move back, tell him it's too hot, noisy, smelly, or any other reasonable excuse of why you moved. The aisle light in your eyes when you're trying to sleep is a good one too.
  20. 55 years ago, working at Burger King, 4 of us got it done in 30 minutes! Any longer than that, we worked for free. Pay was a whopping $1.10/hr...about the price of 3 gallons of gas. Things have changed dramatically since then!
  21. bratkinson

    Protect Motor at Secaucus now?

    Last Thursday afternoon, I saw the Veterans unit there. As of 2 minutes ago, it was the 603. Maybe it IS a protect unit...
  22. bratkinson

    2019 AGR card/coupons

    My card arrived today as well. I'm surprised it's so early. In checking my AGR account, no coupons yet. Go figure.
  23. When I last rode the Crescent to NOL in August, we were about 1 hour late and they served an 'express' menu for dinner. What surprised me, though, was that at Picayune, scheduled at 1' 50" from NOL, the lounge was closed! In actuality, though, the actual running time in the opposite direction is scheduled as 1'22". Although that's still an unreasonably early closing time, it seems to be becoming more and more common on Amtrak. Customers don't count, I guess.
  24. bratkinson

    Points for 0% balance xfer?

    As PRR 60 noted, the transfer itself will not earn any points. However, when you actually spend the 'prepaid' money now available the card, I would expect you'd get all appropriate points for that. I highly doubt that Bank America has a rule that 'prepaid' amounts on your credit card don't earn points. They still get their percentage from the seller whenever you use your card. So, you have to ask yourself...is the interest you'll be charged from day one 'spending' on the line of credit (typically prime rate + some percentage) worth it to get some AGR points? If your LOC is like mine, I can only write checks on it, and not even do an online transfer to my own checking account. (However, transfers from checking to LOC is how I pay it) All 'spending' must be done with the paper checks they supplied. In my case, I could easily write a check and put it into my checking account, and then use that to 'pay' ahead of time my credit card. Or, simply write the check from the LOC and mail it to Bank America with your remit stub on your bill. Pre-paying your credit card does not constitute a balance transfer and thus is not charged a transfer fee. I should note that I get all my bills on paper so anyone cleaning up my estate knows what must be paid off.
  25. bratkinson

    2019 AGR card/coupons

    Not to worry... I usually get my AGR card about mid-February every year. And, as you indicated, your existing card is good until Feb 28th. I presume the reason they seem to be 'late' is to allow 2-3 weeks for all December travel to be posted and tiers determined. Add another 3-4 weeks to get all the cards made, including printing which shows your AGR status. I don't watch my coupons except when I want to use one or two. But I'd expect them to be posted about the same time the AGR cards are mailed.