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How to boost Cardinal Ridership?

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Doesn't having CIN and IND not being at a bad time of day (a worthwhile concept) mean having the terminal cities at bad times of day, almost by logical necessity? Jus' askin'.

Yes, well sort of. The other constraint is whether the Cardinal will continue to connect to trains departing for other destination at Chicago on the same day. If you break connections and make Cardinal a dead ender train at Chicago then you can manage to keep the end points at reasonable times and make CIN and IND almost reasonable.

 

But since the network effect is a major factor in the success of a system like the LD system there is much opposition to the idea of breaking connections in Chicago.

 

Chicago does have these things called "hotels".

 

That said, the real problems with the Cardinal are more basic: it's running less than once a day. The west end has terribly slow track and a mass of different host railroads to slow it down. The east end has an undermaintained shortline. The middle is low-population and threatened with downgrades by CSX as the coal business ends; and as long as the coal business is going, the tracks there won't get any faster.

 

Low potential... but it would still break even if it were daily, which it isn't.

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maybe make Cardinal daily Memorial day thru Christmas only ?

With the current shortage of cars (Viewliner and Amfleet), it might not be possible to put together the two extra consists needed. Also, Memorial Day through Christmas is a long time - more than half of the year. Until we get the new sleepers, I highly doubt we'll be saying a daily Cardinal at all.

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The problem with this train is that it is just too slow. No one wants to take the train from NY to Chicago in 28 hours. Also, the times from Cincinatti and Indianapolis are MUCH more than driving times... to a point where taking this train to the west from NY is not practical at all. Youre right though, the 3x per week schedule doesnt help at all.

I would agree. You can drive from PHL to CHI in about 13 hours about half the time of the Cardinal trip. Even if you stop at a motel along the highway its still faster to drive. NYP does offer other travel options to CHI but if we are talking specifically about the Cardinal it is a slow train but in summer it often sells out. We no longer take it-too expensive, too slow and very marginal food quality.

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The problem with this train is that it is just too slow. No one wants to take the train from NY to Chicago in 28 hours. Also, the times from Cincinatti and Indianapolis are MUCH more than driving times... to a point where taking this train to the west from NY is not practical at all. Youre right though, the 3x per week schedule doesnt help at all.

I would agree. You can drive from PHL to CHI in about 13 hours about half the time of the Cardinal trip. Even if you stop at a motel along the highway its still faster to drive. NYP does offer other travel options to CHI but if we are talking specifically about the Cardinal it is a slow train but in summer it often sells out. We no longer take it-too expensive, too slow and very marginal food quality.

 

Yeah. Sadly the views are pretty much the only thing the Card has going for it.

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Some here forget that the majority of riders are not riding endpoint to endpoint on any of the trains.

That is true, but the Cardinal isn't helped by the fact that there are few major intermediate markets and those that do exist are served at poor hours. In addition, many potential trips that are not end to end are still very slow and roundabout, such as Indianapolis to Philadelphia. I'm not advocating for the train's cancellation, but it is clearly the weakest of the Eastern overnight LD trains. Edited by brianpmcdonnell17

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Some here forget that the majority of riders are not riding endpoint to endpoint on any of the trains.

Good point.

 

I can see not going end point to end point on the Cardinal if you just want a faster trip to Chicago from the east coast. And I understand the comment that the scenery is the only thing the Cardinal has going for it (although I personally liked the train and even the food was okay for me).

 

However, the scenery in West Virginia is spectacular, and I think that could be a way to boost ridership. Not marketing it end to end, but Virginia and West Virginia getting together and marketing the fact that there is gorgeous scenery and beautiful small towns that are worth visiting and that no planes go to and that driving to would be a pain. Make it almost a Downeaster type of thing, where the draw is that the train takes you through lovely New England--not so you can rush down to Boston faster.

 

Amtrak won't emphasize this, so I think it would be up to the states and how important it is for them.

 

Also, could the consist have a dome car/Sightseer Lounge/Superliner cars if it started and ended in Washington, DC? That could be another draw that would make it more appealing as a tourist train for the scenery, and perhaps even have a real dining car? You have plenty of choices between New York and WAS, so why strain the Cardinal by making it go back and forth on that awful NEC?

 

I suppose all these ideas boil down to making it more of a tourist train and less of one of basic transport, emphasizing VIrginia and West Virginia as lovely places to visit, and easiest to get to by train.

Edited by Mystic River Dragon

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Some here forget that the majority of riders are not riding endpoint to endpoint on any of the trains.

 

Also, could the consist have a dome car/Sightseer Lounge/Superliner cars if it started and ended in Washington, DC? That could be another draw that would make it more appealing as a tourist train for the scenery, and perhaps even have a real dining car? You have plenty of choices between New York and WAS, so why strain the Cardinal by making it go back and forth on that awful NEC?

 

I suppose all these ideas boil down to making it more of a tourist train and less of one of basic transport, emphasizing VIrginia and West Virginia as lovely places to visit, and easiest to get to by train.

A handful of years ago, Amtrak did run the 10031 'Ocean View' Great Dome on the Cardinal a few months each year. They could bring it back for the WAS-CHI portion. And up until the early 2000s, when the Card terminated in WAS, they used Superliners. I wouldn't want to have the Cardinal terminate in D.C. again, but if it does, Superliners would definitely be an option. I will say that just because it would use an SL diner instead of an Amfleet, doesn't mean the food would improve. They could still try to save money and serve he heat and eat meals we have today out of a Superliner. And with so many ViewDiners delivered, improved meals are now a possibility even with single-level cars. Edited by cpotisch

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